One of teachers’ critical roles is to grade students’ performance and provide feedback on their work. Traditionally, teachers have performed these tasks in relative isolation from their peers, even within the same school departments. However, many education experts say teachers would benefit from sharing their students’ work with other teachers and discussing what that work indicates about the students’ learningand the teacher’s performance.
This form of self-help professional development is becoming increasingly popular, and numerous web sites offer valuable information about how to create and conduct this kind of teacher-to-teacher feedback group. Here are a few tips for operating such a group:
- The format for the group can be flexible. Some groups involve only two teachers, and others are more widely collaborative. Some draw from a single subject matter, and some cast a wider net. All formats can be successful.
- Analyze student work that is based on major educational goals. To assess student achievement, the project must be significant (not a quiz, for example).
- Bring background materials. Make sure your colleagues understand the goals of the assignment that generated the students’ work. Prepare a short written or verbal description that can introduce the session.
- Know what you want to learn. Prepare a “focus question” or two for the group to discuss. Do you want an answer to a very specific problem, or a more general analysis of the situation?
- Bring representative work. Choose from a range of student submissions.
- Maintain anonymity of students, when possible.
- Consider videotape. For young students whose real understanding of thesubject matter often isn’t reflected on paper, consider showing a series of videos that capture classroom activities.
- Do a test run. This is a new activity. Try it first on an example of work that is not from current students to get a sense of how the collaboration will work. Here are some online resources for more information on how this collaborative examination of student work can enhance teachers’ skills:
- Looking at Student Work (http://www.lasw.org). Provides a clearinghouse of information on the principles and methods of teacher peer review of students’ work. Also offers a video, titled “Looking at Student Work: A Window into the Classroom.”
- Hoover Middle School Teachers Examine Student Work (http://www.middleweb.com/Hooverpromo. html). Describes how the history team at Hoover Middle School in Long Beach, Calif., meets weekly to scrutinize student work and their own lessons. Includes audio-video tape of part of one session.
- Catalyst: Voices of Chicago School Reform (http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/12-99/129toc.htm). An article titled “Learning to Teach Better by Examining Student Work” shows how the program is working for a group of sixth-grade teachers.
- Looking Collaboratively at Student Work: An Essential Toolkit (http://www.essentialschools.org/pubs/horace/13/v13n02.html). Published in November 1996 by the Coalition of Essential Schools.