Lesson Study Resources
Thoughts on Lesson Study by our Coaches
In this section, you can read reflections and questions posed by the
EDC project coaches. The coaches meet periodically to reflect all together,
so some of these comments are summaries of discussions held by the group.
What is the essence of lesson study?
As we support our lesson study teams, we are reflecting ourselves on
what is at the essence of lesson study. We have focused our discussions
on the following five characteristics:
(1) Teachers talking about math in
a particular way, that includes how they think kids learn the content,
what the mathematics behind a problem really is, what are the essential
mathematical concepts behind a unit, etc. We want teachers thinking
about all of the different ways students can get from point A to point
(2) Teachers focused on a broader goal about students.
This characteristic has been a challenge for many groups who are used
to planning lessons for content objectives and not broader learning
goals. We, as coaches, are struggling to help groups use their goal
to help them make decisions and to make their research lesson more of
a systematic experiment.
(3) Teachers engaged in an open interchange of ideas
and materials. Do they share their experiences? Is everyone engaged
in the conversation? We are looking to help groups foster collegiality
(4) Teachers who take a reflective stance on teaching
and learning. We have found this to come fairly naturally in many of
our groups. Teachers are talking about how they teach and thinking about
new ways of doing things. Teachers have also told us how they are more
aware of what students are doing in their classrooms, and this is impacting
their teaching as well.
(5) Teachers that are recording their ideas and revising
a lesson plan over time. The importance of writing down your conversations
has become evident to us throughout this process. The groups that have
a good way of keeping track of their ideas have had a much easier time
moving through the lesson study cycle. We are still pondering over what
kind of record groups should produce in the end of the cycle. What will
be helpful to them? And what will be helpful to others?
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Does the schedule impact the lesson
Our first seven teams have a range of meeting schedules, from
meeting twice a week for an hour to meeting once every 3 weeks for 2
hours. As coaches, we are trying to balance the reality of scheduling
issues in schools where a group of teachers have no common meeting time
with the literature on lesson study that suggests groups spend 3 - 4
weeks completing one research lesson. (Fernandez,
C. & Chokshi, S. (2002). A practical guide to translating lesson
study for a U.S. setting. Phi Delta Kappan, 84(2), 128-134.) We
have not found any answers yet to this question, but it is one we are
reflecting on with our groups. We have seen that long spans of time
between meetings can be challenging if good record keeping is not in
place. Is momentum lost? This is something we're looking at.
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How does the coach help deepen the mathematical
conversation of a group?
We have been encouraging our groups to look deeply at the mathematics
of their research lesson, and in particular, to do the math. But doing
the math is not enough to deepen the conversation. We are trying to
help our groups think about how students develop an understanding of
concepts that the teachers already have mastered. This has been a challenge.
We have found that the observations of the research lesson have led
to some of the richest conversations on the mathematics for groups that
are struggling, because it enables them to see what students really
do and do not understand. See the front
page of the math section for more suggestions on how to deepen your
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What is the impact of the overall
curriculum on lesson study?
Our lesson study groups utilize a variety of curricula - from the Standards-Based
curricula such as Connected Mathematics and IMP, to traditional algebra
and geometry texts, to teacher-created courses. We, as coaches, have
been curious about whether these curricula impact the lesson study experience.
While we recognize that the Japanese style of an open lesson is not
really part of Japanese lesson study, we have encouraged our groups
to try creating open lessons because of their natural fit with the research
component of lesson study. We have not drawn any conclusions yet, but
it seems that more important than the curricula in place is the teachers'
familiarity with that curricula and their overall knowledge of the content.
We will continue to share our thoughts on this important question as
our project continues.
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