‘Looking at Our Schools’ through the lens of Nurture

School Policy
February 1, 2024
February 1, 2024
Emer Cunningham
School Engagement at Nurture

Introduction to ‘Looking at Our Schools’:

The ‘Looking at Our Schools’ (LAOS) framework is a familiar document to teachers and school leaders in the Republic of Ireland. It outlines the standards of practice expected by the Department of Education and Skills, guiding school leaders in Whole School Evaluation procedures and informing the inspectorate in their evaluation of schools. The standards of effective and highly effective practice are sub-categorised into the outcomes for students, teachers, and school leadership.

Introduction to Nurture: 

Nurture is an application within the Microsoft Teams environment, designed to empower learners through effective feedback while saving time for teachers. It embeds pedagogy into the digital assessment flow of teachers and students in various ways, including guiding students into self-reflection, empowering teachers to set clear learning objectives, and providing pedagogy-guided principles in generating effective personalised feedback aligned to success criteria and learning objectives.

In this blog, we assess a variety of the Standards of Highly Effective Practices outlined in the ‘Looking at Our Schools’ document in conjunction with the Nurture Approach to formative assessment and feedback. 

Nurture and LAOS: 

‘Looking at our Schools’ Standard of Highly Effective Practice 1: 

p. 33 “Teachers collectively agree and implement whole-school approaches to learning and teaching that include the use of online platforms and other digital technologies to improve students’ experiences and outcomes” (Reference

The Nurture Approach: 

Nurture aligns with the ‘Looking at Our Schools’ Framework by addressing the standards of practice in multiple areas, such as teacher collaboration, integration of digital technologies, student feedback, and self-assessment. Nurture’s digital integration capabilities make it convenient for educators to use within their existing platforms, without the need for extensive adaptation. 

Embedding the Curriculum in Formative Assessment: 

‘Looking at our Schools’ Standard of Highly Effective Practice 2: Looking at Assessment

p.31 “Teachers plan for assessing all relevant aspects of students’ learning in the lesson, or series of lessons, using both formative and summative assessment”  (Reference)

The Nurture Approach:

Student potential and achievement is at the heart of what we do at Nurture; formative assessment and feedback are the vehicles we have chosen to unlock this potential. One of Nurture's key features is its ability to embed the curriculum into its platform, allowing teachers to set clear learning objectives and create formative assessments aligned with the curriculum in seconds. This not only saves time for teachers but also ensures that assessments are informed by the curriculum and contexts of a teacher's class. For example, teachers of Junior Cycle history can quickly and easily upload the NCCA Framework for Junior Cycle document, their respective learning outcomes, past examination papers and marking schemes or any other relevant material (such as revision booklets, One Note files, PowerPoints etc.). The Nurture curriculum builder will then generate an assessment on any topic on the Junior Cycle history course in seconds. 

As a result, students are “clearer on what they’re expected to do ... .Now, [the teacher] understands better how students feel when they’ve submitted work because Nurture allows the students to select their confidence levels” (Rebecca, Modern Foreign Languages Teacher, Colaiste Bríde). 

Capturing Student Confidence and Certitude. 

‘Looking at Our Schools’ Standard of Highly Effective Practice 3: Capturing Student Confidence and Certitude 

p.29 “Students have a sense of ownership of their learning, take pride in it, and take responsibility for improving it”  (Reference)

The Nurture Approach: 

As aforementioned, student voice is something we value highly at Nurture, which is reflected in our software. There is compelling pedagogical research that shows student confidence is a vital (and sometimes overlooked) component of effective feedback. Nurture therefore collects the confidence levels of each student with every submission. Both teachers and school leaders have often encountered scenarios whereby students can be very confident in an assignment but have under-performed in their actual assessment and vice versa. Allowing students to reflect on and assess their work gives them the opportunity to, not only take ownership of their assessments but also to grow significantly from one assessment to the next, making for self-directed and independent learners over time. 

The result is that teachers can accurately assess students’ attitudes to learning. As one of our Nurture Expert Teachers explained, “When I have a parent coming to me for a parent-teacher meeting, rather than me just having a couple of arbitrary points, I can say, ‘here’s a visual for your child’s work, their confidence levels are good’ and my hope is that the confidence levels will trend upwards as the year goes on” (Teacher, The Bish Secondary School, Galway). 

