Global Educators Cohort Program - Teacher Education

Click here for Site Map
Jump to Main Content

Lesson Study is a professional development process that Japanese educators, and increasingly, educators in North American and Europe, engage in to systematically examine their practice. The goal of lesson study is to improve the effectiveness of the experiences that the teachers provide to their students. It involves a “cycle” of instructional improvement in which teachers work together. It is designed to influence change in a slow and steady way, rather than make radical, fundamental, large-scale changes to one's practice.

Unlike many forms of teacher professional development, lesson study is situated in practice, and rooted in the experience of interactive teaching. Lesson study is collaborative and requires negotiation and compromise to reach agreed upon lesson plan that all teachers will enact. It also requires opening up one's teaching practice to colleagues. It treats teaching as a work-in-progress rather than a finished product

What does it entail? It requires very detailed planning in order for teachers to enact their lessons consistently. It also requires a new orientation to teaching that opens up one’s practice to critique, discussion, and refinement.

You will choose one of the following “tried and true” social studies instructional strategies: inquiry, discussion, or examination of primary sources. Readings on each of these strategies will be available on ANGEL. You may end up combining two or even all three of them, but you can also stick with just one strategy. The important thing is that your social studies lesson is intellectually rigorous and involves students doing the kinds of things historians and social scientists do, so that students are doing “authentic” work.

The purpose of this assignment is to improve your practice at both writing and enacting lessons.
Lesson study is gaining increasing popularity among American educators, and a second purpose of this assignment is for you to learn the power of sharing practice collaboratively.

Why Lesson Study in your Social Studies Methods Course?

As indicated, lesson study emerged in Japan in the subject matter of mathematics. So why are we teaching lesson study in your social studies methods? First, we believe that good social studies lessons require careful and thoughtful planning. Lesson Study requires collaboration in the planning, enactment, and reflection of the lesson. Second, the social studies curriculum provided in many textbooks and by many school districts is often not challenging or deep. Lesson Study provides teachers the opportunity to design meaningful, engaging, and active lessons as an alternative to the dry, passive lessons often provided to teachers. Third, the content within the subject area of social studies (which includes history, geography, civics, and economics) is subject to interpretation. For example, teachers and students alike may disagree on whether a particular person in history was a hero or not, whether a particular event was “significant,” whether a country’s leaders acted responsibly, whether a certain public issue (e.g., whether children should be required to helmets when riding their bikes) should be made into law, and so forth. Lesson Study provides teachers themselves the opportunity to engage in substantive discussion about the content, which helps equip them to lead discussions of a controversial nature with their own students.

Why Inquiry?

Inquiry is one of the primary means by which social scientists gather new knowledge about topics in their respective disciplines. Inquiry involves asking a question, posing a hypothesis, gathering and analyzing data, and then rejecting or accepting the hypothesis. As an instructional strategy, inquiry is very hands-on, minds-on, requiring active and intellectual commitment from students. It allows students to generate new knowledge through a thoughtful process of analysis.

Why Discussion?

Social studies classrooms often neglect substantive conversation among students. However, learning to participate in civil discourse with one’s peers is a critical skill for becoming an informed, reasonable, and participatory citizen. Effective discussion occurs among students in the class (rather than exclusively between individual students and the teacher) whereby students agree with one another, extend their points, civilly disagree, offer alternative suggestions, and so forth.

Why Primary Sources?

Just like inquiry, investigating primary sources is another way social scientists make sense of topics in their disciplines. Historians examine letters, newspapers, journal entries, and oral narratives to understand why individuals made the decisions they did, and the effects of those decisions. Geographers use maps to understand the ways in which individuals understand the physical and cultural characteristics of places. Primary sources are a very effective, as well as engaging means of having students interpret first-hand accounts of the past, instead of having that information delivered to them through a secondary source.

1. Planning the Study Lesson

a) Choose Groups:

You will choose a group of four to five interns to plan and research a lesson that two of you will teach. In choosing your group, you may want to consider the following: placement schools, grade levels, previous experience working together, and research goals. There are advantages and disadvantages to all possible combinations. If you did lesson study in TE801, you may use the same groups, or you can switch. An important factor is that since the lesson will be enacted twice, your group should have at least two people in the same grade level (or, perhaps one grade above or one grade below) who will enact the lesson.

b) Choose Lesson Focus:

Your group should choose a specific topic in one of three instructional strategies: inquiry, discussion, or investigating primary sources (or some combination of all three strategies). The particular topic (e.g., natural resources in Michigan, the U.S. Revolution, supply and demand, interpreting maps) is up to you, but it must be grounded in the MI GLCEs and be a topic that is substantive and meaningful (i.e., no social studies "fluff!"). Of course, it would be ideal if the lesson were already part of the social studies units being taught, but that might not be possible. Be sure to clear the topic with the two mentor teachers in whose classrooms you will be teaching the lesson before delving too deep into planning.

c) Choose a Classroom, the Date/Time, and Social Studies Content Focus:

After choosing a lesson focus, you will decide on the grade level and classroom where the lesson will be taught. In consultation with your mentor teacher, you will decide on appropriate social studies content for the lesson. You will then research the content using your textbook, the mc3 curriculum, and other relevant resources. You will then need to find a day in which one person can teach the lesson earlier in the day, and the other person can teach the lesson later in the day (at least two hours is needed in between for debriefing, revising the lesson, and transportation to the second school). You will need to consult with your mentor teachers far in advance because you will be missing a good chunk of the day in your classroom (but remember that this will occur in April, when you are “winding down” and when you are encouraged to visit other classrooms). Last, be sure to consult with your Field Instructor to determine if he or she is available to observe and lead the debriefing session. The field instructor may use observations of these lessons as formal observations of your teaching.

