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Lesson Study: An Approach to Improving Student and Faculty Learning

December 7, 2011

 

At the Learning Forward Annual Conference on Monday, December 5, I went to a five-hour workshop entitled, Learning from Lesson Study: A Journey.  The workshop was given by a team of five educators led by Peter Brunn, the Director of Professional Development at Developmental Study Center (DSC).

The agenda covered DSC’s work supporting school districts around the country that are interested in implementing lesson study.  They also showcased two of their projects in diverse schools districts: Orange County in FL and Denver Public School system.

WORKSHOP GOALS

  • explore qualities of professional development (PD) and how lesson study can be part of high-quality PD
  • learn how lesson study fits into a school district’s PLC structure
  • learn how two school districts have implemented lesson study and their plans for building a sustainable model
  • plan for getting started with lesson study in your school or district

What is lesson study?  The panel did a good job of clarifying the lesson study model they use in their work at DSC. Four components of their model are:

  • ongoing professional development for teachers;
  • teamwork that involves planning, teaching, observing and analyzing lessons;
  • a cycle of learning in which new insights into effective teaching are integrated into subsequent lesson plans;
  • and team work that puts student learning at its center, but also focuses on creating opportunities for teachers to learn.

We watched a video that showed a team of teachers in Orlando, FL working through the lesson study protocol. The video also showed the team debriefing what they observed and learned. The panelists suggested that in lesson study teachers have to:

  • take ownership of the learning that goes on during lesson study;
  • focus on learning and the learner NOT on themselves;
  • and enter into a collaborative learning environment to work on a lesson, making it the best lesson it can be.

Their experience has been that lesson-study professional development can be used by schools to grow their teachers.  Generally, teachers do not have experience collaboratively designing a lesson, observing one another teaching the lesson, collecting data on student learning, and debriefing the experience.

The panelists described the three phases of lesson study:

  • deciding on the lesson that will be collaboratively planned;
  • observing, implementing, and collecting data;
  • and the analysis of data, processing and debriefing what has been learned.

In doing some research on lesson study, I put together some links to resources:

http://www.tc.columbia.edu/lessonstudy/lessonstudy.html  (Teachers College)

http://www.uwlax.edu/sotl/lsp/ (University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse)

http://www.rbs.org/Special-Topics/Lesson-Study/22/ (Research for Better Schools)

http://www.lessonstudy.net/ (San Diego State University, Institute for Lesson Study)

http://www.lessonstudygroup.net/ (Chicago Lesson Study Group)

http://devstu.org/lesson-study (Developmental Study Center website on lesson study)

http://www2.edc.org/lessonstudy/lessonstudy/  (Lesson study community project, lesson study on mathematics)

The Center for Teaching is collaborating on the implementation of the Data Wise Improvement Process at Drew Charter School.  This program uses a lesson study approach to improving student achievement.  The major difference between DATA WISE and what DSC promotes is that DATA WISE uses student achievement data to identify a student-learning problem.  The student-learning problem becomes the basis for collaborating on designing a new lesson to improve instruction and learning.

One of the obstacles to building a strong lesson-study culture within a faculty is that they are not used to collaborating on the design and implementation of a common lesson. Lesson study work hinges on teachers collaborating, talking, and developing norms for how they work together.  This is why many school districts are trying to incorporate lesson study into their PLC framework.

DSC presented their cycle of learning for a typical lesson study approach: getting started; lesson planning; the research lesson; and data analysis and debrief.

It was pointed out by the panelists that lesson study is not lesson design or lesson writing.  Teachers have to start with a lesson that they collaborate on to improve.  This is why I think the work the CFT is doing with DATA WISE fits into a lesson study model because in DATA WISE the lesson idea comes from an identified student learning problem that teachers uncover using student achievement data.

Within the Denver Publics Schools Framework for Effective Teaching, lesson study is an integral part of the work teachers do.  See the link, http://leap.dpsk12.org/The-Framework/View.aspx.

In the last hour of the workshop, the panelists had us write down questions that we wanted answered.  The list below represents questions we discussed in some detail.

  • What kind of training do teachers need in observing a class?
  • Where can we access protocols or demonstration clips?
  • Who do they watch when fish bowling initially?
  • What are some major barriers that we can avoid when implementing?
  • Does it have to come from a district or can it be grassroots?
  • What are some dos and donts of the facilitator?
  • How do you ID a good facilitator?
  • What strategies to foster engagement for lesson study?

In DSC’s lesson study model, a high-quality facilitator is a very important factor.  Here are the qualities of a good facilitator that we came up with and discussed.

  • Listener
  • Process information clearly
  • Good at summarizing
  • Separate themselves from being the “expert”
  • Good at guiding conversation
  • Help team members recognize their strength
  • Skills to engage everyone in the group
  • Being able to help people understand the conversation, paraphrasing, reflecting back
  • Using the norms of adaptive school training
  • Keep people on task.

If you are interested in implementing lesson study as part of your faculty professional development program, I would encourage you to contact Peter Brunn at DSC for advice on how to proceed.  You might also check out some of the resources I provided in this blog post.

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