Aim: To introduce the concept of lesson study into the Mathematics department, and to embed Bowland materials into the Key Stage 3 curriculum.
Background: Robert Clack was one of 12 secondary schools accepted to participate in the Bowland Lesson Study project. Our interest was in examining how written and verbal mathematical communication could be improved at KS3.
Year 1: Two teachers took part in the Bowland Maths project, researching and collaboratively planning lessons on three occasions throughout the year with external input from the borough advisor. These were delivered as public research lessons attended by up to 25 participants, and the two teachers observed research lessons in several other schools. The focus during the post-lesson discussions was on student learning and how this could be developed, rather than on judging the teacher’s performance. An external expert concluded the discussions, an important element often overlooked in UK lesson study.
Year 2: Participation in lesson study was increased across the department and Bowland materials were embedded into KS3 schemes of work to give students exposure to extended problem solving tasks with a focus on developing mathematical communication. Teachers would plan and deliver the Bowland tasks in pairs, observing each other in the lessons.
One of the Bowland Maths participants attended a two-week immersion programme in Tokyo to observe authentic Japanese lesson study methods. She found that Japanese teachers put a lot of thought and detailed research into lessons, anticipating student responses and how to react to them to develop deep, conceptual understanding. The use of research lessons to improve teaching and learning, rather than as observations to prove competence, was refreshing.
Year 3: Lesson study was implemented school-wide. To overcome difficulties for teachers finding time to plan collaboratively, they were allowed to use twilight inset time to plan their research lessons in detail. Bowland assessment tasks were being used regularly in KS3 lessons, and departmental meetings were used to discuss their implementation. Student and teacher feedback was positive; students enjoyed the challenge and openness of the lessons, as well as the group work element. Teachers reported students’ communication skills improving as a result of using the tasks.
Evidence: Teacher voice, student performance, school-wide implementation.
Impact: Rigorous preparation and anticipating student responses makes teachers increasingly confident in the management of student learning. Teachers involved in lesson study commented on the usefulness of more intensive collaboration with colleagues. Bowland assessment tasks have improved students’ written and verbal communication skills. Problem solving appears to motivate students to learn and the teachers involved have developed significant expertise in teaching problem solving in mathematics.
Reflections: Lesson study works best if teacher participation is voluntary, so the initial group involved may be small. Problem solving is not easy to teach; it is critically important that teachers are given opportunities, such as through lesson study, to learn the requisite skills to teach it.
Contact: Jacqueline Mann, firstname.lastname@example.org