Implementing Lesson Study Summary

Monday - Friday, July 16 - 20, 2012

Monday, July 16
We met with Blake Peterson, an expert in Japanese lesson study and spoke to him about our experience with the process as well as this specific lesson. Notes from our conversation are below. We spent the remainder of our time splitting up and working on parts of the final report: revising the lesson plan, reflecting on the pre-teaching, and writing the abstract.

Meeting with Blake Peterson Main Questions & Ideas
Blake: What was the main point of the lesson? What do students need to be able to do/understand to meet the goals of the lesson? Make the objective less procedural and more about what they need to understand - helps people when they are reading the objectives and helps in writing questions. Students aren't going to discover vocabulary, but they can reason about and discover concepts that you can attach vocabulary to. Students should have a good sense of the concept first then attach vocabulary to it. Maybe the simple definition is not an adequate definition. Maybe one of the objectives needs to be connecting the simple definition to the other elements/ideas they came up with through the game. Can we capture that in the objective?

We really need to capture the changes that we made over time and how effective they were in reaching the goal in the report.

What did people who didn't teach get out of it?
The process is more valuable than the final product.

What are some issues in Lesson Study in the US?
There's not an ideal number number of teachers. We are used to being evaluated from observations. Our teaching culture is more isolated in Japan. If you can keep the focus on what is the best lesson for the students, it may help with disagreements.

Do they consider the class that they will be teaching to?
Because their curriculum is better understood and more standardized, they have a better understanding of where the students are at specific times. Research lessons in Japan - a master teacher teaches a lesson to a group of students he doesn't know in front of an auditorium of teachers. They also look for past lesson study reports on a topic they are teaching.

When do you think that inverse and contrapositive fit in?
This is a specific way to combine statements - we didn't start at the beginning of mathematical statements. The idea of proof and logic in geometry is tough and it's hard to drop in in the middle without knowing where they're coming from. You have to cover inverse and contrapositive so that they don't have misconceptions. Inverse and contrapositive are not in the Common Core.

How do Japanese teachers consider motivation as compared to US?
It's not a motivation to behave or engage, but motivating the content - motivating based on curiosity and why they need to know/learn these pieces of math - "intellectual need." There is no Japanese word for "classroom management." Sometimes the noise level is high but about mathematics - US teachers would be uncomfortable with the noise level. Students also have more recess and breaks than in the US. There is a key question that's at the heart of the lesson that describes the underlying thinking behind the lesson.

How can you work in this type of teaching into more traditional US teaching styles?
They don't give a lot of practice questions - tend to give much smaller practice. They are counting on students going to private schools, though, where they will get practice. My idea is that you give this task and let them work individually. Give them time to think about it on their own before they talk about it. Then have them talk about it. In your planning, look for many ways to solve it and look for those when you go around to the groups. Have these groups share. Then you have a conversation at the end: How are these solutions similar? How are the solutions different? See how the solutions interrelate. You hope that the key concept will bubble out of this conversation. Then you may give another problem that has a slight variation that they can handle because they have done it in class, and maybe give a few more, but not tons! Give a few rich problems and a few practice problems. This makes it meaningful to review homework.

How can we bring this back to our schools and make people comfortable?
It's not about each of us or our teaching styles, but it's about what is going to make the most sense for the kids. It's not about the performance. Choosing the person randomly that day forces people to buy in and make it not about the performance. The idea is "What is the best way to help them better understand the concept?" The goal should be crystal clear - you are much better able to come up with questions on the spot if things don't go as expected.

What sparked your interest in lesson study?
I read the Teaching Gap - I wondered what are we doing in the US education programs to get teachers to talk to each other and collaborate and not be isolated. They teach differently, but where do they learn to teach like that. That's why I went to study how teachers are taught in Japan.

How do they get novice teachers to understand the scope of the curriculum and where the students will be going so that they can make connections?
In Japan, their curriculum is much leaner than ours, and they have only 6 textbooks for middle school math. There's a lot of focus on what the course of study says. It's much more reasonable for teachers to understand the course of study. The Learning Gap talks about the culture in US vs. Asian countries - success in math is due to working hard not by natural ability.

Tuesday, July 17
Today we worked in pairs to complete the report on our lesson study. We compiled our abstract, snapshot video sections for the presentation, a powerpoint, reflections on our original lesson plan and a teacher-friendly lesson plan format. We will continue to compile our findings in the upcoming days for our presentation and our final lesson study report.

Thursday, July 19
Lesson study group met to finalize the report detailing the lesson developed over the three week period. Some time was given to make grammatical recommendations to the abstract to more precisely identify the purpose of the lesson study. More discussion was given to inserting information into particular sections of the report as needed. The report was read as a group to ensure the report flowed as intended. While reading, typographical errors were recognized and change as needed. The lessons that the group learned were read and studied. Reflections by the individuals that taught the lesson were also reviewed. It was identified that the first draft of the worksheet that did not contain the was still needed. The slides to the power point presentation were reviewed and assignments for the presentation were given.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under DMS-0940733 and DMS-1441467. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.