Lesson Study

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I’ve been hearing and reading about lesson study for a long time, but I never had the experience to be part of one.  Luckily my work this year involves getting lesson study off the ground at a handful of schools.  It’s been an amazing experience. In fact, I think it is the best professional development I’ve been a part of. For those of you who don’t know what lesson study is, here’s how the Teachers College Lesson Study Research Group describes it:

“Lesson study is a professional development process that Japanese teachers engage in to systematically examine their practice, with the goal of becoming more effective. This examination centers on teachers working collaboratively on a small number of “study lessons”. Working on these study lessons involves planning, teaching, observing, and critiquing the lessons. To provide focus and direction to this work, the teachers select an overarching goal and related research question that they want to explore. This research question then serves to guide their work on all the study lessons.” 

I think part of the reason I love lesson study is because it aligns with my experience doing research, but it has a more immediate impact than the research that I am involved with in my academic life.

For me, setting the research question the team wants to study is the most interesting and important part of the cycle. It allows the group to really focus on an aspect of teaching and learning that they want to improve.

One school I work with is trying to shift to a culture of problem-solving.  They want to move away from the idea that in math class the teacher shows students how to do a procedure and students blindly follow it.  Instead, they want to build problem solving skills and perseverance in students so that students can build on what they know to solve problems.  As many of you know, this is a difficult change for students (and sometimes teachers) to make.

Lesson study allows us to struggle with this challenge together.  We can look at questions like: “How do we best allow students to productively struggle?” or “Which types of tasks build problem-solving skills?”  Having multiple brains to look at these questions in the context of a specific lesson allows us to build on the collective wisdom of the group. It also allows for the experience to be shared so that it isn’t about a particular teacher, but rather about a particular lesson.

Lesson study is some of the most interesting work I’ve done as an instructional coach.I can’t wait to share more in the weeks to come. I’d also love to hear about your experiences with lesson study.