4.4 Writing class reports

At the end of the Michaelmas and Lent terms, undergraduate class teachers are expected to write reports on the students in their classes, using online registers. For step-by-step instructions on how to produce and use these, see the IT Services' document Class registers in the Online guides and FAQs section of its website (lse.ac.uk/ITServices|). Now that the registers are online it is also possible to make some notes through the terms, but this is not a requirement.

As students can always view their individual report and also the Teacher Term Comments at the end of class reports, bear in mind the need to keep your comments fair - see the In summary section below for more on this.

Class reports are used in three main contexts:

1. The Committee on Student Progress

Where a student has failed an exam, the Committee on Student Progress will examine the student's class record to assess whether the reason for this is lack of ability, poor learning, or other factors (eg disability, sudden medical emergency, etc). For this purpose, it is crucial that the Committee has clear and accurate information on:

  • the number of classes the student has attended compared with the total number of classes he/she could have attended;
  • the number of pieces of course work the student has completed and submitted, again compared with the number he/she should have completed and submitted;
  • an indication of whether the student is generally well-prepared for class (eg has completed weekly assignments/undertaken core reading/contributed to class discussions - in other words, has done the expected work, or habitually comes to class unprepared).

It is also extremely useful for the Committee to have a feel for whether the student struggled more or less from day one, made steady progress through the term, was apparently strong throughout the term, started well, but seemed to face increasing difficulties as the course progressed, etc. In other words, the report should indicate whether or not a student has improved or had increasing problems over the period.

Dependent on class reports, students may only be allowed to re-sit an exam if, for example, they substantially improve their attendance at class, and hand in all work required. Other recommendations may be made for students who have worked diligently, but still failed in the exam.

2. Writing job references for students

Academic advisers and departmental tutors are often asked to write references for students. If the student has made reasonable use of his/her academic adviser then s/he will have both personal insight and the class reports to work with. However, remember that many academic advisers will come from a different discipline. As such, they may have little insight into the student's ability to cope with class work: so your report can be very important. The departmental tutors are much more reliant on the class reports, as they will often have to write reports on students they barely know. Again, remember that some students will be asking for references from a departmental tutor in another department/discipline.

Job references require a somewhat different insight into students than that required for internal purposes. Employers are often interested in attributes such as:

  • punctuality
  • attention to detail
  • thorough and diligent work
  • consistency
  • ability to work under pressure
  • communication skills
  • honesty.

For reference writing, it is the open-ended comments that you make that will be most useful. They do not need to be lengthy, but it is worth distinguishing, for example, between the student who consistently does the work and is making steady progress, the student who is erratic, often late to class, and hands in untidy and poorly explained work, and the student who has been silent throughout, yet still does high quality written work.

Note that class reports for writing references are particularly important for second and third years, but can also be important in the first year, for example for vacation work, or summer work placements.

As a class teacher, you yourself may well be asked by students to provide references for them. It is perfectly reasonable to say no, particularly if you have any concerns about the student.

There is some debate within the School as to whether class teachers should be asked to act as reference writers. This would clearly help academic advisers and departmental tutors. However, note that this is not a normal part of your contract. While it is likely that the School would support you should you write an inappropriate reference, you (and indeed any reference writer) have personal liability. The current advice is therefore that full-time members of School staff should complete the references, although you as a class teacher may be requested to provide some of the detailed information. It is considered best practice for you as the student's class teacher to write confidentially to the convenor or academic adviser with your comments and for the full-time staff member to use your comments as the basis for the reference.

If you do provide a reference, then it is very important that you are fully aware of the legal implications of what you are doing. You are also strongly advised to have the letter checked by a member of full time faculty before it is sent off. It is sad to say that there are cases of referees being sued, by both the person for whom they have written a reference and by employers. One useful source of guidance on reference writing that you should consult is the LSE Careers LSE staff guide to writing references in the Careers information for LSE staff page at lse.ac.uk/careersService/aboutUs|. 

