Imagine a football team operating like a faculty at a school site.
Players (teachers) gather at the beginning of the season (school year) for some team-building and some pep talk (fall PD) about goals and visions for improvement from their coach (principal).
The players then study a playbook (curriculum) and some plays (instructional strategies) and maybe they practice them. Maybe they don’t. Once the season starts, they hardly ever observe each other run drills (routines). They definitely don’t scrimmage together. The coach may walk around once or twice, check some boxes on a list, and give that feedback to a player, but rarely does the coach model techniques or facilitate collaboration and discussion between players. Furthermore, while players talk about the plays in the playbook, they never really work on running the plays together and learning from a collective experience.
The players practice all year for one single game (student testing) that they don’t even believe is worth playing but everyone makes them prepare for it anyway because how else could they measure their effectiveness except through standardized test data. The players won’t find out until 4 months later how they did and how they compared to other teams (schools) in the league (district). Except by then, the offseason (summer break) has happened, players have shifted teams, new playbooks have been adopted, perhaps new coaching has been hired, and it’s time to start the whole process again.
The season concludes without any player ever watching another player play. How stupid is that? That football team is guaranteed to suck, and the players would be miserable.
How sports teams get better:
- They build a collaborative culture of teamwork.
- They deliberately practice skills and reflect on ways to get better.
- They observe each other practicing, give feedback to each other, and encourage each other to get better. They receive individualized feedback and guidance for improvement from a trusted and caring coach.
- They play a game as a team and cheer each other on. They embrace struggle. They take risks.
- Win or lose, they reflect on their individual and collective performances, analyze game film, and set goals for improvement.
I realize this isn’t earth shattering news and that I shouldn’t expect calls from front offices looking to offer me a consulting gig. And, indeed, this simple collaborative cycle (spiral?) of plan, do, reflect and plan again is applicable to teams in all sorts of professional arenas including the classroom.
My point is: Ending a school year without watching other teachers teach doesn’t seem like a good plan for getting better as a team.
Why Lesson Study?
Because 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.
Lesson Study ensures that we practice together and shifts our thinking from this…
to thinking like this:
And our practice of collaboration from this…
Why Lesson Study? Because that’s what good teams do. A sports team that doesn’t practice together, work together, collaborate together, reflect together will not become better at what they do. The same is true for teams of teachers.
Join me in the conversation. What did I miss? Let’s get better together.
How can we bring Lesson Study to your school? Find out more here.