How can educators develop skill and confidence in using technology as an instructional strategy? Not surprisingly, one requirement is adequate and effective professional development that assists them in addressing the standards and meeting the needs of diverse learners. To accomplish these goals, educators are increasingly engaging in a process known as looking at student work.

The process we refer to as looking at student work (LASW, also given other names, such as close examination of student work) is something more than the long-familiar act of grading papers. When teachers engage in LASW, they do so in facilitated, collaborative groups where professionalism, trust, and self-reflection are tantamount. They adopt a spirit of inquiry for this investigation and often use a systematic protocol to guide the investigation. A facilitator helps maintain the focus and assures that the meeting is productive. Their purpose in LASW is not primarily to pass judgment on the achievement of students whose work they are examining, but to use the process to improve their own delivery of instruction and to integrate technology into the instructional process.

An LASW protocol guides a team of teachers through a collaborate process. Often the teachers on the team include general education teachers, special educators, technology specialists, curriculum coordinators, and others (e.g., ELL teachers, Title 1 teachers).

The team, led by a facilitator, follows a process that has the following steps:

  • Teachers begin with self-reporting on successes and challenges in use of strategies generated in the previous session.
  • A "presenting teacher" describes a lesson, in terms of the instructional goals related to standards, instructional process, and materials.
  • This teacher then poses a question to the group—a concern she has about how to improve student performance.
  • The teacher hands out the work of diverse students (those who are typical learners, those who might struggle, etc.).
  • The facilitator guides the team in following a timed protocol to:
  • Silently examine the work.
  • Discuss the work objectively.
  • Offer interpretations of the students' understandings.
  • Generate instructional strategies that integrate technology tools.
  • Before the meeting ends, all teachers attending plan how they might apply the ideas generated as a team.

You may want to review the information at the Looking at Student Work site (http://www.lasw.org/principles.html) for a quick overview of the principles behind this practice.

Since it began as a formal movement, the LASW process has been used to examine the full range of classroom strategies. Using the LASW process to help teachers learn to implement technology merges the benefits of high-quality professional development, while addressing oft-cited barriers to the use of instructional technology, such as lack of teacher training, technical support, and administrative buy-in.

As such, using the LASW process to implement instructional technology falls under the headings of improving instruction, developing professional learning communities, and meeting the needs of diverse learners. In addition, because many teachers do not have a strong foundation for implementing technology in their instruction (this is not necessarily an intuitive practice), it is critical for teachers to be provided with adequate professional development in using technology, and LASW provides this opportunity.

References [Hide]

Cuban, L., Kirkpatrick, H., & Peck, C. (2001). High access and low use of technologies in high school classrooms: Explaining an apparent paradox. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 813-834.

Wiske, M.S. (1998). Teaching for Understanding: Linking Research with Practice. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

Zorfass, J. & Rivero, H. K. (2005). Collaboration is key: How a community of practice promotes technology integration. Journal of Special Education Technology, 20(3), 51-67.

Improving instruction

The goal of improving instruction is at the heart of the LASW process. LASW is carefully distinguished from assessing student work, in which the work is evaluated against some standard and a grade is generated. The act of "assessment" during LASW is not primarily designed to evaluate any individual student's performance. It is rather used to better understand both where students seem to be succeeding in meeting standards, as well as where they are not, so that teachers in the collaborative team can not only celebrate successes, but devise instructional plans to address areas of need.

References [Hide]

Blythe, T., Allen, D., & Powell, B.S. (1999). Looking Together at Student Work: A Companion Guide to Assessing Student Learning. Teachers College Press: New York

Hord, Shirley M. (1997). "Professional Learning Communities: What Are They and Why Are They Important?" Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. SEDL Issues…about Change, 6(1). www.sedl.org/change/issues/issues61.html

Developing professional learning communities

LASW is, at its heart, a collaborative process that engages teachers as colleagues and as learners. Unlike the typical grading process—a task undertaken by the individual teacher—the time spent with colleagues in LASW is viewed as essential to improving instruction and transforming education. It is central, not an extra or a luxury. The act of having teachers meeting together on a regular basis around instruction improvement is transformative. The facilitator can be someone from the team, especially after the team has learned how to engage in the process. When the collaborative team is just beginning to learn the LASW process, it can be helpful to have a trained facilitator who can also help guide the team through use of the protocol and give feedback on the process.

References [Hide]

Cushman, K. (1996). Looking collaboratively at student work: An essential toolkit. Horace, 13(2).

Lewis, A.C. (1998). Teachers in the driver's seat. Harvard Education Letter.

Meeting the needs of diverse learners

LASW can be structured in such a way to account specifically for the skills of diverse learners. If an explicit range of student work—by normally-achieving students and by students with disabilities—is examined in the LASW process, teachers can develop a common model of what it means to meet the standards and better calibrate their responses to poor performance.

References [Hide]

Blythe, T., Allen, D., & Powell, B.S. (1999). Looking Together at Student Work: A Companion Guide to Assessing Student Learning. Teachers College Press: New York.

Richardson, J. (2001). Student work at the core of teacher learning. Results. National Staff Development Council.

Zorfass, J. & Rivero, H. K. (2005). Collaboration is key: How a community of practice promotes technology integration. Journal of Special Education Technology, 20(3), 51-67.

Providing adequate professional development for technology implementation

The most common, and valid, complaints offered by teachers about using technology revolve around time—not having enough to learn to use the technology, or to figure out how to integrate a variety of tools into the curriculum, etc. The LASW process provides time to address at least the latter concern. Once teachers have received the sufficient initial training in the use of a technology, they often experience new barriers of insufficient time to implement it, or receive a lack of follow-up support. Using LASW to focus on using technology as a strategy to address specific learning needs provides the assistance needed for this implementation: teachers support each other or enlist the help of a technology specialist to meet immediate needs in instruction.

References [Hide]

Cuban, L., Kirkpatrick, H., & Peck, C. (2001). High access and low use of technologies in high school classrooms: Explaining an apparent paradox. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 813-834.

Zorfass, J. & Rivero, H. K. (2005). Collaboration is key: How a community of practice promotes technology integration. Journal of Special Education Technology, 20(3), 51-67.

References

Blythe, T., Allen, D., & Powell, B.S. (1999). Looking Together at Student Work: A Companion Guide to Assessing Student Learning. Teachers College Press: New York.

Cuban, L., Kirkpatrick, H., & Peck, C. (2001). High access and low use of technologies in high school classrooms: Explaining an apparent paradox. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 813-834.

Cushman, K. (1996). Looking collaboratively at student work: An essential toolkit. Horace, 13(2).

Lewis, A.C. (1998). Teachers in the driver's seat. Harvard Education Letter.

Richardson, J. (2001). Student work at the core of teacher learning. Results. National Staff Development Council.

Wiske, M.S. (1998). Teaching for Understanding: Linking Research with Practice. Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

Zorfass, J. & Rivero, H. K. (2005). Collaboration is key: How a community of practice promotes technology integration. Journal of Special Education Technology, 20(3), 51-67.


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