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Sharing Evidence of Student Learning
September 2020


What does the research say about teachers partnering with students and families to communicate evidence of student learning?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Bergman, P., & Chan, E. W. (2019). Leveraging parents through low-cost technology: The impact of high-frequency information on student achievement. Journal of Human Resources, 1118-9837R1, 1–65. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"We partnered a low-cost communication technology with school information systems to automate the gathering and provision of information on students' academic progress to parents of middle and high school students. We sent weekly, automated alerts to parents about their child's missed assignments, grades, and class absences. The alerts reduced course failures by 28%, increased class attendance by 12%, and increased student retention, though there was no impact on state test scores. There were larger effects for below-median GPA students and high school students. We sent over 32,000 messages at a variable cost of $63."

Fu, H., Hopper, T., & Sanford, K. (2018). New BC curriculum and communicating student learning in an age of assessment for learning. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 64(3), 264–286. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"The purpose of this paper is to provide an in-depth analysis and review of effective and meaningful practices in reporting and communicating student learning in K-12 within the framework of assessment for learning. The timeliness of this topic is derived from the launch of the new curriculum in British Columbia (B.C.), which promotes innovations in both assessment and reporting. To accomplish this goal, research in assessment, grading and reporting student learning from the last two decades is explored to provide information on ways to report and communicate student learning within the changing demands of the new curriculum. Our review of research suggests the need for policy change with respect to developing new systems that are anchored in competency, mastery-oriented and evidence-based learning. There is great potential to change and expand assessment, reporting and communication processes at all levels which are supported by the increased availability of digital technologies, ongoing and personalized assessment, and emerging innovative practices we have noted in B.C. To conclude we recommend digital portfolio practices as they offer a promising direction for creating new processes that complement existing systems in communicating student learning and support competency-based curriculum."

Garcia, M., Frunzi, K., Dean, C., Flores, N., Miller, K. (2016). Toolkit of resources for engaging families and the community as partners in education: Part 4: Engaging all in data conversations (REL 2016–153). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Pacific.

From the Abstract:
"The Toolkit of Resources for Engaging Families and the Community as Partners in Education is a four-part resource that brings together research, promising practices, and useful tools and resources to guide educators in strengthening partnerships with families and community members to support student learning. This toolkit defines family and community engagement as an overarching approach to support family well-being, strong parent-child relationships, and students' ongoing learning and development. The primary audiences for this toolkit are administrators, teachers, teacher leaders, and trainers in diverse schools and districts. Part 4 is designed to help educators learn which student data are important to share with families and community members and how to share such data in a meaningful way. Appendix A, "Activity and tool selection," is included."

Knoop-van Campen, C., & Molenaar, I. (2020). How teachers integrate dashboards into their feedback practices. Frontline Learning Research, 8(4), 37–51.

From the Abstract:
"In technology empowered classrooms teachers receive real-time data about students' performance and progress on teacher dashboards. Dashboards have the potential to enhance teachers' feedback practices and complement human-prompted feedback that is initiated by teachers themselves or students asking questions. However, such enhancement requires teachers to integrate dashboards into their professional routines. How teachers shift between dashboard-and human-prompted feedback could be indicative of this integration. We therefore examined in 65 K-12 lessons: i) differences between human- and dashboard-prompted feedback; ii) how teachers alternated between human- and dashboard-prompted feedback (distribution patterns); and iii) how these distribution patterns were associated with the given feedback type: task, process, personal, metacognitive, and social feedback. The three sources of feedback resulted in different types of feedback: Teacher-prompted feedback was predominantly personal and student-prompted feedback mostly resulted in task feedback, whereas dashboard-prompted feedback was equally likely to be task, process, or personal feedback. We found two distribution patterns of dashboard-prompted feedback within a lesson: either given in one sequence together (blocked pattern) or alternated with student- and teacher-prompted feedback (mixed pattern). The distribution pattern affected the type of dashboard-prompted feedback given. In blocked patterns, dashboard-prompted feedback was mostly personal, whereas in mixed patterns task feedback was most prevalent. Hence, both sources of feedback instigation as well as the distribution of dashboard-prompted feedback affected the type of feedback given by teachers. Moreover, when teachers advanced the integration of dashboard-prompted feedback in their professional routines as indicated by mixed patterns, more effective types of feedback were given."

Laho, N. S. (2019). Enhancing school-home communication through learning management system adoption: Parent and teacher perceptions and practices. School Community Journal, 29(1), 117–142.

From the Abstract:
"Communication is an integral component for establishing a strong school community. Learning management systems (LMSs) present new opportunities for communication and collaboration among teachers, students, and parents. This study examined parents' and teachers' perceptions and use of a newly adopted LMS for school-home communication in a rural K-12 school district. Findings indicate that most families have internet access and that parents and teachers are comfortable using digital tools to communicate. Although new tools are available, more traditional resources like email and phones continue to be used most frequently for bidirectional communication. However, results demonstrate that the LMS may provide value as a one-stop location for resources and information."

McWilliams, L., & Patton, C. (2015). How to share data with families. Educational Leadership, 73(3), 46–49. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Students whose parents receive regular and personalized messages with actionable information from teachers are more likely to succeed in school. But effective data-sharing programs require more than simply sending data home. They also encourage educators and families to make connections with each other, sharing observations about how a child performs and behaves in different settings. They put the data in context, helping families understand how their child's performance conforms to expectations for children at that age or grade level. And they approach data-sharing as an ongoing process. McWilliams and Patton offer five tips for setting up successful data-sharing programs: (1) Recognize the need for discretion when sharing data; (2) Make data accessible, understandable, and actionable; (3) Build professional capacity; (4) Give families access and training; and (5) Consider and address families' unique needs."

Smith, B. O., White, D. R., Kuzyk, P. C., & Tierney, J. E. (2018). Improved grade outcomes with an e-mailed "grade nudge". The Journal of Economic Education, 49(1), 1–7. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Information provided at the moment a person makes a decision can influence behavior in predictable ways. The United Kingdom's Behavioural Insights Team have used this idea to help improve the insulation of lofts, collect taxes, and even reduce litter. The authors of this article developed software that appends a personalized message to each assignment in the class regarding the student's current grade. This "grade nudge" explains precisely how the assignment will impact the student's final grade given their current standing in the class. Through a randomized trial, the authors show that the nudge improves student homework performance by about four percentage points."

Wilcox, K. C., Gregory, K., & Yu, L. (2017). Connecting the dots for English language learners: How odds-beating elementary school educators monitor and use Student Performance Data. Journal for Leadership and Instruction, 16(1), 37–43.

From the Abstract:
"This article reports on findings from a multiple case study investigating the nature of educators' approaches toward monitoring English language learners' (ELLs) performance and using data to improve instruction and apply appropriate interventions. Six New York elementary schools where ELLs' performance was better than predicted (i.e. odds-beating) based on student assessment data were studied. The analysis revealed that several strategies were common among the schools studied and were associated with the schools' better ELL performance outcomes. These include: 1) connecting instruction and interventions to "real time" data based on multiple measures of student performance including benchmark and formative assessments; 2) communicating performance via technology among teachers and with family members and legal guardians; 3) collaborating through routines among teaching and support staff as well as school and district leaders. Implications for district and school leaders and teachers are discussed. Implications for district and school leaders as well as teachers and other instructional specialists are offered."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: "Student learning progress", "Data conversations", "Communication strategies", "Student learning data", Parents, Student, Data, Communicating, "Student progress", "Student learning", "Student progress", Families, "Communicating assessment data"

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.