‘Lesson Study: professional learning for our time’ Read Pete Dudley’s resume of the case for Lesson Study made in his new book out on 10 September

‘Lesson Study: Professional Learning for our time’ a resume.

Pete Dudley’s new book is out on 10 September 2014.

In this blog I provide a brief resume of my book of the same title which is published by Routledge on 10 September 2014 and I set out why I believe that together its authors make a compelling case for widespread adoption of Lesson Study in the UK – not just as a strategic approach to professional development, but as a key component of how we do education at classroom, school and system level in this country. The book brings together contributions from authors and practitioners from the UK, China, Finland and Japan illustrating the contribution that Lesson Study can make at all levels to learning, pedagogy, curriculum development, assessment, teacher education and school leadership. In his Foreword, considering Lesson Study as a strategic choice for CPD, Charles Desforges comments thus:

'…the evaluation of LS as a strategic choice for CPD is only now being undertaken to the rigorous standards of contemporary researchers. This research should identify the scale of the impact and its sustainability.
The best and latest of this work is reported in this volume.'
Charles Desforges

Background

I carried out my first lesson study in England in 2001 – I believe it was the first in England. Four successful development and research projects followed and in 2008 I was able to introduce LS as an improvement method nationally in England through the work of 500 government funded 'leading teachers’. This had measurable impact on 11 year old test results when compared with those not using LS.

Since that school improvement infrastructure was dismantled by the 2010 Coalition government, LS has found new ways to spread and grow in the UK. It is being taken up by academy chains, teaching school alliances and local Councils - such as Camden which is harnessing LS to help create the best schools in the Country by 2020.

As I write, the Mayor of London is supporting six development projects involving hundreds of schools with more than £1M to help London become a global Capital for Education. Significant research has been done on LS in this country. Two large, government funded national research projects (one with 90 schools and one with 800 schools) are currently using quasi-medical models to evaluate the impact of LS. National charities like the Teacher Development Trust are adopting LS as a key development and enquiry tool. This LSUK website has thousands of members and followers. There are hundreds of tweets and blogs about LS in the UK each week.

My current estimate is that LS is now used by 2,500 English schools – and I predict that number will at least double in the next two years.

In England it seems, LS here to stay. Right now it feels like it is about to go viral.

Why LS teacher learning is part of the next phase of development in the UK?

There are good reasons why LS has a distinctive, important and indispensable role to play in the UK and I am now clearer than ever about what that role is and why and how it can work most successfully. Here is a resume of the evidence offered by ‘Lesson Study: professional learning for our time’ for three of the most important reasons.

(i) LS opens the ‘black box’ of the classroom because it provides teachers with ‘new eyes’ that can observe and see in great detail the micro-level, inter-relationships between their pupils’ learning and their own teaching - and vice versa.
This improves their teaching.
(ii) The collaborative, shared endeavour of LS creates ‘safe’ motivating spaces for teachers to take risks and learn together from their joint ‘seeing and understanding’ of their pupils and lessons. This helps teachers to develop new theories and understandings about how their pupils are learning that lead to lasting improvements in their pupils’ achievement and in their own subsequent teaching.
(iii) LS organises the known components of effective teacher professional learning in such a way that it gives teachers collective access to their normally invisible goldmines of tacit practice and pedagogical content knowledge. This is potentially a game changer at system level and internationally because, if harnessed systematically, it can create intelligent, self-sustaining system-level improvement.

I will expand on these three reasons and then set out the future steps for LS in out UK education systems.

(i) LS opens the ‘black box’ of the classroom because it provides teachers with ‘new eyes’ that can observe and see in great detail the micro-level, inter-relationships between their pupils’ learning and their own teaching - and vice versa.
This improves their teaching.

