Look at Student Work Regularly

“I teach with several others, and we do this on a daily basis, but just off the cuff. By utilizing LASW Protocol, we could really stick to the task at hand.”

Sallee Webb, Missouri TEAL Team

“The LASW surprised me most [in this course]. I did not know about this model. I think this will be something that we can use in our program to improve instruction.”

Cindy Heimbach, Mississippi TEAL Team

“The Bright Spot was helpful to listen to. It made the LASW Protocol become usable for me. I’m always into tweaking. I’m thinking of it to be used as a way for the learners to help me with my lesson. They are usually very good at critiquing me.”

Lynn Stewart, Oklahoma TEAL Team

Examining our own practice as teachers means reflecting on whether our lessons are meeting our expectations for student learning. Did students learn what (we thought) we taught? Can we see the learning in our students’ work products? How do we know when a lesson has been “effective”? This section provides guidance on how to create a reflective learning community that can help us study our work as teachers by looking carefully at what student work shows us about student learning.

The Looking at Student Work (LASW) professional development approach is:

  • An ongoing, collaborative, team-building process.
  • A research-based strategy to facilitate implementation.
  • A thoughtful examination of the work of diverse learners.
  • A cycle of discussion, action, and reflection.

Teams include teaching colleagues and administrators or support staff as appropriate. The team meets regularly, usually for 45–60 minutes once a month. Roles are assigned and rotate to include facilitator, recorder, timekeeper, and presenting instructor.

To begin, the team designates a hosting teacher. This instructor brings together the assignment, lesson plan, and the work of three learners with diverse abilities and needs. This process allows the LASW group to examine the range of abilities in the class to complete a common assignment. Pick one or two students’ work on which to focus. Follow the LASW Protocol in Table 9 to keep the team focused and on time.

LASW Step by Step

Step 1: Reflect on learner achievement to date.

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • Where is the learner struggling?
  • Are there any extenuating circumstances?

Step 2: Set the context with your lesson plan.

  • What are you trying to do?
  • How did you introduce and teach the concept?
  • Did you present and model?
  • Did you provide guided practice?
  • How did the lesson go?

Step 3: Examine learner work and discuss the following:

  • Instructional strategies
  • Instructional sequence and amount of time spent on each step
  • Ways to incorporate UDL principles
  • Ways to integrate supports:
    • Technology supports
    • Peers
    • Aides and volunteers
    • Homework and outside supplemental study

Step 4: Identify next steps.

  • Generate suggestions for instruction and support.
  • The hosting instructor commits to trying one or more and documenting results.

LASW Protocol

Reflect on Results (5 minutes)

  • Describe instructional strategies and technology tools used since last meeting (3 minutes).
  • Describe changes in performance (2 minutes).

Set the Context (6 minutes)

  • Describe focal students (2 minutes).
  • Share and describe the lesson (2 minutes).
  • Identify the standard(s) addressed in the lesson (1 minute).
  • Pose guiding question to the team (1 minute).

Teamwork (20 minutes)

  • Observe the work silently (5 minutes).
  • Discuss observations objectively (6 minutes).
  • Make interpretations (3 minutes).
  • Recommend instructional and technology strategies (6 minutes).

Plan to Apply Strategies: Implementation (8–10 minutes)

  • Which students will you target?
  • What instructional strategies and technology tools will you use?
  • What supports do you need for using technology tools?

Assessment (7–10 minutes)

  • Which standards apply?
  • What changes in performance do you expect to see?
  • What evidence will you collect?
  • What criteria will you use for evaluation?

Total Time: 45–60 minutes

Note: The LASW Protocol is a component of the STAR Tech (Supporting Teachers to Achieve Results) Professional Development Program, which was developed and tested by the Education Development Center, Inc. with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. The LASW Protocol is available online at http://www.cited.org/library/resourcedocs/LASW Protocol.doc.

Benefits of LASW

  • Supports differentiated instruction and UDL.
  • Fosters a reflective, effective professional learning community.
  • Encourages use of research-based instructional strategies and deliberate planning.

Benefits of Collaboration

Teacher collaboration is recognized as one of the keys to educational reform. Teachers sharing responsibility for student success and each others’ effective teaching positively affects student achievement. Structured and recognized opportunities for teacher collaboration break the perception of isolation that many teachers feel, leading to a more productive and sharing workforce. Documented benefits include the following:

  • Use of best-practice instruction more consistently
  • Development of PLCs
  • Accommodation of the needs of diverse learners
  • Strengthening of effective implementation efforts

The Center for Implementing Technology in Education (2009) synthesizes the research by a previous AIR technical assistance project. (See more benefits in the Join a Professional Learning Community section.)

For more information, see the TEAL Center Fact Sheet on Effective Lesson Planning at the end of this section.



Center for Implementing Technology in Education. (2009). “Looking at student work” as a strategy for integrating technology. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved December 27, 2011, from http://www.cited.org/index.aspx?page_id=107