Strengthening Lessons with a Student Work Protocol

How to Strengthen Lessons

As the chill in the air gets chillier, and your stacks of student work pile up like fallen leaves, why not pause, take a breath, and take a moment to look at that student work in a new way. Sure, you need to look at the work to assess student progress, provide feedback, and celebrate student successes, but you can also use it to assess, refine, and celebrate your own work. The EQuiP Student Work Protocol is one way to do just that.

In part one of our series with, we introduced you to their work with EQuIP (Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products), an initiative designed to identify high-quality materials aligned to the Common Core. We took a close look at EQuIP’s rubrics and process for evaluating lessons for Common Core alignment, and saw the power of teachers viewing and discussing a lesson together.

In this second part, we introduce you to a complementary process in which teachers analyze student work as an indicator of the strength of instructional materials, and their fit into the larger lesson or unit. This protocol works really well for large collaboration groups, but you could certainly use it independently or with just one colleague.

In this video, you’ll learn five steps for examining a single instructional task within a lesson or unit in order to assess Common Core alignment. You’ll also see:

Teachers looking at the task from the student perspective, reviewing where directions could be clearer, or where scaffolding could be improved.

Teachers discussing individual work samples, as well as a collection of samples, to gain a full understanding of the task’s strengths and areas for improvement.

Teachers providing criterion-based suggestions for improving the assignment and related instructional materials. For instance, what modifications to the task might allow students to demonstrate an even deeper reasoning and understanding of the material? Sometimes teachers discover that by merely changing or adding a few words to a task’s written instructions, they improve a student’s ability to meet the goals of the task and its related standard.

As an English teacher, I was lucky enough to teach in a district that set aside two days per year for teachers to look at student work with other teachers from throughout the county. Sure, it took a lot of planning and work to make those days happen (imagine the need for subs throughout the county!), but what we learned from the process was tremendous. At the time, our protocol was grounded in local standards and was really aimed at getting us to see how far our students had come, as well as how much further we could get them. Multiple eyes and perspectives made all the difference. Sometimes you can be too close to a student, a student’s work, or the lesson you created to see that there is room for improvement. I always walked away with a better understanding of my students’ growth, as well as ways to make my teaching practice more effective not only the next year, but the very next day!

Want to know if your lessons are aligned?Have you ever used a similar protocol? Tell us about the experience. If you use student work protocols on Teaching Channel Teams, how’s it going?

Gretchen Vierstra taught middle school for ten years in the San Francisco Bay Area. During her 15+ years in education, she’s also been a department chair, new teacher coach, curriculum developer, and policy analyst. She is an Education Content Manager at Teaching Channel.

Achieve logoAchieve is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization dedicated to working with states to raise academic standards and graduation requirements, improve assessments, and strengthen accountability.


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