What Do I Do With Student Work?

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!


Intellectual Humility

As educators, we walk into a room bearing knowledge. Some of may have more knowledge than others, some of us may have different types of knowledge, and some of us may just be starting on our journey of gaining knowledge. The most important thing to keep in mind, I believe, is that we never know everything. Whether we are in a classroom of youth, in front of a group of community members, or in a group of educators, there is ALWAYS something to learn and some new way of understanding.

Sometimes, especially when we’re surrounded by other educators, it is easy to get defensive or feel that we need to prove ourselves or show that we know everything. It is in these moments that we lose sight of what we can be learning from others. However difficult it is, it’s crucial in moments of defensiveness or embarrassment, to take a mental step back and just listen. Listen to others’ perspectives & knowledge and reflect before responding.

There will be moments when we will be required to correct someone in their knowledge or to share our different knowledge with others. In these situations, I believe there are certain ways of sharing that alienate audiences and that can make us seem harsh, judgmental and conceited. Just because we have knowledge that others may not, does not make us any better than anyone else; it makes us blessed and should inspire gratitude. This change of perspective can help our sharing of knowledge come from a kinder, more humble place.

I believe that educators must be learners throughout their lives. As learners, we must walk into every situation with an open mind. We must be ready to take in whatever we can and be ready to share our thoughts with kindness and humility. To me, that is intellectual humility.

The Euphoria of Professional Development

Have you ever had that feeling of absolute excitement when you walk out from a professional development session? The feeling of optimism and possibility and so many new things to try for your students. Our team has had two professional development sessions over the past week and I’ve walked out of both feeling like I have lots left to learn and so many new things I’d like to do better for my students. Here are some of my reflections…

Continue reading “The Euphoria of Professional Development”