Lesson Study for Professional Development

Lesson study involves a community of teachers working with an outside expert in a sustained way through cycles of inquiry that focus on how teaching practices can better support student problem solving. Each cycle involves six steps as shown in the diagram.
Lesson study cycle.png
  1. We begin by identifying a research focus. In this project, our focus is problem solving, so the research questions will relate to the teaching of problem solving processes, rather than content. For example: How can we better enable students to select and use mathematical representations when problem solving?
  2. A detailed lesson plan is then produced by a small planning team, including the outside expert. The intention of the plan is to seek to find some answers to the research question. At the heart of the plan is the careful anticipation of how students will respond to the task and how the teacher might respond in turn. The plan also anticipates what the teacher will do at vital moments in the lesson to progress learning and help students overcome their difficulties.
  3. The lesson is taught by one of the planning team. This lesson is observed carefully by the teachers involved, teachers from other schools in the cluster, the outside expert and student teachers.
  4. The research lesson is then analysed in the post-lesson discussion involving the teacher and all the observers. The outside expert is expected to make a particularly significant contribution to the post-lesson discussion by providing insights informed by research and in-depth knowledge of mathematical problem solving.
  5. Usually this leads to the collaborative development of a revised version of the lesson plan. The lesson plan and outcomes are disseminated around the group. This learning is then taken account of when the cycle begins again, perhaps with a new research question.

Using this process, learning gradually accumulates through collaboration with colleagues in a spirit of mutual professional development.

The benefits of the Lesson Study approach are already clear in England from the LeMaPS pilot project and from the work of others.
These include:
  • increased collegiality between teachers as a result of collaboration in planning, observing and reflecting on lessons
  • enhanced personal skills of the teachers and an increased capacity for critical analysis, for creative design, and for linking practice to goals
  • the opportunity to develop a better picture of what constitutes good teaching from close observation of teaching and learning as it takes place in the classroom
  • the teacher-led nature of the professional development, which keeps students at the centre in ways that have immediate practical value in teachers’ classrooms.