A written report brings together all the elements of the completed assessments - discussed in earlier blogs. The report will contain recommendations for what could be done to make things go better for the student, their parents/caregivers and the educators. It should be easy to read, concise as well as clear and understandable to a wide audience.
Unfortunately this often is not the case and there is clear research to back me up on this one (research references noted below). Recently I was checking out the website of a private psychologist who works in a different city and noticed that one of the services they offered was interpretation of existing educational psychology reports. This would suggest that we can do better!
So what’s the problem? According to the research I’ve mentioned above psychologists write their reports at the level of someone who has had 15-17 years of education. Psychologists, like many other professions, can use jargon and acronyms too much. The reports should be written for a broad audience with accessible language similar to newspapers which are written for a reader with a 12 year old reading level. Reports often tend to describe the tests used rather than focusing on the child/young person. Sometimes the referral question isn’t answered directly in the report and the recommendations are not goal oriented and can be too broad and not tailored for the individual.
What am I doing differently? I’ve spent significant time researching and thinking about how best to write reports so that parents and teachers can use them without further interpretation so that they are useful and easy to read. I met with a technical writer and a senior journalist as well as engaged in discussions with psychology colleagues who have provided me feedback on my report template and given suggestions for better report writing.
When you receive one of my reports you will see that there is a table of contents so that you can easily find where each piece of information is located within the report. Background information is presented in a table format so that visually it’s easy to find specific pieces of information. The reason for the referral is clearly stated and immediately after this comes the ‘so what’ from all the testing and assessment. As soon as I’ve provided information about what’s happening for this child/young person I go into the recommendations which give you specific information about what to do to help make education work for the student. Only after I’ve done that do I go into the specific assessments. I’ve footnoted each technical term so that if you are wondering exactly what a percentile is you only need look to the bottom of the page to find out. In case you are wondering, a percentile rank is the percentage of scores in a sample that fall below the score. This means for example; a full-scale score at the 70th percentile the individual scored better than 70 out of 100 individuals of the same age.
Throughout the report I’ve tried to stick with plain language. I’d love to get your feedback on my reports and have developed a feedback form to give to parents and schools to ask for your thoughts on my reports. If you have trusted me to work with your child/young person I’d like to ensure you can understand the work I’ve done, The report should be a useful resource that provides insight and concrete support.
In case you are interested I’ve provided the full references below regarding report writing for psychologists.
Eliot, B. (2003). Consumer-Focused Psychological Assessment. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 34(3), 240-247.
Fletcher, J., Hawkins, T., & Thornton, J. (2015). What Makes an Effective Psychoeducational Report? Perceptions of Teachers and Psychologists. Journal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools, 25(1), 38-54.
Kaufman, A. S., Raiford, S. E., & Coalson, D. L. (2016). Intelligent Testing with the WISC-V. John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Mastoras, S. M., Climie, E. A., McCrimmon, A. W., & Schwean, V. L. (2011). A C.L.E.A.R Approach to Report Writing: A Framework for Improving the Efficacy of Psychoeducational Reports. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 26(2), 127-147.
Robyn Stead, Child Psychologist and Educator, lives and works in central Auckland.