Phase 2: Teaching, filming and observing research lesson

In Japanese Lesson Study, the teacher of the research lesson takes careful notes while students work. They observe, for example, which students are using which strategies to solve the lesson problem and note student responses. In Japan, the teaching phase of a research lesson is conducted with many observers in attendance. All observers are provided with a copy of the detailed lesson plan and take comprehensive notes of the lesson, but they do not interact with the students or the teacher during the lesson. Their purpose is to observe the implementation of the lesson as planned.

In the Netherlands, the fact is that many schools would need to employ substitute teachers to take the place of teachers observing lessons in other classes in the school. In some schools, several members of the Lesson Study team can observe the research lesson at the same time. In other schools, only one or two observers can attend the research lesson simultaneously. The lesson is frequently filmed for later observation, so that all the usual teachers are available for their classes and there is no disturbance of the regular school day, thus the management team does not need to arrange for replacements.

Phase 3: The post-lesson discussion and revision

The management of the research schools planned several meetings during the school year to provide the opportunity for the Lesson Study communities to come together to discuss the research lesson. After the lesson has been filmed, the Lesson Study planning team first watches the video before the post-lesson discussion takes place. The teacher and the planning team give a short introduction, and then the lesson is shown on video. While watching the lesson, the observers can make notes and consider questions such as: How does the teacher adapt to students’ reactions to the instruction? Is the lesson really taught as planned? What are the differences? How does the teacher adjust to special needs?

The teacher is given the first opportunity to speak, explaining the intentions and expressing impressions of the lesson. The teacher and some other members of the planning team then explain the rationale behind the lesson. Subsequently, the other observers share what they saw as they watched the lesson, based on their observations and notes. Their feedback is not focused directly on the teacher him/herself, but on the research lesson instead. Examples of reflective questions are: What was successful in the preparation for this lesson? What did we overlook? How can we improve this instruction/ lesson? In the context of the three Dutch primary schools, members of the planning team are also often the members of the observation team. Most of the time, the discussion is led by a member of the Lesson Study team and/or by a Maths coach who summarises the discussion and draws out implications relating to the particular lesson and to teaching and learning more generally. Research lessons are not about perfecting one lesson; instead, it focusses on developing teachers’ ideas, sharing experiences and suggestions, and discussing different approaches to teaching. Team members draw out implications for lesson redesign, for teaching and learning more broadly, and for the understanding of students and subject matter. The revision process leads to the creation of an updated version of the lesson plan that reflects all of the changes that the group has decided to make. A member of the group will teach the new version of the lesson. Another meeting will be planned to observe the filmed lesson and to discuss reactions to what they observe.

Teacher R: ‘In the post-lesson discussion we reflected on the content of the lesson itself and not on the teacher'.

Phase 4: Teaching the revised version of the lesson, filming (observing) and discussing the revised lesson (optional)

After observing, reflecting, and revising the lesson, the improved lesson is taught again by a different teacher. This revised lesson is also filmed and/or observed. Subsequently, a post-lesson discussion takes place (see step 3). The central questions for reflection are the following: What have we learned from these two research lessons? What should we preserve from this lesson? How do we ensure that we maintain this improvement?

In the Dutch situation, not all research lessons are taught twice within the Lesson Study cycle. Some groups go further with new content or a new lesson and apply what they have learned. That may be because teachers think it is difficult to keep developing the same lesson as time goes by and because students are progressing through the curriculum.

Phase 5: Evaluating the cycle and consolidating the learning result

During this phase, the Lesson Study team reflects on the Lesson Study cycle process, their working method, and their own roles and actions. A good record of all the ideas that were generated during their work together and the results of learning and reflection should be shared with colleagues on the whole team. Then the learning results will be consolidated, for example by sharing notes in the school’s electronic learning environment.

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