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  • 1
    Why use student work?
  • 2
    How might teacher educators use student work when working with novices? 
  • 3
    Which high-leverage practices should teacher educators pair with this pedagogy?
Why use student work?

Using student work gives novices opportunities to carefully attend to students’ thinking and experiences. Teacher educators can deliberately select content and identify representative samples of student work to expose novices to common patterns in student thinking. Student work can illuminate, for example, common misconceptions and challenges students are likely to experience around particular content. Student work can also be used by teacher educators to support novices in considering alternative interpretations about what a given piece of information suggests about student understanding. 

Teacher educators can use student work to create authentic opportunities for novice teachers to practice other HLPs as well. For example, novices can reflect on and analyze patterns of student thinking evident in work samples and consider what they might do, as teacher, in response to those patterns. Novices can also brainstorm specific instructional moves to try or questions to ask the student in order to push their thinking and learning forward. Then, through rehearsal, simulations, or other opportunities for practice inside the teacher education space (please see the TeachingWorks Resource Library for more information on rehearsal, simulations, and other practice-based pedagogies), novices can try out different ways of tailoring their instructional responses to individuals or in relation to common patterns of student thinking apparent in student work. Such practice opportunities are essential to build novices’ skill and content knowledge before they are in the field and work with actual students. 

How might teacher educators use student work when working with novices? 

Typically, when a teacher educator uses student work with novice teachers, it follows a trajectory similar to the one described here: 

  • The teacher educator first invites novice teachers to examine the student work samples and generate inferences about student understanding and skill.  
  • Then, novice teachers consider, and then script or design, possible instructional responses. These could include drafting follow-up questions or feedback comments, selecting an appropriate follow-up task or activity to do based on their interpretation of the students’ thinking, or adapting instructional plans so they are more responsive to the range of student thinking represented in the student work samples. 
  • The teacher educator might then lead novices in a rehearsal or other manner of practice, so that they have an opportunity to simulate, or try out, some of those possible responses and receive expert coaching.

At the end of this sequence of activity, the student work samples and associated instructional responses generated by novices add up to a common “text” that the group can analyze during a debrief, collectively inquiring into the nature of inferences made about students and associated teaching decisions and their potential consequences for students. 

Which high-leverage practices should teacher educators pair with this pedagogy?

Because using student work tis intended to give novices experience with real student learning and thinking, it is typically paired with high-leverage practices that are rooted in analysis and instructional design. More specifically, the pedagogy is especially well suited to work on parts of teaching that build on prior classroom instruction (during which the student work was produced), which can be difficult to simulate in a rehearsal or peer run-through. Examples of such work include: 


Checking student understanding 

Eliciting and interpreting student thinking  

Attending to patterns of student thinking 

Providing feedback to students 

Adjusting instruction of a lesson 

Designing a sequence of lessons 

Designing an assessment 

Learning about students