Research questions for the study
The research questions for the case study are the following:
- 1. To what extent were the phases of the Lesson Study cycle carried out by the Lesson Study teams in three Dutch primary schools?
- 2. What factors influence the process of implementing the Lesson Study professional development approach at these schools?
- 3. What are the effects of the Lesson Study professional development approach in the opinion of teachers, instructional Maths coaches, and school leadership?
The Lesson Study cycle we described (see Figure 3.3) occurred in three schools involved in a school improvement project of one year focussing on improving differentiated Mathematics education (Van de Weijer-Bergsma et al., 2012). These schools participated voluntarily in this project and were willing to invest in the professional development of the whole team, to cooperate by testing students and recording lessons on tape, and to participate in meetings to improve Mathematics education. The introduction of the Lesson Study cycle started in the middle of school year 2012-13, led by an external expert in Mathematics and supported by internal instructional Maths coaches (in training). In June 2014, Data gathering via semi-structured interviews (see Figure 3.4) took place 13 months after the introduction of the Lesson Study approach. The conditions associated with successful implementation of professional development activities in schools (see Figure 3.2) and the phases of the Lesson Study cycle (see Figure 3.3) were used to construct the questionnaire for the interview and to analyse the data to get insight into the factors that promote and impede meeting these conditions.
Participants were teachers from three special (Christian) elementary schools situated in the eastern part of the Netherlands. The three schools are comparatively small (63 students, 5 teachers; 117 students, 11 teachers; 134 students, 10 teachers). These schools’ vision is that they will give all students the opportunity to develop their mathematical knowledge and skills and that teachers must give additional support in different ways.
The survey group (N= 12) consisted of three members of the school management team (the school leader and two locational leaders), three instructional Maths coaches (they supervise the improvement process and support teachers to become more competent teachers of mathematics) and six teachers (a random sample of all teachers from the three schools). The survey group included four men and eight women, who were all qualified at the higher professional education level or higher. They varied in age between 25 and 60 and their years of experience ranged from 3 to over 25.
Data was gathered by interviewing these participants individually. The semi- structured interviews took place 13 months after the introduction of the Lesson Study approach in June 2014. The semi-structured interview was constructed around a 24-item questionnaire. The questions are related to the following main topics: the phases of Lesson Study (see Figure 3.3) and the conditions for the implementation of professional development activities in schools, as described in an earlier paragraph in this chapter (see Figure 3.2).
Figure 3.4 Example of questions from the semi-structured interviews.
The questionnaire was reviewed by an expert in Lesson Study. All participants were interviewed in June 2014 by the same researcher. By that point, the three schools had had experience with Lesson Study for 13 months. Participants could give their reactions to questions and could also talk freely about their own perceptions and conclusions about the Lesson Study approach and the implementation process. The interviews lasted at least 45 minutes, were tape-recorded, and were transcribed. Analysis of the data took place in two phases. First, all fragments referring to the phases of Lesson Study were selected and, separately, all fragments referring to professional development and conditions for implementation. Next, these fragments were coded to retrieve and categorise similar data chunks for further analysis and drawing of conclusions. To consolidate the data, we only counted a response as a promoting or impeding factor if at least half of the survey group gave that particular response.
To check on whether the initial reduction of interview data might have missed data, the results of the case study were reviewed by the participants of the survey group.