Having now been through one full lesson study I can confidently say that this CPD pathway has certainly bought advantages to our teachers and our school. Would I do lesson study again? Most definitely.
Lesson study has proved to be a fantastic CPD opportunity this year with our staff collaborating across departments to plan, observe and reflect.
I blogged at the first cycle of the process here and said I would conclude at the end of the third cycle to share how it went, so here we are – as if it we are already here in the latter part of term 3!
The atmosphere in the final session after school as I collated feedback from the staff was really positive. I wanted to make each of the reflection and planning sessions interactive and use strategies that could be taken away to use in their own classrooms. We speed dated to music and reflected using the leading questions displayed on the board when the music stopped, we hot seated and quizzed the ‘teacher’ from the cycle on their thoughts of the lesson, and switched over with the observers being quizzed; we reflected individually and shared thoughts and opinions in non-interrupted allocated times. The lesson study has definitely bought colleagues closer.
Here are my reasons for using lesson study as an effective CPD pathway:
- A supportive process
The emphasis on the ‘learning’ and taking away any judgment on the ‘teaching’ insists that all members of the triad are of equal status in lesson study. Colleagues expressed how supportive the process was and how much they had got out of the observations. As we know, for teachers on a full timetable it is often difficult to have the time to observe colleagues – even though often peer observations are seen as one of the most effective CPD opportunities – so we made it clear that any cover required was supported [within reason] to ensure that the study would go ahead.
- Looking for ‘learning’
The focus on the case students learning gave a new dimension to their own teaching in the long run. Colleagues have become more observant of the learning taking place. In their planning there was more awareness of the potential hurdles that students may face during the learning. Adaptations could be planned for, rather than getting through the lesson plan (much like we all have done – particularly as trainee teachers and as a NQT!) and then realizing that there had been gaps in the learning and then it is too late.
3. Collaboration across the school
Sessions have provided time for colleagues to plan lessons collaboratively. Sharing responsibility for the lesson has encouraged strategies to be shared of how to deliver skills based learning and risks to be taken.
As each cycle has finished, the lesson study has got easier to facilitate. Colleagues have become more confident in their understanding of the process but they have become more familiar with each other and trust and relationships have developed. As their awareness of their case students got stronger, effective strategies were tweaked to enhance the learning process for each student in the class as a result.
Colleagues have been talking ‘teaching and learning’ in CPD sessions, their classrooms, meetings and in the staff room. It is much more of an ‘open door’ school, we are not reinventing the wheel by ourselves, and we are sharing ideas and discussing how to make improvements to our practice.
We had a lesson study focus in key stage three, key stage 5 and our Teaching and Learning Centre [EAL and SEN] which fed into our school action plan to raise the quality of teaching on a daily basis. Lesson study is flexible, you can keep it within departments if you prefer.
- Trust and confidence
Our school calendar was disrupted due to the infamous haze here in Kuala Lumpur at the start of the year, events have been moved and the new school camps’ date has meant we have wrapped up our directed CPD a little earlier than I would have liked. I set our lesson study group a challenge [a homework task really!] as we missed the final presentation session – everyone promised to go and observe a colleague before we break up for the summer. I hope that they stick to their word!
Staff have worked outside their departments, some reaching way outside their comfort zones working and discussing teaching and learning beyond their classroom walls. The non-judgement of lessons has motivated colleagues with their own practice. Colleagues are more comfortable with observations taking place and the reflection and feedback has only encouraged positive conversations between one another.
Although the pros clearly outweigh the cons when I next lead on lesson study I will bear in mind the following to improve my own delivery and impact:
- All staff buy-in
The majority of staff bought into the lesson study but there were a couple that didn’t and being aware of these early on is necessary and how you would deal with them. It does have an impact on the two colleagues that are participating and it could be easy for a colleague to slip under the radar. The “more you put in, the more you get out” motto needs reinforcing.
- Case students
It proved tricky to get the perfect “triad” for all colleagues regarding the case students. Careful planning through the timetables took place, but there was time wasted and triads needed changing as a result of incorrect groupings held centrally. Consider how you will chose the triads based on the groups your colleagues teach. One triad did not use the same case students, and as a result you may argue that it wasn’t necessary as long as colleagues were aware of the background of the case students.
- Planning time
To reflect and to plan the next cycle in one hour and fifteen minutes is a push. Weigh up which is more important and be aware that both reflection and planning is personable to each triad. Some wanted more time to plan, some wanted more time to reflect. How much autonomy do you give the group? Time is precious and you don’t want paperwork to become a chore.
Thanks to Lesson Study UK for the resources and links for information and success stories. These made a huge difference to my knowledge, planning and preparation of our lesson study. If you are interested in leading a lesson study then I recommend following @DrDudley13 @lessonstudyuk to get you started. Good luck!
Acknowledgement for feature image. Ants working tirelessly together to achieve their common goal.