Cautionary note: When writing reports on individuals, it is worth bearing in mind that, under the Data Protection Act, the individual is able to ask to see anything written about them, including job references. In the new online system at LSE, students have direct 'read-only' access to their class register and reports, plus space to add their own comments. So be frank but fair - and even where a student has been very difficult to work with, be sure that what you write is what you would be prepared to say to them face to face, with evidence to back it up.

3. Academic adviser/student meetings

Class reports are reviewed by academic advisers before they meet with their students. These meetings can in theory happen at any time, but traditionally are scheduled at key points in the year (eg when students are deciding their course choice for the coming year). The most important point that academic advisers need to know is if the student is having any serious study problems (eg if a student started well but seems to be getting worse over time, or if they are routinely not submitting course work, or not keeping up with other work set). Any general comments you make about a student's standard of work must reflect these problems - a student cannot be said to be studying to a 'satisfactory' standard if they are not submitting course work, for instance. If you have any such concerns about a student, it is also important to discuss this with the tutor responsible for the course, and to see whether any further support is possible or advisable.

In very extreme scenarios (eg a student never showing at class, never handing in work), the academic adviser may decide not to allow a student to enter the exam. This is very rare.

In summary

When writing class reports:

  • Do provide clear information on the proportion of classes attended, compulsory work completed and a feel for whether or not the student was well prepared for classes.
  • Try to write something about every student (eg, 'rarely contributes in class, but appears to be keeping up with the work' is much more useful to tutors and reference writers than 'OK', especially if you are teaching second or third years).
  • Wherever possible, indicate where you feel a student is on a downward trend, or is seriously struggling with the work.
  • Do not state that a student is studying to a 'satisfactory' standard if they are routinely not submitting course work. Even if you can comment positively on other aspects (attendance, participation, etc), anything more than occasionally missed work is not satisfactory.
  • Keep employer references in mind - reports may be used as evidence of a student's personal attributes such as punctuality, consistency, willingness to contribute, etc.
  • Keep your reports frank but fair.
  • Refer as appropriate or necessary to the Individual Student Support Agreement (ISSA), if the student has one, and has disclosed it to you. Appendix 9 provides an example of an ISSA.

Class grades for General Course students

The above explanation of class reports is relevant for all students in your class. In addition, by the beginning of the Summer Term, you will need to provide a class grade for the General Course students in your class. 

Towards the end of the Michaelmas Term, you will receive an email from the Registy with a list of General Course students in your classes. You will also be directed to guidance notes on how to formulate the class grade and how to input this via LSE for You. You will need to submit half unit Michaelmas Term grades by Week 4 of Lent Term and all remaining grades by the end of Week 2 of Summer Term.

The class grade is meant to be an overall assessment of the work the General Course student has done in the class over the course of the year. There is no fixed algorithm for this but it should take into account their attendance, their overall level of participation, any presentations they may have given, and the problem sets and/or essays they have completed. Given the steep learning curve that General Course students go through in adjusting to LSE and the UK higher education system, you may want to weight your assessment towards the latter half of the course.

The table below shows the standard LSE classifications, how these map on to standard percentage grades and the equivalent letter grades for use with General Course students.

Degree class equivalent

Degree class equivalent

% mark

Equivalent 

Written work Class work

First

75+

A+ 

A+ A+

First

70-74

A

A A

Upper second

65-69

A-

A- A-

Upper Second

60-64

B+

B+ B+

Lower Second

55-59

B

B B

Lower Second

50-54

B-

B-  

Third

45-49

C+ 

C+ C+

Third

40-44

C

C C

Fail 

39 or lower

F

F F

 

This class grade will form part of the LSE transcript the student receives at the end of their year at LSE. It is important that the class grade is a fair and accurate assessment of the student's overall performance. It is not meant to be your prediction of how they will perform on the exam. Nor should you mark General Course students harshly as a way of incentivising them to perform well on the exam. 

The reason this is important is because the class grade, along with the grade they receive for the end of year exam, will play an important role in determining whether the General Course student receives credit for the course at their home institution. In some cases, the class grade and exam grade may be averaged and factored into the student's GPA at their home university.

If you have any queries about grading General Course students please contact Mark Hoffman, the Associate Dean for the General Course, gc.dean@lse.ac.uk|.

 

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