Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Critical Issues in School Reform


L E A R N I N G  F R O M  S T U D E N T  W O R K
Looking At Student Work:
A Window into the Classroom

I. About the Program | II. On-Line Activities | III. Viewer Activities | IV. Resources


A Viewers' Workshop

The following workshop is designed for a group with little or no familiarity with the idea of looking collaboratively at student work. The structure can be adapted to your particular situation; for example, the questions in parts 1 and 2 can be used for a general discussion about the video.

The workshop can be completed in a two-hour session, including the 30-minute video.

Part 1: Preparing to Watch the Video (15-20 minutes)

a. Ask participants to split up into groups of 2 or 3 to brainstorm the times when teachers look at student work.

b. Reconvene in the full group and compile a list based on the small-group conversations. (Note how many of these examples are cases of an individual teacher examining samples of student work and how many are instances of looking at student work with other colleagues.)

c. Ask participants to share stories from their own experiences with collaborative work. Encourage responses that address the question: How is looking at student work samples collaboratively different from looking at it individually?
Part 2: Watching the Video (30 minutes)

Ask the participants to keep the following questions in mind as they watch the video:

  • What are the potential strengths of using this process?
  • What concerns or questions does the video raise for you?

Part 3: Discussing the Issues Raised in the Video (45-60 minutes)

Ensuring a Good Conversation:
A Few Basic Groundrules
  • Identify a facilitator and a timekeeper.

  • Set norms for the discussion. Be sure all participantshave an opportunity to understand and agree to these norms. They may want to add others.

  • Focus on the video and the discussion in it. Refer to specific examples from the video in your discussion.

  • Build on what others say.

  • Listen carefully and do not "step on" one another's talk.

  • Converse -- no need to raise your hand, but don't interrupt either.

  • Expose and challenge your own assumptions.

  • Watch your airtime.

a. Facilitate a discussion of participants' responses to the questions in Part 2.

b. Ask the group to consider the following question:

  • What real need are we working on in our school for which looking at student work could be useful? (For example: developing an integrated curriculum, setting new standards, participating in a self-study process.)

A Session on Looking at Student Work

Facilitate a session in your school around a selected sample of student work. The session itself should be scheduled to last one-and-a-half to two hours. You will also need to allow time for considerable preparatory work.

NOTE: This session will require careful advance planning if it is to be successful. Here are some suggestions to help make this session successful.

Before the session:

Identify a person who will present student work from his/her class.

Decide on the focus question that will be addressed by looking at a sample of student work. (The discussion in Part 3 of the Viewers' Workshop should be helpful in crafting the focus question. For example: What might a final project for a ninth-grade integrated humanities course look like?)

With the presenter, select samples of student work that are relevant to your focus question. (For example: A group interested in discussing the development of integrated humanities projects might look at several pieces of work that demonstrate one student's response to a project with both history content and writing goals.)

Choose a protocol. For groups looking at student work for the first time, both the Tuning Protocol and the Consultancy are good protocols to start with. (Several useful protocols, including these two, are outlined in the November 1996 issue of HORACE; see Resources below.)

Observe a Protocol in Action

To see a full protocol for looking at student work in action, watch for "Reflecting on Teaching Practice: Student Work, Teacher Work, and Standards Part I -- Math," airing on March 23 and 25 as part of this Critical Issues in School Reform series. The program shows a group of teachers using a tuning protocol to provide feedback to a tenth-grade math teacher. The full protocol is shown, with clear facilitation and explanation. Information and resources for this program are available on Learner.org.

Schedule the session. You will need at least an hour and half to ensure sufficient time for understanding the protocol, looking at the work, and debriefing the process and the session itself.

At the session:

Distribute the time schedule for the protocol, discuss the process and norms, and select a recorder.

Use the protocol to look at the student work sample(s).

Take time to debrief the protocol process you used; ask your colleagues what they learned from the process, what they liked about it, and what they would have liked to do differently. (This information is extremely important for planning future sessions.)

Before the session ends, allow time for debriefing the group's experience with looking collaboratively at student work. Discuss what next steps the group would like to take (for example, using the protocol to further explore the focus question you chose or to address a different focus question; or, perhaps, practicing with the protocol in a lower-risk situation before returning to look at their own students' work).


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