Sunday, 4 October 2015

Lesson Study

Friday 2nd October I had an early start to get to Imperial College London for 9.30 a.m. to attend the Lesson Study London Conference with another 350 delegates.

If you haven't heard about Lesson study, here is a link to Lesson

Prof. Charles Desforges, Emeritus Professors University of Exeter, opened the conference and discussed how he thought that Lesson Study was the ‘most promising approach to Professional Learning’ as it closes the gap between teaching and learning. He went on the say that, we, as educators, need to deepen our understanding of learning and Lesson Study provides a vehicle to do this.

 Employing a Lesson Study approach allows teachers to start where the learner is in their learning, and then build on this. It supports teachers to thinking about ‘thinking’ by being ‘intellectually active’ and learn new skills through the feedback within the trio. This is consistent with the Teacher Learning Community approach and always work best when teachers have ‘choice’ about their focus, taking responsibility and being accountable for their own learning. This, in turn, leads to a happier workforce who feel they have ownership of their own learning and are not relying on inputs from other sources. The learning for teachers comes through the sharing of the process and is a powerful tool to support improvement. Greater impact could be achieved if a more systemic approach were adopted, where all teachers use evidence as part of the ‘craft repertoire’ to build a learning experience for pupils which will improve life chances.

 A more radical concept of bringing in the students as collaborators on the learning was touched on. I like this idea as we know all children love to learn and will be persistent in learning given the correct circumstances. The example used to illustrate this point was street children, who show amazing entrepreneurial spirit and learn complex business models without formal education. So children know about learning, we need to help them and teachers need to develop new vocabulary to talk to each other about learning. In schools we become too abstract too quickly, pulling analogies and references to illustrate the point when we should perhaps be context driven and make the learning relevant.

 We need to consider different forms of learning and the challenge each brings;

Form of Learning                                              Challenge

Incremental/accumulation                          link new to old
             Practice                                                           speed based: reflection
             Enrichment/application                                promote active knowledge base,,
                                                                                        application skills, 'can-do' attitude  
             Re-structuring/re-thinking                           hypothesis testing
             Revision                                                           all of the above


Prof Desforges finished by saying that Lesson Study is “potentially the most powerful form of CPD for classroom practice and learning”.

 In Workshop 1, Sarah Selenznyov, programme leader from IOE discussed how she supported the evaluation of the London School Excellence Fund project to develop leadership in lesson study, led by the Rosendale Children’s’ Centre. The project involved teachers from Lambeth Council developing leaders of lesson study. The initial method of developing leaders was through the Cascade model.

Each cycle considered two questions;

Ideally, what qualities will students have when they graduate from our school?

What are the actual qualities of our students now?

Akin to one of Covey’s Habits of Effective Peoplebegin with the end in mind ‘.

 The support and challenge for teachers is least often discussed but is probably the most important aspect, in this model it was found that it was better to go bottom to top rather than the more usual professional learning model of top to bottom. Again the importance of the language to articulate learning was highlighted as a skill that teachers need to continually improve.

 Within Lesson Study the role of Koshi (expert) is crucial to support and challenge the trio by coaching and showing a high degree of emotional intelligence. The Koshi who uses questioning and listening skills very well to improve the experience and outcomes for the teachers and thus the pupils.

 The main challenges found were the commitment of the SLT. This commitment comes in many forms but the biggest barrier is when time is not given to support Lesson Study. This enquiry model requires dedicated time for planning and evaluation. If this is not available then the impact will reduce as teachers then pay lip service to the methodology and do not change their practice.

 On a gloriously sunny October day sitting outside I have a quick lunchtime chat with David Weston. We chewed the fat around some commonalities and spaces where Scottish and English educators can support each other and collaborate.

 Workshop 2 was ‘How teachers learn in lesson study: results of Cambridge research into teachers learning through talk’.

The study involved 60 schools, the researchers recorded and analysed the evaluation talk of each lesson cycle to focus in on how talk was used as a ‘social mode of thinking’. The researchers analysed the talk into two moves, dialogic moves and supportive moves. The conversations were very revealing in the nature of emotional input from the teachers. The teachers observed initially felt exposed and needed reassurance and ‘permission’ about the lesson. Once trios were established this type of conversation moved from the personal to more professional and the language moved to descriptive processes and interpretative processes of evaluating lessons.

 Final address was from Professor Christine Kim-Eng Lee from National Institute of Education, Singapore, she discussed how lesson study was being implemented in Singapore to improve outcomes for our 21st century learners. The Ministry of Education, Singapore, have detailed a list of 21st century competencies.

“Globalisation, changing demographics and technological advancements are some of the key driving forces of the future. Our students will have to be prepared to face these challenges and seize the opportunities brought about by these forces.

To help our students thrive in a fast-changing world, MOE has identified competencies that have become increasingly important in the 21st Century. These competencies, represented in the following framework, underpin the holistic education that our schools provide to better prepare our students for the future. It is envisaged that schools and parents need to work hand-in-hand to help our students develop these 21st Century Competencies.”

Framework for 21st Century Competencies and Student Outcomes


Professor Lee spent some time discussing what were the benefits and challenges.

The perceived benefits were;

Curricular knowledge improved

Understanding of student learning

Opportunities to learn from colleague

The perceived challenges were;

Competing demands of time

Capacity of teachers to facilitate

Lack of tools/artefacts to support teachers

Lack of Koshi

Teacher ownership

 Overall an enjoyable day, with key messages about the power of Lesson Study if it is done well and time is devoted to allowing this approach to become embedded practice. But the questions to be addressed are around building capacity in teachers, finding Kochi who can support and we need to develop our skills in how we talk about learning.

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