Doug Lemov's field notes

Reflections on teaching, literacy, coaching, and practice.

11.02.14Can TLaC Work with Lesson Study?

Had a great meet-up over coffee with David Weston end of last week and my head is still spinning.  David is a former math and science teacher in the UK who now runs Teacher Development Trust, a non-profit that studies research on what works in teacher professional development, encouraging and supporting schools  in executing those things- specifically what David would call Lesson Study and other forms of what I’d call (but David might not) “inquiry-based self-study.”

I should define that phrase because it might be easily misinterpreted.  David’s assertion (based on research) is that good teacher training starts with the question “What do you want to see happen in your classroom?”  In good classroom teaching you start with an objective, and it’s similar with teacher development- you start with an outcome you desire. You want your students to be more engaged.  You want them to write more fluidly. You want three specific students to be more engaged.   You’d then gather some data- what do I see my students doing? What does their work look like? What do they say they think about class? I then develop a hypothesis- I think that if I did X it might help. The hypothesis phase is important and a bit unusual, but I was struck by its value. It forces you to embrace the fact that classrooms are complex and that the tools we use may or may not work exactly as we expect. It’s not like in most cases—especially with teachers who are already pretty solid—you just say, “Oh, I’ll just add a bit of X and Y will happen automatically.” Your X will almost always need at minimum a bit of tweaking adjustment and refining. It may need reconsideration.  This forces us to call our shots and admit to acknowledge the gap between what we thought would happen and what did- to treat the classroom as a complex space that’s never entirely predictable and requires problem solving. Anyway, once I’ve sought to define my goal for my classroom and developed some knowledge about it and a hunch about what will help I choose the tools to help me accomplish that.

David advocates doing this in teams- co-planning a lesson, say, that one colleague teaches and the others watch and evaluate before they get together to tweak it again, say.

This is a very rough and inherently wrong description of what David described. Among the most interesting parts of the meeting were 1) how many different forms and adaptations of the lesson study model David had outlined for teachers to use in different situations. (It’s worthy of a book for certain) and 2) my own blatantly wrong conception of what lesson study really was- a problem that I suspect is endemic .

What I liked most was the notion of studying the classroom—your classroom specifically–thinking deeply about it and THEN choosing tools to make changes to it.  That approach is the antithesis of using a tool because someone [Lemov, say] says you should and lots of people probably find that surprising.  But I think David’ notion of Lesson Study and TLaC are deeply synergistic. There are probably a handful of core things that I think makes sense for a school leader to say everybody should probably try some version of this as a baseline operating system in their classroom, that helps you build a strong foundation.  But to get to excellence  and achieving the daily incremental gains that move a good teacher to great, there has to be this kind of work- where the process involves thinking deeply about the classroom you have and the goals you want and then  choosing the tools to get you there.

This is actually something I believe in quite strongly.  In writing Teach Like a Champion I set out to write about tools not a program or a system.  A program implies that everything you do has to be a part of it.  If you use it you have to use everything.  But to me tools- pieces you can use and adapt and select based on your own style—or adopt one at a time as you figure out what balance you want.  Tools allow any teacher to choose something to get better at tomorrow and to implement it quickly without reworking everything they do.

So I see tools—endlessly adaptable to the unique setting—as the idea thing to use with the very powerful idea of lesson study—in all its formats and versions which keep as their theme the idea of teachers analyzing and solving real challenges form their classrooms in teams.  It empowers teachers as decision makers and problems solvers and that, in my mind, is almost always good. And after talking to David about it I think I understand how it can be applied in powerful ways. I hope to follow up with some more of his materials in this space soon.

One Response to “Can TLaC Work with Lesson Study?”

  1. Anita Samuy
    December 1, 2014 at 6:51 am

    I am grateful for your clarification of the use of TLAC strategies. In my own classroom, I recently adjusted a behavior modification strategy because I studied my students and found that the two students who presented the most behavior distractions respond more positive when given more praise and personal attention. I now have to plan lessons, group discussion and my monitoring motions to address this issue without having the other students feeling left out. But was concerned about future outcomes since the strategies are research based. Upon reading this article, I feel more confident in my opinion and continued use of this technique. Thank you for the clarification, keep them coming!

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