Looking at Student Work
Looking at Student Work

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Why Protocols?

In this part of Looking at Student Work you will find brief descriptions of a number of protocols developed and used by participants in the site (and others), intended to illustrate how protocols support teachers and others in LSW.

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First, what are protocols?

  • A protocol consists of agreed upon guidelines for a conversation, and it is the existence of this structure -- which everyone understands and has agreed to -- that permits a certain kind of conversation to occur -- often a kind of conversation which people are not in the habit of having.

  • Protocols are vehicles for building the skills and culture necessary for collaborative work. Thus, using protocols often allows groups to build trust by actually doing substantive work together.

Why use a protocol?

  • A protocol creates a structure that makes it safe to ask challenging questions of each other; it also ensures that there is some equity and parity in terms of how each person's issues are attended to. The presenter has the opportunity not only to reflect on and describe an issue or a dilemma, but also to have interesting questions asked of him or her, AND to gain differing perspectives and new insights. Protocols build in a space for listening, and often give people a license to listen, without having to continuously respond.

  • In schools, many people say that time is of the essence, and time is the one resource that no one seems to have enough of. Protocols are a way to make the most of the time people do have.

  • Finally, it is important to remember that the point is not do the protocol well, but to have an in-depth, insightful, conversation about teaching and learning.

*The Virtual Protocol.
This is a recreation on-line of a Collaborative Assessment Conference in which teachers looked at two pieces of writing from the same student. Includes a teacher profile, list of participants, the student's work, and excerpts from the dialogue through each step of the process.


What's a typical protocol look like?

  • A "typical" protocol for looking at student work look like this: A small group of teachers and/or administrators gather in a circle - eight to twelve is a good number. One of the teachers (the presenter) has brought samples of his or her students' work to present. A facilitator gets the discussion going and makes sure that the guidelines and agenda for the protocol are followed. The protocol specifies that time be allotted for different purposes, which may include asking a focusing question, presenting the instructional context (or standards) for the student work, description of the student work, asking clarifying questions, asking "probing" questions, providing feedback on the work, reflecting on the feedback, etc. The protocol may last from 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
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