Lesson study in action: case study
Like most educators, Michael Shepherd and his colleagues at Hawes Side had tried traditional forms of coaching and classroom observation. But something wasn’t working.
For Michael, these observations were serving little purpose beyond monitoring and supporting self-evaluation.
‘I want my staff to take risks, to experiment and to “unpick” their practice before reshaping it and putting it back together in a more effective, supportive and sustainable way.’
It's the most powerful form of CPD I've ever seen
Michael explained that after getting all they could from traditional methods, they still found staff engagement in judgemental lesson observations waning. The shift was to collaborative working. The vision was clear: to transform the school into a place of research and development where research would inform practice and drive professional development for all staff.
Hawes Side took their inspiration from the original Japanese model and built their foundations on the work of Dr Peter Dudley, ‘the father of lesson study’. They were not aiming to create ideal, demonstration lessons but rather to improve core practices within the school. The object was not great one off performances, but an effective and consistent teaching culture.
‘We picked key things we wanted to improve like questioning and we looked at the learning response from children – we wanted to see what got them engaged and what turned them off!’
How did the school’s first lesson study session go?
- Michael explained, happily, that his staff were more engaged than ever and the first set of three eager volunteers agreed on a lesson plan.
- They then spent time picking the lesson apart, questioning why certain things were being done, why this or that approach was being taken and, crucially, the purpose of activities.
- When everyone was happy they moved on to discuss the three case study pupils and what the class teacher would expect each of them to be doing at each stage of the lesson. As lesson study focuses on pupils’ learning rather than teachers’ behaviours, this formed a key part of the case study lesson.
- The group finally looked in detail at questioning, their main area of focus, discussing the different approaches they had been developing and how to best support and stretch learning.
Ultimately the lesson plan became a shared plan with equal contribution which all colleagues felt ownership over – creating true collaboration.
There is now a collaborative lesson plan - what next?
The next day the case study lesson was taught by the class teacher with the three colleagues watching carefully to see how the case study pupils responded to the learning.
Did they respond as the teacher thought they would? What could be learnt from their responses?
The lesson was filmed for post-lesson discussion to support group and self-reflection, and the three case study pupils were also interviewed after the lesson. Their answers provided real insight from the point of view of the learner as to what made really effective questioning.
Finally, the group then met to unpick the lesson, share the pupil responses and their recorded observations of them. They also shared their joint, annotated lesson plan and discussed the use of questioning and how they could improve on things next time.
Michael clarified that moving away from lesson observation to lesson study will be a continuous process that will require time and dedication, but he feels this is the best way to deliver high-impact CPD and professional development that creates an environment of rewarding professional learning and collaboration.
Through lesson study Michael is turning his school into an organisation which is successfully transforming research into daily practice, engaging staff and driving pupil progress.