Looking at Student Work

Regular analysis of student work puts the spotlight on what's actually happening in a school's teaching and learning
99 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

Looking at Student Work, when done using a protocol, is a fundamental practice in a student-centered teaching environment because it supports authentic insights into how the teaching is impacting its most important stakeholders: the students. LASW can be fine-tuned for specific outcomes which are described in supplemental case uses further below. This strategy provides protocols and tips to add LASW to your school as a best practice.

Implementation Steps

30 minutes
  1. Learn about the practice of looking at student work. Review all three resources listed below as they include implementation tips and protocols.

  2. Review the case study protocols, found below in the case study blocks of this strategy, as well in the Toolkit resources listed directly below, to select the protocols and tools that meet your purpose.

  3. Select a piece of your own students' work, or ask a close colleague for a piece of student work to examine together. You will use this piece of student work for interactive modeling.

  4. If norms are not in place for the teaching community, set time aside at the start to collaboratively establish norms for this work. See the Norms: The Secret Sauce of Productive Meetings strategy in the BetterLesson lab for more information on how to set norms. Once norms are created, display, review regularly, and adhere to them.

  5. State the purpose of Looking at Student Work when you introduce the practice with an emphasis on it as "practice," not evaluation. Share the protocol(s), provide time for these to be reviewed, and invite the community to discuss the protocols.

  6. Invite some colleagues (you may want to recruit them ahead of time) to model the practice.

    • Optional: have the group modeling select a protocol to use (if you've given choices).

  7. Form a fishbowl discussion group. See the Fishbowl Discussion strategy in the BetterLesson Lab to learn more about this strategy.

  8. Practice.

  9. Debrief, continuing to use the protocol questions. Use both a teacher and a learner point of view to guide the debrief.

  10. Each member of the group sets one teaching action to try as a result of their participation in LISW. This action should be noted in a shared document. At the next meeting, five to ten minutes should be set aside for each person to share out what they tried, how it went, and what impact they saw in student work. 

Tuning Protocol

This protocol is used to "fine-tune" teacher work such as lesson/unit plans, student assignments and tasks, and assessments, based on evidence of student work.

Standards Protocol

This protocol examines what students know and are able to do as a result of an assignment, analyzes student learning in direct relation to standard(s), assesses teacher assignments and whether they are structured to produce the desired results, and when reflected on provides suggestions for improving instruction and curriculum.

Learning from Students' Work Protocol

This protocol brings to the surface trends in student work. Participants interpret and reflect on classroom practice based on the results (student work).

Collaborative Assessment Conference (CAC)

This protocol focuses on growing teachers' skill in closely analyzing student work. Participants dig into the work of a particular student and use this analysis to inform next steps in their instructional practice.

Looking at Student Work During Distance Learning

Caitlin MacLeod-Bluver
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

Looking at student work in a distance-learning setting is an important way to explore and reflect on what teaching and learning looks like. 

Implementation steps:

  1. Create a team of teachers or staff members to look at student work together. This could be a PLC or teachers who teach the same students or the same content. Decide when you will meet virtually and what platform you will use. If not already established, develop clear norms for looking at student work together. 

  2. Determine who in the group will bring student work to look at and what the work will be. Consider how you will share this work in a digital setting. For example, you can share a Google document, share a link to a video, share your screen, or share an image of the student's work. 

  3. Set up the logistics for the live virtual meeting, including the correct video links. Consider recording the meeting to help your team reflect on your learning later. 

    • Your team can also consider an asynchronous method to look at student work, where team members could post their responses to a Padlet or on a shared Google document. See the resource below. 

  4. In your virtual call, use the Atlas protocol found in the resources to help guide your discussion of student work. Consider having the person who brought the work remaining silent while other team members initially discuss the work.  Team members can also chat their responses using a chat feature on the video platform. Team members can discuss: 

    • What did you see in this student’s work that was interesting or surprising? 

    • What did you learn about how this student thinks and learns? 

    • What about the process helped you to see and learn these things?

  5. When ready, the person who brought the work can reflect on what they heard. They can post their response in the chat feature or they can respond aloud to the questions: 

    • What did you learn from listening to your colleagues that was interesting or surprising? 

    • What new perspectives did your colleagues provide? 

    • How can you make use of your colleagues’ perspectives?

  6. The team can reflect on the process as a whole by thinking about the following questions. Consider posting responses to a Padlet or using a FlipGrid to share reflections. Teammates can also add to a shared Google document. 

    • What questions about teaching and assessment did looking at the students’ work raise for you?

    • How can you pursue these questions further? 

    •  Are there things you would like to try in your classroom as a result of looking at this student’s work?

  7. Repeat these steps with another piece of student work.

Questions to Consider

  1. How will you know if teachers are taking what they learn from this activity back to their teaching?

  2. How can you support teachers to apply what they learn in Looking at Student Work?

  3. How will you track the impact this strategy has on student learning?