November 15, 2013
As I was doing some research for how to improve our professional learning practices I happened upon the idea of lesson studies. Lesson study began in the Far East, and it is practiced widely in China and Japan today. It came to the attention of educators in the west by chance during the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) study in the 1990s. While in Japan, Catherine Lewis and Richard Hiebert, two US researchers, came across the widespread practice of ‘jugyou kenkyuu’ or lesson study in the schools they visited.
In the lesson study process, groups or pairs of teachers identify an area of need in student learning. They then research teaching strategies that are likely to have an impact on this aspect of student learning. The group or pair then spends between one and three years working together to accomplish the following:
• planning interventions in lessons which may improve pupil learning
• teaching and collaboratively closely observing these ‘research lessons’
• carefully discussing the outcomes, and
• summarizing in writing what happens – ‘failures’ as well as ‘successes’.
The idea of lesson study appealed to my passion for professional learning. Teachers in our area are so isolated because of size of faculty and geographic reasons. They rarely have the opportunity to plan and discuss teaching and learning with colleagues. The ESU professional learning staff can help bridge this feeling of isolation by working with teachers to plan lesson studies that would impact their students’ outcomes. Through our learning walks that are associated with the Adolescent Literacy Project we are beginning the lesson study process. With some planning the professional learning coordinators may be able to adapt this model as a follow-up to our project that will sustain the good things happening in our districts.
While, as with all classroom approaches to professional learning, such as coaching, the model can provide challenges to leadership, i.e. how to organize and prioritize allocation of time and resources. However, we may assist schools in establishing a process that enables the development and transfer of practice knowledge that impacts classrooms and engages teachers. I think we are already doing this, but we need to think creatively on how to continue this work into the future.
-Learning and Teaching Update Dec. 2007
-by Susan Evans, Professional Development Coordinator