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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Teachers Should Analyze Student Work Together

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

In my last post, "How to Make Writing Research Papers Relevant for Students," I described an expository writing task that all our students at Envision Schools must complete. In this post, I will highlight the task of analyzing literature.

Do college instructors and high school teachers agree on what constitutes college-ready work? We tested that question earlier this month at an institute for California Early College High Schools, in sunny San Diego. Our chief academic officer, a teacher, myself, and our partner from the Stanford Redesign Network designed a workshop for college faculty and high school educators to score an example of our English/Language Arts student performance task, Literary/Textual Analysis. Here is a brief description of the task from our guidebook:

"Through the study of language and literature, we expect students to develop the appropriate skills and tools necessary to be confident critical readers and thinkers, as well as effective and persuasive communicators. We expect students not only to show an understanding of the concerns and implications of literature in its varied forms and styles (fiction, nonfiction, genre, and author, etc.) but also to use literature as a tool to investigate and discuss topics and concerns that are relevant to students' lives today.

"To demonstrate their mastery of the discipline, students must select a writing sample that demonstrates the ability to read and think critically, communicate effectively and persuasively."

After discussing the rubric, we presented a paper that had been created as part of an integrated American history and American literature project unit. Students selected an American author to research and were required to read at least five lengthy pieces from this writer. Students were asked to write a 7- to 10-page paper comparing the various pieces of literature in the context of the historical and cultural times in America. The student writing we read analyzed the writings of Flannery O'Connor.

Based on the student work, we had a rich discussion about whether it was college ready. Even though we chose a piece that had been quite contentious with our teachers back at the school site, all the teachers -- college and high school -- agreed that based on this piece of work, the student was ready for a freshman-level English course at a university. We encouraged participants to think about how they can create similar dialogue at their schools using student work.

Have you collectively discussed, analyzed, and assessed student work with your colleagues to drive change at your school? If so, how did it work? Please share the results, as well as your thoughts and ideas about looking at student work.

Comments (10)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Paula Copeland's picture

Teachers working together as well as working with the students is most likely the best way to determine whether or not a paper is "college ready." There is much that our seniors are not ready for when they enter college no matter what they claim. casino en ligne

Alshaheed Muhammad's picture

I can only talk from my high school experience, and I wasn't prepared for higher level thinking when I entered the university. There wasn't any communication between the high school and the local or colleges on curriculum preparation, if there was I could tell. If we has teachers are going to prepare the next generation for the 21st century, the communication gap must be addressed in this country. Other developing nations have surpassed us in all educational disciplines, and are progressing at a much faster and rapid pace. Teacher/Professors should communicate from Pr-k thru Ph.D programs.

E.S. Fortune's picture

In my experience as a high school Biology teacher, I have found it to be essential that teachers collaborate within their disciplines. We are all striving for a common goal and must seek to find the best strategy to reach that goal with our students. It is important that we recognize the individual differences within our classroom, while also searching for universal teaching methods that will collectively benefit student groups. Without dialogue between teachers, it is difficult to grow and one may be less likely to adapt a lesson to meet the needs of the diverse learners within his or her classroom.

Paula Tucek's picture

Collaboration Creates Consistency
As a middle school English teacher, I am fortunate enough to have worked collaboratively on evaluating students' work. The English department worked together to improve our writing curriculum through the use of writing prompts related to our reading selections. These prompts were dispersed one per nine weeks and graded via a standardized rubric. After receiving the essays from our students, we would meet as a department and discuss which papers were exemplars of a certain rubric score.

Often evaluating writing can seem very subjective. By utilizing inner-department evaluation, we improved the feedback we provided our to our students. Often the feedback was used as talking points on how to edit writing, and I usually either required students to take the feedback into account and rewrite their paper or gave students to rewrite the paper. I believe by having a standardized rubric within our department, utilizing exemplar papers, and discussing how we individually grade our papers; my English department has become more consistent in our grading practices. Our consistency was accomplished through open and informed communication.

Currently, these writing assignments are used as data to measure our students' growth as writers from seventh to eighth grade. By standardizing our grading practices, an A paper will be an A paper in each English teachers' class. We have effectively eliminated a discrepancy in writing evaluation in our school and thus, allowed new source of data; unconnected to standardized tests.

donros's picture

do you really beleive that with hundreds of students this can work?
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Natasha's picture

I believe it is important for teachers to analyze student work in all grades. Our school is moving towards standards-based report cards, and one of the major components to doing so is that we will be comparing student's work to standards rather than what we believe is grade-level work. In order to accomplish this task, our grade level will have to develop rubrics that match the standard and we will use these rubrics when analyzing student work. I have very high expectations for my students and the teacher next door to me does not. The work I post outside my hallway looks very different than the work posted outside her hallway b/c we both consider "on-grade level" work very differently. Had we sat down and analyzed our student's work, we could determine what truly is on-grade level. And, yes, this can work even with 100 students. What will happen is not necessarily looking at 100 papers, but creating a rubric and randomly picking a few papers to analyzing by comparing them to the rubric. Then, it will be easier for the teachers to go back and grade the papers based on a rubric rather than trying to compare them to each other. This ensures fidelity and fairness when grading because students are being graded according to the standard they are supposed to meet.

Stefani's picture

I completely agree with such tasks. I agree that our main goal is to teach to read and think critically, communicate effectively and persuasively. This quality will be highly estimated.
I also think it will be interesting for children to meet modern writers when they present their books. As for me I use this website http://eventsearch.us to find out about interesting events which I'll visit with my students. In such a way we don't miss a thing and have a very interesting school life!

Kopgel's picture

I can only talk from my high school experience, and I wasn't prepared for higher level thinking when I entered the university. There wasn't any communication between the high school and the local or colleges on curriculum preparation, if there was I could tell. If we has teachers are going to prepare the next generation for the 21st century, the communication gap must be addressed in this country. Genel Forum - Kopgel.net Other developing nations have surpassed us in all educational disciplines, and are progressing at a much faster and rapid pace.Genel Forum - Kopgel.net Teacher/Professors should communicate from Pr-k thru Ph.D programs.

Shawn Krinke's picture
Shawn Krinke
Junior and Senior Language arts Teacher, North Dakota

At my high school, the Language Arts teachers have met a few times on PD days in order to learn and apply norming. A few of our teachers have even attended norming with local university professors. I think this was a beneficial for the department as it forced us to be metacognitively aware of how and why we grade the way we do. Unfortunately, we have drifted away from norming a bit due to other issues that have cropped up (writing curriculum for the Common Core State Standards).

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