How case pupils, pupil interviews and sequenced research lessons can strengthen teacher insights in how to improve learning for all pupils

This chapter focuses on ways of helping teachers see and understand more about how their pupils are learning in their lesson studies. We will start by describing the role of “case pupils” and then go on to describe the use of pupil interviews and sequences of research lessons in enhancing what can be learned from and then gained for the case pupils themselves and other pupils they represent. In the following four speech bubbles are snippets from the post research lesson discussions of teachers in three primary schools using lesson study (LS) to improve the way their children leant mathematics (see Figures 3.1 and 3.2).

Thinking point 1

Figure 3.1 Thinking point 1

School A

Figure 3.2 School A: post research lesson 2 discussion

The LS variant in use in these examples is Research Lesson Study (RLS) (Dudley, 2014), which usually uses sequences of three research lessons. Each sequence develops skills or deepens understanding in an aspect of learning the LS group has identified as needing improvement. However, you can use the ideas we discuss in this chapter in any form of lesson or learning study. Case pupils are identified for particular focus in these research lessons (see Figure 3.3).

These snippets are taken from discussions that follow the second or third research lesson in each school’s sequence, where before reaching broader conclusions about what has worked in the research lesson and for which pupils they discuss what each teacher observed and noted about precisely how the three case pupils progressed in the lesson in comparison with predictions made by the lesson study group when they were planning the lesson (see Figure 3.4).

School B

Figure 3.3 School B: post research lesson 3 discussion

School B

Figure 3.5 School B: post research lesson 3 discussion

The teachers had been experimenting with using manipulatives or with processes of visualization to build aspects of their pupils’ understanding of the mathematical concepts they were learning about, rather than relying too heavily on procedure (see Figure 3.5).

You can tell from these discussions that while many pupils were able to leant more or less as predicted, some clearly did not do so, while others surprised their teachers by exceeding their predictions.

A growing body of research demonstrates that, as adults, we tend to see what we expect to see unless something forces us to notice that things are not as we assumed. Learning to notice in this way is an important component of professional expertise (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). For teachers, the busy, unpredictable and complex nature of the classroom often means that we tend not to “see” our pupils very clearly at all. Instead we teach constructs (our assumptions) of where we believe our pupils to be in their learning at the time. The snippet dialogues suggest several instances of this happening. For example, they suggest that Rizwan and Bradley (and other pupils like them) will benefit in future from being able to visualize concepts in mathematics learning, and it seems that this realization was a welcome surprise for the teachers.

The sharp-eyed reader will also have picked up that these teachers seem not only to have been paying close observational attention to these pupils as they learned in the research lessons, but also that they seem to have had discussions with them about their learning. Postlesson pupil interviews are also an important component of RLS. Pupils tend to be very pleased that their teachers are studying their learning in order to try and improve it and, being experienced lesson observers themselves - as learners - they can often provide “pupil’s-eye view” insights into what they (and pupils like them) particularly benefitted from or struggled with in a research lesson (Dudley, 2013).

Of course, the knowledge gained from the case pupil prediction/observations and the pupil interviews is essentially formative or diagnostic. It invites further experimentation to explore whether the suggested refinements for fimrre teaching actually result in the anticipated benefits to pupils’ learning.

When developing LS in English classrooms, many teachers involved in a national pilot (Dudley, 2013) incorporated these specific elements to counter the effects of these challenges. They were designed to help lesson study group teachers jointly to:

  • • See actual pupils rather than psychological constructs for them;
  • • Identify how stages of planned progress towards the object of learning in a research lesson manifest themselves and are recognisable in what pupils say or do;
  • • Explore evidence and hypothesize why pupils did or did not leam as designed;
  • • Seek out and test potentially fruitful alternative teaching approaches for future research lessons and subsequent teaching.

“Exploratory talk” is a term that describes modes of discussion between collaborative learners engaged in solving problems together, which enable the group members to comiect their emerging ideas and to harness their collective brain power by “inter-thinking” (Barnes & Todd, 1977; Mercer, 1995; Mercer, 2000). Because most teacher learning in lesson studies is accomplished through inter-thinking through exploratory talk by the lesson study group teachers (Dudley, 2013), we have developed ground rules to optimize their learning through such group discussion. Ground rules (Mercer, 2000) to guide lesson study group teachers’ exploratory' talk in important stages of the post-research lesson or planning discussion process can strengthen collaborative teacher learning and thus generate ever- improving pupil learning. Examples of such ground rules for teacher talk are given thr oughout the sections that follow.

In this chapter we will use examples from lesson studies that have taken place in schools and pre-school settings in order to exemplify and demonstrate the value that a focus on case pupils, pvrpil interviews and seqitenced research lessons can add to:

  • • Teachers’ learning;
  • • School case knowledge;
  • • Practice, pedagogy, curriculum and teaching that better meets the learners’ needs;
  • • Leadership of the school.

We will provide advice on effective practice to help you to ensvtre that your learning is enriched and strengthened throughout the stages of a lesson study cycle. These stages are set out in Figure 3.6). Although these relate to RLS, they can be incorporated into any LS approach.

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