Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Progress Reports: Canned Metacognition

Progress reports will be printed and sent home at the end of this week. In the past, I mentioned these arbitrary moments of review in a different light; now that we are fully embracing Kohn and a “degraded” environment, I can shift my tone considerably. (Note: The language related to grade ranges has been struck through; I’ve left it in to remind us of the changes, because we really ought to focus on your learning, not any attached numbers.)

First, note the three questions you have been asked in class to answer on a regular basis. They are posted on the right side of the site; each asks you to elaborate metacognitively or reflectively on your progress. If you have been keeping up with this, you should have more than enough data to work with this week, when you will finish Friday’s work on this:

Note that this is the set for all courses in the building, not just English. There should be comments that obviously do not work for an English classroom. This isn’t the time to be clever or ironic about your progress, either; you might want to put something like #138 (DOES NOT CLEAN UP WORK STATION), but you have to fight that urge. Yes, these comments are limited, but that provides you a challenge: Find the ones that apply to you and then, through a bit of writing, make them work. Even something as clumsy as a progress report can help you understand your growth, if you take it seriously.

Your goal is to assign yourself a grade range and a set of comments that accurately and efficaciously reflect your learning over the last month or so. We’ve done enough of this kind of discussion and writing in class for the majority of you to know exactly how to do this; those of you who need a little help should seek it immediately over email. I will review each and every one of your submissions, of course, and talk to you individually, before anything goes home.

As a checklist:

  1. Determine which score range reflects your overall effectiveness in meeting the goals and standards of the first month of this quarter. Use all of your notes and journals to help you determine what makes the most sense. Treat 90-100 as effective, 80-89 as adequate, and 70-79 as limited. If you feel you are inadequately performing this quarter, see me before putting that down. On second though, no. Don’t do this. Let’s slough off the idea of grade ranges entirely until we are forced to do otherwise.
  2. Determine which comments accurately and efficaciously reflect your progress. Copy their numbers and the full comment onto a separate sheet of paper or into a new document on the computer.
  3. Justify these comments including the grade range with specific references to your progress so far.
  4. Ask yourself what sorts of comments are missing. What would you like to see added? Why? Offer up specific suggestions, and then justify those suggestions briefly and specifically.

#2-#4 are obviously more important than #1; the first step allows us, however, to preview how the end of the quarter might work.

These steps (i.e., the self-assessment) are required. It will accompany whatever comments and notes are sent home this week by me and your school, and you will be required to have it signed by your parents. That is, you will bring your parents the progress report you and I settle on, have it signed, and then return it to class.

In the comments section of this post, you can offer some of your suggestions for canned comments on future report cards and progress reports. Remember to articulate your thinking in full—and try very hard to ignore the part of you that wants to be irreverent and clever. That part of you will have plenty of opportunities to come out and play; this is not one of them.


15 responses to “Progress Reports: Canned Metacognition

  1. Autumn Martin March 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    In the future, I think the canned comments list should include a “motivated worker” comment. Although the comment “diligent worker” can be regarded as similar, I think the word motivated makes the student out to be more emotionally connected with what he/she is learning in class. The word diligent does make the student seem responsible and conscientious about their classwork, but I think the word diligent works against the entire idea of the degrading shift. Students who are diligent may see the same results as students who are motivated “gradewise”, but in my opinion a motivated worker will benefit from a class more than a diligent worker.

  2. Jess Eminizer March 5, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I think there is a lack of commentary on a student’s role in the classroom, as well as general character.
    I know there are comments about distracting others or being a positive influence, but I think those are both a little hyperbolic and easily skimmed past as ‘too much’ for any student. I think there are far more shades of grey that ought to be touched on. For example, a comment could say something like “student is passive during class discussions” or “student is a leader within their study group” or “student predominantly works individually during group work time” or “student reaches out to others who are struggling with material.” I think all four of those comments much better reflect and describe one individual. Teachers would be ore willing to pick something less drastic, and the students would see a more specific comment on how their teacher sees them in the context of a classroom. Also, I think there is very little commentary on character in this list. This is probably because parents (and students) would question what right a teacher has to evaluate them beyond “polite and personable” or “easily distracted.” But I believe that getting a glimpse from different teachers on what qualities they see you have, no matter how momentarily offensive or enlightening or pleasant, could serve as a great tool for students and parents to understand how their actions are being perceived by a familiar educator. I would suggest more specific, character-based comments such as “shows ambition” or “appears to have a tendency to procrastinate” or “shows kindness and a willingness to help others” or even “shows apathy.” I think these comments could help teachers to be specific and more effective evaluators, and help students to understand what they look like to an experienced adult.

