How can one produce reports, based on good analysis, for different types of readers?
Adjust How You Report
While speaking to another person, one adjusts his or her speaking by listening and seeing the responses from the other person. While writing, one does not have these clues to help make those adjustments. Luckily, there are few guidelines that can be followed to help adjust one's writing for different audiences of readers.
Definitions of Different Audiences
There are many audiences for report writing but for the sake of specificity, a few audiences have been defined on which to focus.
Writer as Audience
Supervisor as Audience
Writer as Audience
The very first audience for one’s writing is oneself or the education staff at one’s theatre. It may seem odd, but this audience member is often celebrated at the beginning of the project and may be neglected by the end of the writing. However, one can always improve one’s writing by listening to one’s words and being its best and first editor. As the writing begins it becomes evident to the writer, that this writing is for others and that the audience will influence, change and affect how one writes. But it cannot be stressed enough, that the first reader is always oneself, and the second reader is always someone else. So write for oneself, write well, and then think about who is next.
The first goal, as the writer and reader, is to simply write the story of one’s assessment of student learning. Remember that all of this writing is in service of helping the reader understand what students have learned. Like any story, it should start at the beginning and include the objectives of one's work, the methods of how one has conducted the work, the outcomes of the work and the conclusions drawn from the work. Although the parts of the story are usually in that order, from beginning to middle to end, the way in which one combines them and the amount of information one chooses to include are based on the audience for which one is writing.
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Supervisor as Audience
Frequently, the stakes are raised for the writing, as the second reader who might read the work could be a boss or a supervisor. First, look at an example from the case-study used earlier on the website to provide a handle on how this writing for their first audience can work. Below is an example of two paragraphs of report writing that are bolstered by two comments from two different teachers in an after-school program:
- The after-school staff was more than supportive and encouraging. They were always responsive to staff needs and suggestions, sympathetic to problems and creative with challenges. This would have been a much more difficult year with different management (Futures teacher).
- Ms. S. has done a fantastic job of motivating and engaging the staff (Strings teacher).
From a qualitative evaluation point of view, teachers rallied behind the program and worked hard all year to make a positive impact on students. The camaraderie of the staff and leaders was notable in their pursuit of a quality program.
However, teachers thought that discipline problems overshadowed instructional success. A part of the discipline issue overlaps with the lack of the coordinator position and with management of the program in general, and part of the discipline problem overlaps with student screening, selection, attendance and commitment to the arts.
Next, take this example and look at why it might work from a supervisor’s viewpoint. The writing conveys the thought that the staff is supportive of the administrator. The writing also indicates that discipline problems have not yet been solved. If a supervisor visits the site, everyone would be on the same page, because the report writing has conveyed real issues. From the supervisor point of view, most importantly is the finding, gleaned from the teacher surveys that the discipline problem is connected to the lack of a coordinator position, and that part of it overlaps with admissions to the after-school program. The writing here will be appreciated as it reflects the analysis and helps to evaluate and identify the sources of the problem.
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In the example above, a balanced report has been established by taking a valid and reliable conclusion—that the discipline was still a problem—and adding that there were two contributing reasons for its continuation as a problem. And, the supervisor will appreciate that analysis. If the audience is the educators and their after-school program, one may want to help them in solving this problem by taking the analysis, and suggesting logical solutions that naturally come out of one’s analysis.
Build Spirit for Program Success
At the beginning of the program, a screening process would help all feel like this program was important. The screening process should not be used to screen out students, but rather to screen in students. Screening in students means to interview them, communicating the rules, explaining the structure of the program, soliciting their interests for placement in the program, garnering their support for participating in an exciting educational program and so on. In other words, building student spirit should look like this: students should be recruited for this exciting program of arts, academics and fun. In order for the program to work discipline is without question a first priority, but discipline is only in support of a great instructional environment, a fun laboratory for learning and a great way to spend ones afternoons.
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The writer has to again adjust the focus of the writing, this time for a funder. Although the information for the supervisor and the educators at the school has been well-organized, changes can be suggested that alerts the funder to either a lack of funds, a need for funds and/or the plan to use new funds to make an improvement in the after-school program.
In order for student spirit building to be effective, some structural changes, such as changes in leadership and schedule would be recommended. The program would be strengthened and improved by putting in place a collaboration coordinator. The coordinator would be responsible for reviewing the schedule and organizing a more focused way to conduct classes; a more consistent way for students to experience the program; and a less chaotic way for teachers to participate. The collaboration coordinator would iron out various discipline issues including: radios, keys and access to rooms. The coordinator would also oversee efficiency and safety issues regarding the timing of students entering the program and leaving the building. Engaging a collaboration coordinator would free up faculty meetings so they are less about discipline nightmares and more about instructionally positive discussions about arts integration in and across disciplines. The spirit of students will improve when the spirit of the teachers is felt faculty-wide both vertically and horizontally throughout the program
In particular, funder reports and grant writing depend on this kind of specific writing. Grants are by their very nature, donations that deserve accountability for the money donated, and making specific recommendations from thoughtful analysis of the work will help one establish an honest conversation with any funder.