Effective Feedback 

‘Looking at Our Schools’ Standard of Highly Effective Practice 4 and 5 : Effective Feedback 

p.33:students’ reflection and feedback on their learning are systematically reviewed and acted upon during teachers’ individual and collaborative planning activities” 

p.34 “teachers have collectively developed [an approach] to providing developmental oral and written feedback to students” 


The Nurture Approach: 

The importance of personalised and effective feedback has always been at the crux of Nurture and now, the Nurture AI assistant makes personalised feedback faster and more effective than before. There has been extensive pedagogical research showing the importance of feedback on student achievement- one such paper is Black and Williams (2006) paper which examines the link between assessment, feedback and learning. 

Based on the research surrounding feedback, Nurture software structures feedback according to the following principles: 1. Ensuring the feedback clearly aligns with the intended goals/ learning outcomes/ success criteria 2. Providing feedback on the process rather than the outcome 3. Providing information on where to go next. As a result of using Nurture in the Microsoft Teams environment, effective feedback is made easy for teachers and easy to understand for students. Furthermore, teachers and school leaders find “the ability of the teacher to give tailor-made feedback to students, which is time effective and specific to the learning outcomes” to be an exciting and efficient step forward for schools (Ger Hogan, Deputy Principal, Kinsale Community School). 

Self-directed learning 

‘Looking at Our Schools’  Standard of Highly Effective Practice 6: Self-directed Learning 

p.29 “Students reflect on their behaviour and attitude to learning and are able to set meaningful goals as a result of their reflection” (Reference

The Nurture Approach 

Nurture helps create more self-directed learners by inviting students to reflect on and consider their learning process. With Nurture, students can only unlock their grades after they’ve reflected on their feedback. The teacher chooses what type of reflection to collect from their students; teachers can choose a simple emoji response to capture students’ attitudes to their assessment task or a more detailed three-two-one response. The three-two-one response asks students to articulate three things they’ve learned, two things they’ve found interesting and one question they’re still left with. Only after they’ve reflected on their feedback may a student unlock their grade, delaying the ego-response of the student, which all educators will know makes the assigned grade more digestible for the student. 

Traditionally, students consider their grade and may dissociate from any reflection or goal-setting due to disappointment in their achievement or because they lack the skills to self-assess themselves. The Nurture approach, however, fosters a cohort of students who can reflect on their behaviour and attitude towards learning and set meaningful goals as a result of their reflection. Furthermore, student achievement and reflections are stored digitally so students can assess their achievements over a long period of time without trying to find old assessments crumpled in the back of their locker, or worse again, covered in yoghurt in the depths of a school bag. 

According to one of our Nurture Teachers, “being able to group feedback and the way in which students’ don’t see their mark until they engage” is what they found the most interesting and exciting prospect of using Nurture (Teacher, St. Louis Post Primary, Co. Monaghan). 

Insights and Reporting 

‘Looking at Our Schools’ Standard of Highly Effective Practice 7: Insights and Reporting 

p. 31 “Teachers maintain assessment records that are clear, useful, easy to interpret and share, and are tailored to students’ individual learning needs” (Reference

The Nurture Approach 

Both the teacher and student interfaces of Nurture feature another handy tool. The home screen of both sides of Nurture displays insights and reports on student confidence, engagement and grades. These teacher insights become the learner passports for each student, showing how groups of students and individual students are performing in terms of their knowledge, skills and attitudes rather than simply their grades scribbled in a teacher planner. This is possible through Nurture’s data driven insights on student confidence, engagement levels and grades. This helps form an individual student-level report, right up to a school-wide report for school leadership on student achievement and engagement. 

All educators and school leaders know that school reporting can over-emphasise knowledge while neglecting to capture the skills and attitudes of learners. However, the self-reflection tools embedded in Nurture allow educators and school leaders the unique opportunity to capture the data of all three. In the words of one of our Nurture Expert Teachers, “My favourite feature of Nurture is the ability of the app to gather a whole bunch of data. Once you have enough data points you can start to get these really nice graphs that are showing trends across both your class and for individual students…I now use this in my parent-teacher meetings and parents love this!” (Teacher, The Bish Secondary School Galway). 


Nurture benefits students, teachers and school leaders alike. It streamlines the feedback process, reduces teacher workload and facilitates whole-school evaluations and inspections. Nurture, by its nature, is naturally aligned with the Looking At Our Schools document as its foundations are formed by student achievement and pedagogical research.