April 1, 2004
An association of individuals and educational organizations focused on examining student work to foster greater cohesion between instruction, curriculum, and other aspects of school life and students' learning, the Looking at School Work project grew from a meeting hosted by the Chicago Learning Collaborative and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform on "Examining Student Work and School Change" held in Chicago in October 1998. The group provides resources for teachers, administrators, staff developers and others in the school community around examining student work.
The 2002-2003 meetings of the Looking at Student Work project (LASW) represent a new phase of the project featuring new organizing principles and practices. Previous year's sessions were observed and documented by EDC/CCT research staff and by Center for Arts Education (CAE) staff. Because the 2002-2003 version of the project introduced new complexities, the Center administration decided that an outside view would be helpful. The reflections presented in this report were not developed as part of a formal evaluation effort, but are those of a "friendly critic," whose perceptions are informed by long experience with the CAE programs and the LASW project. The intent is to provide helpful comments, especially on the changes and additions to the original design. As someone has pointed out, simply asking a question is often seen as a negative evaluation, and the reader should be cautioned not to make that assumption here. It is the obligation of the friendly critic to ask questions as a way of provoking deliberation and thoughtful future work. Asking questions in this format should not be taken as a way of making negative comments, as it is sometimes described. It should be said up front that this reviewer has the highest regard for the work done in LASW in 2002-2003. The work marks significant gains in the process and in the content from its beginnings, and the contributions noted by the participants to their own thinking and classroom work are genuine and important for the field to note.