A new bilinear 4-noded quadrilateral element (called QLRZ) for the analysis of composite laminated and sandwich plates/shells based on the refined zigzag theory (RZT) proposed by Tessler et al.  is presented. The element has seven kinematic variables per node. Shear locking is avoided by introducing an assumed linear shear strain field. The performance of the element is studied in several examples where the reference solution is the 3D finite element analysis using 20-noded hexahedral elements. Finally, the capability for capturing delamination effects is analyzed.