    • Abigail Verille March 7, 2013 at 11:53 am

      I agree with Jess’ comment. Every comment on that endless ‘canned’ list, seems too basic. Although some comments may be accurate, they are too broad for parents to truly reflect on. Because teachers and parents don’t have meetings once or twice a year, like they did when we were in elementary school, the only way parents understand how we’re doing is through the limited supply of comments. Parents are left out of the loop when it comes to understanding how their child prepares, reacts, or even participates in their classes. Perhaps teachers may consider, adding more opinionated commentary than what is given in the selection of comments. Teachers could even start writing their own comments for a change. To add on to what you said Jess, more character- based comments could help guide students towards a brighter future.

  3. Chris Smith March 7, 2013 at 10:26 am

    I agree with Jess’ opinion in that there simply aren’t a lot of comments describing the social reactions occurring between students in the classroom. Comments like “student goes out of way to help other students” and “student uses original techniques to learn and teach” are never seen, while comments relating to grades and misbehaving on gym equipment are incredibly common. We should be able to have teachers type a more personal comment to students, so that they would be able to tailor the comments to the students needs and their struggles. I realize I’m basically repeating Jess Eminizer, but my opinion is almost exactly the same. The comments available to teachers should reflect more than the students grades and assignments, it should encourage social interactions and good behavior as well or even instead of grades. After all, our unit on grades demonstrated that numerical feedback negatively affects our ability to get work done, and as a result, we are more likely to only care or depend on our study habits, rather than our behavior or social etiquette. In other words, the system rewards cheating, bullying, and antagonism as long as your grades are high enough, regardless of whether of not you actually know the information.

    • Ashley Monaco March 7, 2013 at 11:44 am

      I agree I think that the comments should be more personal because it will give the student constructive criticism on the exact areas /he/she needs to work n. Also by offering individual compliments it may motivate the student to continue to work as hard as he/she is. This may have a few cons though such as the teacher having to write 150 individual comments, at a certain point these comments may become banal. I also think some students who are not as motivated to do well may not take the constructive criticism well.
      Out of the canned comments given though I think the comments that are necessary are the ones based on how much effort the student puts into the class, how well of a worker he/she is, and the improvement that has been made.

  4. Brian Donnelly March 7, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I think that there should be a comment about how the student is improving her/himself outside of the classroom, such as working on writing pieces for the school newspaper, blogs, etc that shows self improvement that connects back to work done in the classroom. That the student is going above and beyond the work assigned, and is improving oneself on their own.

    • Kate Andres March 7, 2013 at 11:56 am

      That would be a good comment to use for this class since we are grading ourselves, so I agree with you on that. However, Mr. Eure gave us the list that all teachers see, not the students. I don’t think that any of the teachers really see us out side of school unless they are our parents, or if they are our neighbors, and even then don’t really see or know what we are going through daily.

      • Liam Lonegan March 7, 2013 at 11:44 pm

        You’d be surprised about how much teachers can tell about a child that they have. I agree with Brian, outside work tells a lot about a student: motivation, persistence, goals etc. A student may be editing work on their own time, or researching new writing structures and might share their findings with their teacher. Or the student may set up meetings often, to make sure that they are on track and don’t have an answerable questions. The comment would show the kind of student, with drive and priorities.

        Yes, I can see part of your point Kate. Some teachers may not be able to tell that a student is working hard on their free time, but if they’re working hard enough, it will eventually become obvious through improvement and understanding.

  5. Kate Andres March 7, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I think that for next quarter we do something completely different. I think that it was a good idea but boring, uninteresting, and we didn’t get anything out of it. But, I have two ideas that would make this a more interesting approach to find the comments.
    1) We could get rid of the whole list of canned comments and write our own comment. We see these other comments all the time and it would be cooler if our parents saw that we were actually doing something that involves grading ourselves instead of picking from a list.
    2) We all work in groups. How about we have all the members in our groups write a comment that describes us. We could rate them in order of which we think bests describe ourselves and then Mr. Eure could chose from that list.
    Again, we aren’t being graded so why shouldn’t we take the time to do some work on this instead of just sitting around and picking a number off of a list. This could be our chance to get something unique on our report cards / progress report card that is different and interesting. This would also create a way for us to start a conversation with our parents on what we are working on in class. A lot of our parents are pretty skeptical about the degrading process, this could get them on board with the whole idea.

