Lesson Study. It’s an exciting time to be involved in what appears to be the observational process of choice, certainly if the people I follow and admire on Twitter are to be believed. And you should believe them; they are great! I bought in to the approach following some exceptional CPD with the inspirational @murphiegirl (see my blogpost here: https://drdawnie.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/through-the-looking-glass/) as well as posts/blogs/emails from such Twitter heroes of mine such as @hgaldinoshea and @headguruteacher.
So, with backing from my Head, I set up a Lesson Study pilot group at my school, asking for volunteers when I launched the project at a full staff meeting just after October half term. It has been such a fantastic process and we’re now considering the question: where next for Lesson Study at our school? The energy and effervescence at our meeting this week to feedback on the process makes me determined that this must continue in one form or another.
I don’t want to speak for my colleagues. I can say, however, that their reactions have been positive, that they are each writing up what they feel they have gained from the process, and that there was a real sense of ‘the positive power of reflective practice’ as we talked about our experiences.
For me, it was a thought-provoking and invigorating process. Leading the pilot as well as participating has been good for my work in the classroom but has also given me the privilege of a whole school Teaching & Learning focus as I seek to amass the experience which will project me towards a senior leadership role. I don’t think I got everything right: I could have provided more reading materials or perhaps set more rigid guidelines upfront but, on reflection, I’m happy that this was a speculative pilot which has reaped such positive results.
I decided to focus on stretch and challenge for all. I found the focus quite difficult to select – I haven’t been observed for a while so had no perspective other than my own from which to draw a ‘research question’ (I use that term loosely; I don’t know that what I’ve done qualifies as research in its purest form). I chose my Year 10 class – but that was more as a result of when my LS partner had non-contact time (this was all completed by volunteers who gave up their own time to participate) and selected my three ‘focus’ students.
Our co-planning had to take place via email. I teach English and my LS partner Geography, so we were working more at a general practice level than from a subject-specific perspective. I imagine that had I been working with an English colleague, a face-to-face discussion would have been essential; as it was, perhaps we somewhat marginalised this part of the process.
To cut a long blogpost short, what have I gained from this and why do I think it is a valuable process?
1. Just simply stopping to think was a treat. Having an observer in the classroom made me self-reflective as the lesson progressed. Of course, I think I do this a a matter of course in my lessons after 10+ years of classroom practice but there’s nothing quite like making it explicit and working from a more ‘outside-looking-in’ vantage point. I’m a believer in having an open door policy; now I just need to think about how best to effect that.
2. I work a lot on co-constructing notes with my classes, gathering ideas on the board and developing summaries outward from there. Interestingly, something that emerged from the feedback was the students’ wish to write their own notes sometimes so that they can learn and remember it from a more personal perspective. I need to take that into account and consider not only how to build that in to future lessons but also how to ensure the quality of what they are recording. I embrace my inner control-freakery but need to find ways around it while not accepting students’ potential versions of ‘good enough’. The DIRT-related phrase ‘If it’s not perfect, it’s not finished’ springs to mind.
3. Aside from my own future practice, I have gained the amazing feeling of collegiality which emerged from a group of disparate teachers, at various stages of their careers and from different subject areas, coming together to share something of themselves with such an overwhelmingly positive purpose. As Dylan Wiliam says, we have to ‘love the ones we’re with’ (see his post here: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/jul/01/schools-improving-professional-development-teaching) and this LS pilot has certainly helped me to feel that sense of love, not only for what I’m doing but also for the sheer joy of the shared endeavour it brought to the surface.
Lesson Study. Try it. It’s good.