Why Lesson Study?
Teaching math effectively is a demanding task that requires a high degree of craftsmanship and focus. If teachers are going to become better at creating classroom environments filled with learning opportunities where all students have opportunities to develop their mathematical mindsets, they need opportunities to deliberately practice the craft of math instruction together. Part of this deliberate practice requires teachers collaborating on lesson design, observing students learning in each other’s classrooms, and reflecting on the effectiveness of the cultural norms and instructional strategies they are using in their classrooms. If we are to improve our craft of teaching mathematics, we must grow together in our work through collaboration, observation, and reflection.
What is Lesson Study?
Lesson Study is a process that you can use as a leader to create a safe and supportive space for this deliberate practice. It is a tool for meaningful, sustained, teacher-directed professional growth. Lesson study is never about evaluating teacher performance.
The main purpose of a Lesson Study is to help build professional capacity and autonomy both as individual teachers and as a team that supports each other’s professional learning. It allows teachers to craft a common vision of what productive student engagement can look like in the math classroom and develop the tools to support each other in their professional growth. It is also an opportunity for teachers to deepen and broaden their content knowledge.
The expected outcomes of lesson study include:
- Increased knowledge of subject matter,
- Increased knowledge of instructional practices, routines, resources and strategies,
- Increased ability to observe students (and student thinking),
- Stronger bonds with colleagues,
- Connect long term purpose with daily practices, and
- Stronger motivation and improved efficacy.
This article by Catherine Lewis, Rebecca Perry, and Jacqueline Hurd provides further details about Lesson Study outcomes.
What does Lesson Study look like?
A Lesson Study can take many forms depending on the needs and resources at your school site. I’ve worked with dozens of school districts implementing Lesson Studies that are aligned with their instructional goals, congruent with their vision for professional development, and are implemented in a way that will lead to long-term sustained professional growth for teachers.
Often times, Lesson Study starts as a two-day process that provides teachers an opportunity to collaborate on lesson planning, share instructional practices, and reflect on student learning together. On the first day, teachers discuss and unpack the content of the curriculum they are using and collaborate to write a lesson plan that aligns with their vision for a productive and engaging classroom experience. On the second day, teachers observe student learning in each other’s classrooms while the lesson is taught in turns to their own students. Teachers formalize their professional learning through a reflecting conversation at the end of the day and identify goals for professional growth moving forward.
Principals and coaches are strongly encouraged to be a part of the entire Lesson Study process. Their participation allows them to follow-up on and sustain professional learning in between lesson study cycles. While the lesson study process centers on the professional needs and curiosities of teachers, leaders play an essential and necessary coaching role supporting the continued development of teachers.
You can find examples of lesson studies I’ve led with teachers on my Lessons page. At the end of each lesson, you’ll find evidence of the professional learning teachers have made. If you would like to explore further, this post by Robert Kaplinsky showcases how lesson studies have worked at his site.
Is Lesson Study effective?
For example, I conducted over 25 lesson studies with teachers in Soledad Unified School District in 2016-2017. I collected survey data from 41 (out of 45) teachers that went through the lesson study process.
They were asked how strongly they agree or disagree with the the following prompts. These prompts are based on the lesson study outcomes listed above. (A response of “5” represents “Strongly Agree.”)
Here is a link to written responses from teachers reflecting on ways they’ve incorporated their learning from lesson study into their daily instructional practices.
Bring Lesson Study to Your Site:
Provide rich and meaningful professional development to your teachers by offering them an opportunity to work with me during lesson studies. Reach out by sending me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out a contact form here.
I’m looking forward to geeking out with you.