As teachers, we collect all kinds of student work: worksheets, drawings, comic strips, quizzes/tests, writing samples, etc. Some of this work gets graded immediately and recorded to be used to gauge student progress. Other pieces of work are stored away or returned to students to live in folders for the rest of the year. What are we supposed to do with all of this evidence? Is there a need to do anything with it at all?

Most say the answer to the latter question is a resounding “Yes!” The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) discusses the importance of collaborative analysis – they encourage teachers to work together to discuss student work. The document states,

This process encourages teachers to consider:

  • What are my students’ strengths with regard to the required knowledge and skills?
  • What are my students’ learning needs with regard to the required knowledge and skills?
  • Do students have sufficient foundational content and process skills to approach new learning?
  • How can I support student learning through scaffolding and differentiation?

These questions help teachers reflect on what students have learned and compare their learning with the intended objectives set for a lesson or unit. Not only do teachers get the chance to develop clearer objectives and ensure lessons are scaffolded, but student learning is also said to increase through this process.

I know the benefits of analyzing student work and I can understand how powerful this process might be, but what does the process actually look like? Many teacher evaluation rubrics say something along the lines of: “Is able to use student work analysis to adjust and plan future instruction.” What does that mean?!

There are many, many different ways to analyze the work that our students produce. RIDE discusses a group process that involves:

  • analyzing the assessment and rubric itself to see what the expectations were
  • looking through student work and separating into high, average and low piles
  • delving deeply into each of these piles to see what students demonstrated and what they didn’t
  • analyzing next steps based on results

Another protocol, shared by Two Rivers Public Charter School in Washington, DC on Edutopia, shares a group process where teachers come together to analyze one teacher’s student work. They quietly reflect on the task, how they would respond, how students would respond and any “notices or wonders” that come up in their minds. Then, during the sharing portion, teachers share thoughts and provide ideas to the teacher for enhancing student learning. Taryn Peacock, a third grade lead teacher from the school explains,

“We never say, ‘These students got it. We’ll just let them do whatever’…And we never say, ‘These students were behind, but we need to move on.’ It’s always, ‘How can we push the student, regardless of where they are?'”

For a more detailed explanation of their protocol, check out their notes document. If you’re looking for more cool protocols and unique ways of analyzing student work, check out this chapter from an ASCD book titled “Protocols for Professional Learning.”

If protocols aren’t your thing or you don’t have a collaborative group to work with, do what I do:

  1. Grade student work based on your rubric
  2. Analyze patterns: what did students demonstrate well? what was a complete miss?
  3. Reflect on how to push strong learners to the next level and how to re-teach or review with learners who still have a ways to go
  4. Adjust the next lesson accordingly, bringing in extensions for those who are ready for them and reviews of concepts that could stand to be emphasized once again

Whatever your process is, take the time to look through the work that your students put their effort into. It’ll help you be a stronger, more reflective teacher and plus, you never know what you’ll find!

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