Category Archives: research

Why I love lesson study

I love lesson study.  I recently finished another cycle and I was thinking back to when I first learned about it. I remember talking with Sadie about my frustration of doing workshops and having some teachers say, “That sounds great and all, but I can’t do that with my kids.” Sadie pushed me to use lesson study as a way to help teachers see what their kids CAN do.

Adapting lesson study for the urban school I work with took some work. I spoke about the structures and systems we used at NCTM with an assistant principal, and dear friend, who has been a key player in making lesson study part of the school’s culture. Over the past two years, we’ve made modifications to lesson study that helped make it a sustainable initiative for the school.

Here’s the main reason I love lesson study: It is a vehicle for studying problems of practice. Many questions teachers and administrators have about teaching and learning can be explored in lesson study. Curious about how to adapt a new curriculum for your students? Let’s do lesson study. Want to explore how to do more problem-based lessons with your students? Let’s do lesson study. Want to explore how to help struggling students? Lesson study. It’s become such a part of the culture that that teachers will say, “I want to try out this idea I heard out, can we do a lesson study on it?”

I also love it because it’s collaborative. Too often, teachers are left on their own to solve problems of teaching and learning. Sure, they are helped accountable and given “feedback” during observations, but schools rarely provide them with the tools and support to examine the problems they are most interested in studying. Lesson study creates a risk free way to experiment with new ideas.

The same goes for administrators. Having assistant principals and principals involved in lesson study has been so helpful, even if they never taught math. They offer a different perspective to the group and they learn more about teaching and learning math.

It’s similar to what I love about research so it’s not a huge surprise that it’s the work I am so drawn to it.  It’s also been the most successful PD I’ve been involved in. Given that I believe we learn by doing, it makes sense to me that we learn more when we are engaged in doing the work of teaching and learning together.

Want to read more about lesson study?

Check out the lessons study group at Mills College.

Check out the lesson study group at Teachers College: 

Read “A Lesson is Like a Soflty Flowing River: How Research Lessons improve Japanese Education

Is the PhD worth it?

I’ve spent the past 6 years working toward my PhD.  And I’ve wanted to quit more times for more reasons than I ever could have anticipated.

But I’m in the final stages now. I’m editing my dissertation and getting ready to send it to my committee. I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m so close.

Someone recently asked me if it was worth it.

Whenever I’m asked to do a workshop during school hours, I always think– is this worth taking teachers away from the students who so desperately need them? If I don’t feel the answer is yes, then I won’t do it.

I’ve asked myself the same thing about getting my PhD often. Is it worth it? Is the time I am spending writing a dissertation worth the time I could be teaching kids or teachers?

Every time I wanted to quit, it was because I struggled with that question  And every time, I eventually decided that it was.

I did take some time away from it over the past 6 years (against much of the advice I was given). I took time to teach, to coach, to do workshops, to blog, and to read about what you all are doing. It helped me to remember what this whole enterprise is about and that all the research being done doesn’t matter if it doesn’t affect our students and our teachers and our schools.

That said, I have learned so much over the past six years from engaging in research and thinking long and hard about difficult questions. It’s changed the way I think.   Which has changed the way I design lessons, the way I teach kids, and the way I coach teachers.

So yes, it was worth it.

So now what?

I can share with you all what I found in my dissertation and what we found in our larger research project. But what I think is more interesting is sharing how I use what I’ve learned from this experience to my work with teachers and students. So that’s the plan for now. I’m sure I’ll learn lots from all of you along the way.