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Lesson Study: The Future of CPD or a Fad?

Weekly staff meetings form the bulk of our CPD – roughly 40-50 hours are invested in us annually. But how do we know what we deliver to staff is effective? Will training actually have any effect on practice, let alone impact on pupil outcomes?

Lesson Study has been branded by some as potentially, highly effective CPD which can be done in-house and have a lasting impact on teaching and pupil attainment. Takahashi and McDougal (2015) outline the 5 main features which they deem to be essential for Lesson Study. However, they also note that Lesson Study has been widely adopted outside of Japan, with very few examples of it having a consistently positive impact on teaching and learning. The range of adaptations of Lesson Study outside of Japan is well evidenced on a range of blogs and from evidence of Twitter. The Teacher Development Trust’s ‘Developing Great Teachers’ highlights that the amount of time and investment in CPD in the UK is low, and consequently the quality of CPD being offered by schools is often inconsistent. This lack of time for CPD could pose a significant barrier to the effective implementation of Lesson Study, elements of which should take place over several weeks (Takahashi, 2006). It is argued by Takahashi and McDougal (2015) that doing lesson study in a short time frame will compromise its effectiveness. So, should we be looking at this as a method of CPD for schools?

Takahaski and McDougal (2015) identify that lesson study focuses on student learning and collaborative CPD, which is closely aligned with the effective CPD by the Teacher Development Trust’s ‘Developing Great Teachers’ (2016). This evidence gives me confidence that a thoroughly designed Lesson Study Strategy can have a lasting and positive impact on staff development and, ultimately, improve outcomes for pupils.

At Copthorne, we trailed using Lesson Study as part of a school-wide project, we aimed to raise the profile of science by making stronger links to the curriculum and literacy. We used the TDT Lesson Study model, shown below, as a template for our Lesson Study Strategy.

LS

Figure 1: TDT Lesson Study cycle (https://tdtrust.org/what-is-lesson-study).

Our model could be described as ‘Lesson Study-lite’ when considering the CLR model as we completely bypassed the ‘Research Proposal’ aspect. This is a potential foible, as staff are not engaging critically with research, or developing criticality, or evaluating the practice of others which is an important aspect of learning which Lesson Study aims to develop (Fukaya et al, 2010). My justification for this was that very few staff have engaged in research beyond their PGCE studies, and this would be an aspect of Lesson Study which requires training and development to be effective (Jones, 2016). In lieu of this, the school was successful in bidding for a £5,000 grant for development of science teaching. We were therefore able to provide teachers with 4 hours of science CPD over a two-week period. This training was used instead of writing a research proposal as the training was underpinned by research around effective pedagogy in science. Because of this, key components of Takahashi and McDougal’s CLR model (kyouzai kenkyuu and a written research proposal) have not been completed. Lesson Study has therefore been adapted to be the principal way in which teachers have incorporated the learning from these sessions into their practice. This has provided an opportunity to collaborate and plan this learning into their lessons, but also evaluate the impact of this learning on their pupils.

This resulted in some effective group support and planning, observations and evaluation, however staff have not developed their roles as ‘researchers’, and have not actively proven or disproven a research question or hypothesis, or developed these for themselves.

A major barrier to using a ‘complete’ Lesson Study model was our full CPD calendar, meaning there was little flexibility in allowing additional CPD activities during the year. As a result, I had to adapt our approach by providing staff with an option of two enquiry questions to focus on. This presented another limitation, but I would argue a necessary one, by linking their Lesson Study back to the CPD they received. Given the time constraints, I decided to focus staff training on the ‘Plan’ and ‘Observe’ phase of Lesson Study, as the 4 hours of science training in lieu of the research proposal left staff motivated to implement their learning from this training into their practise and consider the impact of this on their pupils. This allowed us to immediately focus on the planning, and observation aspects of Lesson Study, using the TDT proformas, which included initial training on how to observe as part of Lesson Study and introducing the TDT model of Lesson Study. This also linked to my aim of developing a culture of sharing practice amongst staff.

Has it worked?

Staff have had the opportunity to implement learning from Science CPD into their lessons, planning together and researching the impact of this on children. 2 foci: Embedding working scientifically skills into lessons or, making links to literacy when recording in Science. Staff self-evaluated their levels of engagement in their groups against Guskey’s 5 Levels of Engagement, and 87% of staff responded with level 4-5, suggesting they have considered the use of the new knowledge and skills learned through Lesson Study, and that they are reflecting on how these are having an impact on pupil outcomes.

“Children were much more engaged when doing the activities themselves, and exploring their own muscles [Science topic was the human body].”

“Consider the length of teacher talk during the input.”

“We had time to allow children to explore their own ideas more,  reflect or refine their own work.”

“Clearer links to literacy – use of imperative verbs and instructional writing was discussed in the input, but clearer modelling could have allowed children to have a clearer understanding of the expectations of the tasks.”

“Additional vocab sheets for groups – perhaps children could have generated their own glossary to help them understand these terms and use them in the correct context. This would have allowed them to understand and use technical scientific vocabulary in their books”

Questionnaire results

Data May 2016 October 2017 April 2017
Understanding of Working Scientifically Skills (Average rating out of 10)  

2.2

 

7.8

 

8.7

Evidence of Working Scientifically Skills in books and planning – sample of 15 books and lessons across school (%) 23 34 82
Confidence Teaching Science (Average rating out of 10) 4.3 6.7 7.3
Confidence making links to literacy in recording science (Average rating out of 10) 2.2 4.3 6.2

 

This evidence shows not only improved teaching and learning but that this has been a sustained improvement this academic year, facilitated by Lesson Study. We consider this to be a highly effective means of sustaining the initial impact of training which is so often implemented on a limited scale, over a short period of time, with negligible long-term impact (TDT, Developing Great Teachers, 2016).

 

Lesson Study has begun to introduce staff to collaborative CPD which has focused on sharing, bring down barriers, professional trust, professional conflict (allowing teachers to challenge each other whilst planning and reflecting on the lesson) and CPD being designed, facilitated and informed by research. I feel we still have much to do as a school to create a culture of sharing practice and seeking out opportunities for our own practice development but feel strongly that these forms of CPD must be the main focus to drive this forward.

Questions to consider:

  • Do you have enough CPD time and cover to implement Lesson Study?
  • What will your focus be? Do you want staff to research an area of interest and generate their own enquiry questions or will you provide one for them?
  • Will you use Lesson Study as a vehicle for teachers to implement and evaluate the impact of training on their pedagogy and pupils’ outcomes?

Bibliography

Jones, G. (2016). A Future for Lesson Study: Challenges and limitations. In: World Association of Lesson Studies (WALS) International Conference 2016. Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/GaryJones31/v5-wals-and-lesson-study-2016-65658506 [Accessed 4th March 2017]

Fukaya, K., Sarkar Arani M. and Lassegard, J. (2010). “Lesson Study as Professional Culture in Japanese Schools: An Historical Perspective on elementary classroom practices. Japan Review, 22(1), pp. 171-200

Stigler, J. and Hiebert, J. (1999). The Teaching Gap: Best ideas from the world’s teachers for improving education in the classroom. New York: Free Press.

Takahashi, A. (2006). Characteristics of Japanese Mathematics Lessons. Tsukuba Journal of Educational Study in Mathematics, 27(3), pp. 37- 44

Takahashi, A. and McDougal, T. (2016). Collaborative Lesson Research. ZDM Mathematics Education, 48(4), pp. 513- 526

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