Systematic qualitative analysis of variations in Lesson Study practices and outcomes in terms of contexts and processes

The evaluation research data from the LS-MLD project were subjected to a systematic qualitative analytic approach, with two general aims. The first was to identify variations in Lesson Study practice among the various teams in the project across the two phases described above. The second aim was to examine the extent to which the immediate Lesson Study context related to the Lesson Study practices and outcomes for teachers and learners. The Lesson Study was the unit of analysis for this qualitative causal analysis, done in the style of Miles and Huberman (1994).

The methods used in this analysis to address the two key aims involved examining how the Lesson Study teams in the project schools designed their own process within the guidelines presented to them at the introductory conference, and whether the contexts at the schools and the various Lesson Study processes were related to the outcomes at the end of the project. More specifically, the following were examined: (1) the broad aims of the lesson studies in both phases of the project: (2) the kinds of knowledge that the teams used when planning and reviewing their research lessons; and (3) the main pedagogic approaches adopted and developed across the lesson studies. The context supporting teachers’ Lesson Study work was assessed by factors such as having enough time to undertake the process and senior leader support for the process. Outcomes were assessed in terms of pupil learning, teacher pedagogic strategies and wider outcomes for the schools (e.g., whether the process was continued after the project ended). Figure 5.2 shows the framework used for this analysis.

Data relevant to this analysis were derived from the text of the detailed case reports written by the Lesson Study teams after it was implemented, some of which was subjected to content analysis so that it could be coded, along with rating responses to the Realist Evaluation questionnaires and the GME monitoring of student outcomes (discussed above). To analyse the relationships between the Lesson Study contexts, the Lesson Study practices and their outcomes, these factors were coded and summarised and entered into qualitative data co-variation tables. Co-variations between these multiple factors were examined qualitatively (see Norwich & Ylonen, 2014) following the procedures associated with Miles and Huberman (1994).

Analysis showed variations in the way the Lesson Study teams conducted their strategies, in terms of their aims, the kinds of knowledge used, and the pedagogy adopted. This reflected how teachers adapted the strategy to their particular subject areas, the needs of students identified with MLD and their teaching contexts. These findings illustrate the flexibility of the Lesson Study

Systematic qualitative analysis framework

Figure 5.2 Systematic qualitative analysis framework.

strategy when used for the same general purpose across schools while keeping to the Lesson Study procedures. However, although the teachers had been encouraged to use research-informed knowledge relevant to the teaching of pupils with identified MLD. this only happened in 40-50% of the Lesson Study teams. The remainder used their professional/craft knowledge, either exclusively or in combination with some more general research knowledge. However, interviews with teachers who only used professional/ craft knowledge in their Lesson Study teams suggested that they found this knowledge adequate for their Lesson Study use (Ylonen & Norwich, 2013).

The general aims of the Lesson Study teams were varied, and were most commonly about enhancing the students’ engagement with learning, their independent learning, group interactions, and the confidence of those learners who had low self-esteem.

Curriculum subject aims were mostly implicit in these learning process aims, although sometimes they were explicit. The typical teaching approaches used by the teachers were adaptations of well-known pedagogic approaches, such as multi-modal and sensory approaches, differentiation of teaching, memory support and consolidation, motivational approaches, grouping, and peer support strategies.

The latter findings about teaching strategies suggest that teaching that was relevant to these pupils with MLD was not just about cognitive demand or about simple ideas of differentiation. Most importantly, the analysis indicated that there were no distinct or specific pedagogic approaches for the case-pupils identified as having MLD that are not also relevant to others without MLD (e.g., low attainment or other SEN). This interpretation is consistent with the analysis above about a spectrum of learning difficulties that crosses over the SEN or non-SEN distinction. It is also consistent with a model in which appropriate teaching approaches are extensions and intensifications of general pedagogic approaches (Fletcher-Campbell, 2004). This also relates to the more general concept of a continuum of pedagogic strategies, a position about the specialisation of teaching for pupils with SEN that was developed by Lewis and Norwich (2004).

The co-variation analysis based on the data display tables showed how variations in the degree to which contexts were supportive of Lesson Study (timing, release, and management support) could be related to student learning gains and teacher outcomes (e.g., gaining knowledge about MLD learning needs, trying out new teaching approaches, being more open to learning from others) as well as its continued use in their schools. These conclusions provide support for the Lesson Study model (Figure 5.1). They also add to the current international research about the crucial importance of context for the successful use of Lesson Study in schools (Lewis et al. 2009), through the use of novel evaluation research methods in a UK context.

However, it was not possible to trace any co-variations that linked the Lesson Study context with the examined practice-related factors and then with the various outcomes. This indicates that the variations in practice that were examined (LS aims, knowledge used, and pedagogy adopted), important as they are to its procedures, did not mediate the link between the context and outcomes. The research literature (Lewis et al., 2009) suggests that some other processes that we did not examine might be relevant. Such processes might be captured through analysis of direct recordings of Lesson Study deliberations to determine how the knowledge was used in planning and review, the quality of Lesson Study team relationships, and/or the quality, and depth of the review of the case-pupils’ learning. Personal characteristics of the Lesson Study teachers might also matter. In concluding this section, it is important to note that through these analyses are tentative, the consistency across findings that are based upon different sources does increase their dependability.

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