d) Consider Student Thinking

As you develop the plan for your lesson, you need to consider how students will respond to the task and lesson. You should draw upon students’ prior knowledge, what they have been learning about in their social studies classrooms, and what research says about students’ understandings and misconceptions in social studies. Each group members should informally interview students in their class about their knowledge of and interest in the lesson topic.

e) Writing the Lesson:

You will then write the lesson. You will be given time in class to workshop on the lesson. You also need to consult with your TE803 Instructor during the planning process (e.g. I should have a solid idea of what you are planning to teach and how). The person who is teaching the lesson should NOT be the only one who writes the lesson. The lesson needs to be based on the group’s ideas of what will best serve the children in the class, not just the ideas of one person. For this reason, we will use a very detailed planning format. This serves two purposes. First, it allows the two people teaching the lesson to feel that they are enacting the group’s plan, rather than having their own teaching evaluated. Second, it helps those collecting data to focus in on key aspects of the lesson.

f) “Practicing the Lesson”

In the workshop time, each of you will “practice” enacting some part of the lesson in front of your group members. This might feel very odd and unnatural, but teachers have indicated that these practice sessions help clarify the lesson procedures, iron out kinks, and revise as necessary. Each person can take responsibility for one particular procedure so that everyone has the experience of teaching one part of the lesson.

g) Planning the Data Collection:

After the lesson is written, you will develop a plan to guide the data collection. This is a very important step in the lesson study process. You may decide to have observers follow individual children throughout the lesson or have observers focus on small groups of children. You may want observers to pay close attention to the questions students ask, the interpretations they draw, or the way they communicate information to each other. You should think about how each observer will record what they see and hear so that it can be shared with the rest of the group.

2. Enacting/Observing the Study Lesson

Your group will set a date for the teaching of your lesson. Ideally, your lesson should be taught during the last few weeks of the semester (see the syllabus schedule). All members of the group need to be present during the lesson to observe and collect data. Consider video recording the lesson or part of it to watch during the debriefing.

3. Debriefing/Reflecting on the Study Lesson

You should plan to have a debriefing session immediately after the lesson. Hopefully, your FI can attend and lead the debriefing session. The first person teaching the lesson should arrange to have a private place for you to debrief. See the document, “Lesson Study Protocol” linked above.

When you do meet as a group, analyze the data that were collected and reflect back on your lesson. Discuss how you will extend, modify, enhance, or reconfigure the lesson (in detail) for the re-enactment of the lesson. This does not mean that the second teacher should be doing all the thinking or planning: this is a collective lesson. Work together collaboratively to make needed revisions/adjustments, and be sure to discuss the reasons for these changes.

4. Re-Enacting the Study Lesson

After the first enactment of the lesson and the debriefing session, the second instructor enacts the lesson, following the same procedures as in Step 2.

5. Reflecting on the Study Lesson (in class)

Follow the same procedure outlined in Step 3.

1) Lesson Plan (75%)
This part of the assignment is completed in groups. One member of each group is responsible for submitting the assignment to the instructor.

Follow Part IV of the lesson plan procedure, outlined in your unit plan. You can use a lesson plan format that works for your group. Keep in mind that this can be used in your teaching portfolio, so in addition to ensuring it is thoughtful, rigorous, and detailed, it is also free of grammatical errors.

Please save the assignment as Topic_LesnStdyPlan.

2) Analysis and Reflection (25 %):

This is the only individual portion of the project. Shoot for 2-4 pages here. Your reflection must contain underlined items, with other items included as they fit the reflective process.
  • Describe what happened during the lesson.
  • Reflect upon the lesson and describe what you learned about your lesson focus and student thinking
  • Statements you make should be backed up by data from the classroom (quotes from children, work samples, observation data, etc.) This should include the data that was collected by all the observers – not just the data you collected.
  • Explain what group members discussed in both debriefing sessions, focusing specifically on modifications discussed and the process of negotiating those modifications
  • Explain specifically how you would modify the lesson if you were to teach it again. Explain why you decided on those modifications.
  • Describe what you learned from modifying the lesson, teaching/observing it a second time, and what you learned from that experience.
  • If you were one of the members who taught the lesson, write briefly about what being observed by your peers was like.

Please save the reflection as YourFirstName_LesnStdyRefl.


Checklist of Tasks In Advance of the Lesson Study Enactments

_ Form a group of four-five interns with at least two interns teaching at the same grade level (or just one grade level apart, e.g. kindergarten/first grade). Determine which two interns will do the teaching.

_ Decide upon a topic for the lesson and select one of the three suggested instructional strategies, and clear this topic/instructional strategy with the cooperating teachers of the interns who are teaching the lesson.

_ If you are teaching the lesson (or if the grade level of your classroom is close to that of the classrooms in which the lesson is being taught), informally interview students in your class about students’ knowledge of and interest in the lesson topic.

_ Determine a date and times for the two lessons to be taught, in consultation with your cooperating teachers and field instructor (we would love for the field instructor(s) to be part of the observation and debriefing, although keep in mind they might not be available). Alert your cooperating teacher that you will be out of your classroom for a good chunk, if not all, of the day.

_ Plan the lesson. You may share a draft of the lesson with your TE803 instructor and with the cooperating teachers for feedback.

_ Determine what kind of student work (or evidence of student learning, e.g., student comments/questions) the observing interns will collect during the lesson.

_ Consider videotaping part of all of the lesson to review as a group

_ The two interns teaching the lesson should find a private space in which to conduct the debriefing sessions.

_ The two interns teaching the lesson should provide directions for getting to their schools, parking, etc.

_ Carefully read the protocol for debriefing the lesson study so you are familiar with the steps involve in respectfully and productively debriefing about the lesson.