  6. Olivia Headen March 7, 2013 at 11:56 am

    I feel like there should be a comment on the students free time or stress level, such as “With little free time student does exemplary work” or “Student works well under stress.” These comments would only be used if the teacher was to conference with the student. The teacher would not know that the student is under a great amount of stress or does not have a lot of free time unless there was a conversation to clarify such points. I believe that these comments would be beneficial to the canned comments because then the student would know that no matter how stressed they are the work they are putting into the class by staying up late is worth it. If the student is not informed that their late nights are worth it then why would they continue to do so. They would be a good motivator for kids who don’t know if their work is worth it.

  7. Georgia West March 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    The entire idea of the behind the selection of ¨canned comments¨ is to make the labeling process easier on teachers. If a teacher has more than 100 students, they are more likely to assign a mediocre student ¨Poor classroom participation,¨ rather than sit and really think through the issue at hand. Canned comments are just that: a one-size-fits-all observation that would be easily found on the shelves of the local Stop N Shop. In order to attempt to personalize the comments list more, an option could be placed somewhere in the realm between 001 (outstanding effort), and 002 (good effort). The leap from good to outstanding is one of enormous transformation; what happened to great, admirable, or even exceptional? The idea of canned comments is to make life easier for teachers, but assigning an average ¨good¨ to a clearly ¨admirable¨ student creates an unnecessary confusion. Simply adding a 001.5 would personalize a highly impersonal system.

  8. Briana Merritt March 7, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    While grades and mishaps seem to be the overall focus of canned progress report comments, I feel like there is more to know about the student then just the numbers they are given on a mere piece of paper. Because of this i feel like another benficial comment would be something along the lines of “student takes advantage/inquires about possible opportunities to improve/enhance learning and performance.” With a course like this where we are in the process of degrading, this comment is for those who motivate and push themselves to actually better themselves and further their knowledge rather than just seeing it as an opportunity to slack off and do nothing without any repercussions in the end. This is for that student that might not have an A+ or a 90 or above average in the class, but for the student who recognizes their dificulties, takes action and works hard to actually learn and take away something from this class rather than just manipulating their way through the course to get a good grade. This comment represents that student who isn’t or tries not to be hung up over their final average, who creates a relationship with their teacher, who overcomes being simply giving “good effort” and is more than just “a pleasure to have in class.”

  9. Mishell Pacheco March 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Looking through the comments I realized that the comments that were directing towards ‘bad news’ such as, “Has not demonstrated understanding of subject matter” or “Must improve study skills”, are comments that students need to come up with explanations for their parents in why their teacher has chosen that comment. Those kinds of comments could your parents to think your efforts are poor and you aren’t ‘trying hard enough’. I think that since these comments are being sent home in an envelope with explanation why it is you are not understanding such subject matter or why your study skills aren’t so great because you don’t know how to study. Your teacher is not being sent to your home along with the letter telling them why that comment was placed there, instead i believe there should be side notes adding that this is not criticism but instead, Constructive Criticism. Parents would not only release tension of their soon-to-be-blamed chlid but instead try and help. Comments should be added that are specifically for constructive criticism not just plain good or bad comments.

  10. Colin Cavanagh March 7, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Looking through the comments, and considering our “degraded” approach for this quarter, I think that it would be useful to have a comment which indicates how concerned students are with their grades. I think a comment such as “Student is very conscientious about grades,” would work well to convey this. Though the comment “Takes advantage of opportunites to improve grade” (number 011) already exists and is somewhat similar to this, I think that taking advantage of opportunities comes off more as a positive comment, while the other comment could be viewed in a negative light. Taking advantage of opportunities seems like the teacher is offering extra credit work or a retake on a test, and the student is simply doing what the teacher is telling him/her to do. However, being conscientious about grades makes it seem as if the student is overly concerned with their grades, to the point that it is getting in the way of the students learning. If a student is conscientious about their grades, then they may spend more time trying to study for a retake of a test or working on an extra credit paper instead of learning the new material in class. An example of this would be a person who was upset about the “degrading” we are doing in AP Language because they were worried that it would hurt their GPA. Many students are overly-concerned with grades, some to the point of obsession, and that is why I think a comment reflecting this would be useful if it were added to the list.

  11. Mike Kubenik March 10, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Taking a moment from such a busy day to take a look at these comments that teachers choose I realize why teachers always give the “Pleasure to have in class” comment. This comment is stale, overused and most importantly unimportant. While this comment by itself can be assumed to say that the child is doing more good than evil, we need to understand that this comment lacks any advancement in our skills. We see that comment and instantly look to the next comment to see if it is a new one. This is a problem because comments should be made to help you learn, not act as a placeholder. This evolution into having a placeholder comment has become unneeded. The best approach would be to remove this comment along with any other “placeholder” comments and replace them with comments of strength, and justification. If comments are just there to be there, they serve no purpose and we must first eliminate these comments before we can shape new “Super Comments.”

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