In their chapter on Lesson Study in initial teacher education Wasyl Cajkler and Phil Wood (@geogphil) borrow Black and Wiliam’s (1998) concept of the ‘black box’ classroom flight recorder. Their studies show how LS heightens pre-service trainee teachers awareness to aspects of their teaching in relation to pupil learning and how this enables them to take increasing control as a result, dramatically accelerating their development as teachers. LS allows them to slow down their teaching and watch it at work on children’s thinking both before and after their research lesson events.

This acceleration in teaching effectiveness increases when they work with experienced teachers in their lesson study groups and is a LS phenomenon that is reported amongst teachers at all stages of development and experience by Haiyan Xu and Dave Pedder.

Lesson Study then gives teachers new eyes to observe their practice and its effect on pupils’ learning allowing them to develop more effectively and more swiftly.

(ii) The collaborative, shared endeavour of LS creates ‘safe’ motivating spaces for teachers to take risks and learn together from their joint ‘seeing and understanding’ of their pupils and lessons. This helps teachers to develop new theories and understandings about how their pupils are learning that lead to lasting improvements in their pupils’ achievement and in their own subsequent teaching.

Annamari Ylonen and Brahm Norwich found that teachers’ ‘new eyes’ (see (i) above), coupled with the affective, social effects of the collaborative nature of LS, helped teachers to better understand the different ways their pupils were learning in different areas of the curriculum and to be able to respond to these in more personalised, nuanced ways which improved pupils’ learning outcomes. This worked for pupils both with and without learning difficulties.

In our current work in the Camden-Cambridge mathematics lesson study program (www.lessonstudy.camden.gov.uk) teachers are finding that LS reveals mathematical misconceptions that pupils formed earlier on in their schooling. These misconceptions seem to lie concealed but then years later they become the hidden cause of a pupil’s failure to grasp more complex mathematics. This is because grasping that later mathematics is dependent on a pupil having deep, secure understanding of the earlier misconceived concept. This is a key interim finding and very important for the way we design, teach and assess mathematics in our new curriculum in the UK.

Another property of LS that is becoming clear in Camden is just how successfully LS can break down the glass walls that seem to prevent deep engagement between teachers from different schools or phases of education, or teachers who specialise in different subjects. The walls seem to melt away because in a lesson study the teachers’ focus is not the differences between phases, schools or subjects but on helping particular pupils in to learn more successfully lessons they create together.

(iii) LS organises the known components of effective teacher professional learning in such a way that it gives teachers collective access to their normally invisible goldmines of tacit practice and pedagogical content knowledge. This is potentially a game changer at system level and internationally because, if harnessed systematically, it can create intelligent, self-sustaining system-level improvement.

Xu and Pedder show how LS combines the essential components required for teacher professional learning to impact on pupil learning in the classroom and they demonstrate how adaptable and infectious LS has proved to be spreading as it has to new and varied educational contexts and settings, in countries in every continent of the globe. (It has after all had a successful global body for seven years – the World Association of Lesson Studies www.walsnet.org and its own International Journal of Lesson and Learning Studies since 2012.)

But for such changes to take effect and to become deeply embedded in systems and practice, LS needs to be supported by leaderships that understand and are committed to LS. The first hand accounts by highly successful school leaders of Lesson Study - Jim O’Shea, Sue Teague, Jean Lang and Gill Jordan – in the third chapter of this book provide clear, insightful and replicable examples of just such leadership of LS in schools and across groups of schools.

Finally, my own research into teacher learning in LS (Dudley, 2013, Dudley 2015, Forthcoming) has revealed how LS uniquely enables teachers to tap into each others’ rich seams of professional gold dust: their tacit knowledge about their own teaching. This has never before been accessed so powerfully as it is through LS. Teachers are able to get at this tacit knowledge because LS brings two qualities together (i) powerful group dialogical processes that allow tacit knowledge to flow and (ii) a collective will to succeed in discovering how to help their pupils to learn more effectively. This is further stimulated by their ‘new LS eyes’, their new understandings of their pupils, and by their confidence that it is safe to take risks in their LS in order to achieve these ends.

