Communiqué

Using Tech to Polish Report Templates

Volume 44 Issue 1

By Dan Florell

As the school year gets underway, school psychologists start getting ready for a new round of assessment cases and writing up reports. This is a great time of the year to spend some time and get report templates ready to go.

Most school psychologists rely on report templates throughout the year as a way to quickly write reports and ensure that any mandated information is not left out. Report templates vary considerably in their specificity depending on the school psychologist or the school district. Typically report templates become more standardized as the school district gets larger.

While handy to use, it should be cautioned that the use of report templates could go too far. In my career, I have seen reports that consisted of a couple of pages of demographic and background information followed by scoring program descriptive reports copy-and-pasted to the end of the report. While no one wants to go back to typing entire reports from scratch every time, there has to be a balance between the two extremes.

I believe the goal of any template is to allow school psychologists more time to customize each individual report and not spend time typing the same information over and over again. One example of where a template can help is in the description of a test instrument that is frequently used. A report template can have the general description of the instrument and even include a table for the scores. Once in place, a school psychologist can leap directly toward the interpretation of those scores.

Despite the advantages of using a report template, it can be very difficult to change those templates during the school year as more pressing issues always seem to come up. If this sounds familiar, act now to perfect the template before the assessments come rushing in.

The classic report template is usually in a word processing file with standardized sections and tables. School psychologists then delete sections that are not relevant for a particular case and go from there. However, the question should be asked, "Is there something that can be done that can make the whole report writing process even more efficient?"

This is where technology can be a great asset. It is possible to migrate test scores and descriptions from scoring software into a Microsoft Word report template using Excel. This process can also help migrate graphs and figures into a report. These little innovations could save the average school psychologist hours over the span of the school year. These are hours that can be spent in other activities like implementing interventions or engaging in consultation.

The particular details for this nifty use of technology can be found at the new website schoolpsych.com. The site was recently created by Tim McIvor, who is a school psychologist in Nevada. It contains several YouTube videos that take school psychologists step by step through the process on how to link Excel to Word. This is well worth spending some time investigating. Remember that a couple of hours now will save you time when it is most needed during the school year.

A tech trick that I like to use when writing reports is to use screen capture for various figures and graphs that can be hard to replicate any other way. Many PCs have the program Snipping Tool automatically loaded onto them. Snipping Tool is nice as it allows the user to capture portions of a total screen and saves the image in JPEG format. Then it is as simple as cutting and pasting the image into a report appendix.

Microsoft Word has a few nifty tricks hidden away that many school psychologists probably overlook when writing their reports. One of those tricks allows school psychologists to break away from using the same words or phrases over and over again in a report. Word makes a list of synonyms easily accessible within the program, which can allow school psychologists to introduce a bit of variety into report descriptions. All that needs to be done is to simply highlight a word, right click, and then find a list of synonyms that can be used. Word also allows fields that can automatically insert and update dates and names in a template. There are several YouTube videos available on the topic, just look up "Microsoft Word" and "fields."

Despite all of the usefulness of using technology to help with writing reports and report templates, there is still a need for good old fashioned peer review. I would recommend having colleagues look over report templates for any grammatical errors or poor descriptions. After all, this is the template that will be used for most reports. Any errors in the template will be compounded because they will keep showing up in every report that is written.

Have a great start to the school year and spend a few moments looking at the reviewed resources. It could save hours of time.


Dan Florell, PhD, NCSP, an assistant professor in the school psychology program at Eastern Kentucky University and a contributing editor for Communiqué