Through the example of Japan which is perennially a top five global education performer, Hiroyuki Kuno demonstrates in his chapter that when a national education system learns systematically from its teachers’ lesson studies, it creates a curriculum and a reflexive school system that ensures that pupils ‘learn it right’ and learn it deeply first time every time, avoiding the hidden time bombs of rogue misconceptions described in (ii) above and instead harnessing skills, knowledge, character and spirit into the range of their pupils’ educational outcomes.

As Charles Desforges notes in his Foreword to this book, LS contributes to wellbeing as well as to professional knowledge and the overwhelming feedback from teachers over the last decade or so who find Lesson Study to be both rewarding and enjoyable attests to this.

So what next for the Lesson Study in the UK?

If the UK is to lever up its four (or perhaps soon 3!!?) education systems from being good global performers so that they become great global performers, then we need to do things differently. We need to do the right things at the right times across these education systems and across our wider learning cultures.

Lesson Study is not only one of these ‘right things’, it is an urgent priority, because it is through the ‘new eyes’ that LS gives us to see our learners, our classroom, school and system, that we will best be able to discern many of the other ‘right things’ that can best improve learning for a pupil, a class, a school or a system but to which we are currently blind.

LS can help us to design our teacher development in a way that at the same time as improving teaching, also helps to build a disciplined, intelligent, learning system such as that described by Horoyuki Kuno, a system that is enabled to self-challenge, self-diagnose and self-improve as a result of Japan’s annual cycle of rigorous, collective enquiries founded on systematic collection and analysis by teachers of pupil responses to curriculum, pedagogy and to practice. These processes inform the five year cycle of curriculum evolution in Japan to great effect.

Lesson Study just might be a more scientific and creative way of approaching system improvement here?

In the final chapter of my book David Pedder argues powerfully that Lesson Study offers a unique development model for teachers and schools because of the way it helps us see in the complex environment of the classroom, because it helps us learn more deeply about the way our teaching affects our pupils' learning, because it brings pupils and teachers into partnership in improving learning and of course, because Lesson Study is so adaptive, so portable and so easy to 'network' across schools and classrooms.

I hope you enjoy reading this book.

Pete Dudley, September, 2014

References

Black, P. and Wiliam, D. (1998) Working Inside the Black Box, London Kings College.

Cajkler, W. and Wood, P. (2015) Lesson Study in initial teacher education in Dudley, P (Ed.) Lesson Study: Professional learning for our time, London, Routledge, pp. 87-103.

Dudley, P. (2005). Getting started with networked research lesson study. Nottingham: National College for School Leadership.

Dudley, P. (2013), Teacher learning in lesson study: what interaction-level discourse analysis revealed about how teachers utilised imagination, tacit knowledge of teaching and freshly gathered evidence of pupils learning, to develop their practice knowledge and so enhance their pupils’ learning’ teacher and teacher education, Teaching and Teacher Education, Vol. 34 No. 2013, pp. 107-121.

Dudley, P. (2015) How Lesson Study Works and why it creates excellent learning and teaching in Dudley, P. (Ed.) Lesson Study: Professional Learning for our time, London, Routledge, pp. 1-24.

Kuno, H., (2015) Evolving the Curriculum Through Lesson Study in Japan in Lesson Study: professional learning for our time. London. Routledge, pp 104-117

O’Shea, J., Dudley, P., Jordan, G., Lang, J., Teague, S. (2015) Leading Lesson Study in Schools and Across School Systems in Dudley, P. (Ed.) Lesson Study: Professional Learning for our time, London, Routledge, pp. 48-69.

Xu, H., and Pedder, D. (2015) Lesson Study: an international review of the research, in Dudley, P (Ed.) Lesson Study: Professional Learning for our time, London, Routledge, pp. 24-47

Ylonen, A., and Norwich, B. (2015) How Lesson Study helps teachers of pupils with specific needs or difficulties in Dudley, P. (Ed.) Lesson Study: Professional Learning for our time, London, Routledge, pp. 70-86

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