Monthly Archives: March 2015

Lesson Study – school research findings to date

As the end of the spring term approaches we have set aside time as a school to reflect on the first cycle of lesson study.   The research within school can be broadly divided into four key areas: learning partners, resources, use of praise/feedback and questioning.  We have chosen to present the findings as a booklet for staff to take away and consider.

We have kept the findings deliberately brief and hope that further dialogue will be generated after the Easter holidays. The four areas are outlined below in terms of findings, questions arising from the findings, actions and resources.

1. Learning partners

Findings– very much established as part of the school culture.  Clearly embedded and used throughout the school at different stages of development. Not all children clear about the role of a learning partner.  When best used the length of time was appropriate for the outcome and made clear to children e.g. 20 seconds to generate answer, 1 minute for discussion etc…  Some children were very passive when working with a learning partner, while others dominated.  Roles were not always equally shared.  Learning partners were seen to give lower ability children more confidence. “When you have ideas and your friend has ideas you can mix them up and get a better idea.” Y5 pupil.  Learning partners clarify learning and understanding for children. “I didn’t know what they meant (AFs) until my partner told me.” Y5 pupil.

Questions arising – how are learning partners chosen? How often are they changed?

Actions – clear guidance and clear success for learning partners needed.  Agreed protocols around successful learners and how to be an effective learning partner to be shared and displayed in classes.  Reward systems to include recognition of good learning partners.

Resources– AfL inset and staff meetings.  Bill Thompson’s work with staff and pupils, materials on server.  Ideas for turn taking shared.

2. Resourcing

Findings – resources available but not always used to maximise learning.  Resources generally out but children not always clear how to use them and what to use them for e.g. number squares, multi link.  Evidence of gap between stages of a child’s learning and resources given to support them causing confusion e.g. children still trying to understand cardinal numbers had been given number squares.  Evidence of pre learning being an effective resource to support lower ability children in accessing learning during lesson. This was most effective where the strategy to be employed in the lesson was made clear and addressed gaps in the children’s learning. AfL cups were used to good effect in one class.  Working walls, where used, were seen to have a positive impact and children were able to access this to support learning.

Questions arising – are tangible resources taken away from the children too soon?  Is training needed for teaching and support staff in effective use of appropriate resources and developmental stages of resources e.g. subitising

Actions – staff training on use of key resources

Resources – spelling booklet to support working memory.  AfL cups for each class

3. Use of praise/feedback

Findings – positive climate in all classes involved in research to date. All children displayed positive attitudes towards learning. Very little use of empty praise (orally).  Children understood why they were being praised due to teacher/adult’s clear explanation of the reason.  Clarification of praise was a strong feature of the research.  Quality learning and discussion with peers sometimes limited by constraints of the lesson which could hinder learning.

Questions – do all adults have a clear understanding of the purpose of praise and the impact this can have? How do we incorporate response time into children’s lessons and learning? How does this impact on lesson planning and timetabling?

Actions – develop further the language of praise (minimise ‘well done’, ‘good work’ comments and replace with comments related to effort and specifics). Further training based on growth mindset.  Amend marking and feedback policy.

Resources – Barry Hymer materials from Inset on server.  Feedback and marking policy (to be amended following work with Bill Thompson and Barry Hymer)

4. Questioning

Findings – questioning was seen to be most effective;

  • When children were given clear wait/thinking time either on their own or with a learning partner.
  • When children were given a leading role during discussions (e.g. basketball not ping pong)
  • When differentiated questioning was targeted towards individuals. (Differentiation to aid understanding through use of appropriate language and blank level questioning)
  • Where strategies were actively employed to promote whole class engagement rather than limiting questions to a number of enthusiastic respondents (e.g. lolly sticks, name generator rather than hands up).
  • Where pre prepared questions gave children time to think before responding (e.g. asking questions before a video clip)

A good range of open and closed questions were evidenced to reinforce, clarify, challenge misconceptions and to lead discussions.

Questions – is there any purpose to a ‘hands up’ approach? Do we need a whole school approach to effective use of questioning, e.g. lolly sticks, wait time?  Are all staff clear about children’s understanding of language?

Actions – school to further explore a ‘no hands up’ approach to encourage full participation and sustained engagement.  Training for support staff.

Resources– blank level questions posters, lolly sticks, Barry Hymer and Bill Thompson’s materials on Growth Mindset and AfL and information on server, question stems.

As stated previously, the above information will hopefully provoke further discussion as we move forward with lesson study.   Next term we will follow up the actions and fine tune our approach to LS in light of our findings.   It would be great to hear from anyone who is using LS or wrestling with the development of these key areas.

Lesson Study – the story so far

We have just completed our first cycle of Lesson Study and the response has been extremely positive.   A more explicit focus on pupil learning and a deeper understanding of how they learn has been a prominant feature of this first round of research. The shift from teacher at the centre of an observation to learner at the centre of the research is significant.  Where traditional observations tend to warrant a quick post lesson chat before the handing over of a judgemental, evaluative A4 sheet, Lesson Study has encouraged us to look in fine detail at the process, to develop practice and collectively reflect on findings.   The high level of professional dialogue, both in the joint planning stage and during the post lesson discussions has reflected the interest and enthusiasm of those involved.  I am sure not all were completely sold on the idea of four adults and a video camera invading their classroom, followed by a thorough dissection of what had occurred, but once through the process all recognised the power of such an approach and believe it is worth developing across the school.

As with any new initiative in school, the Lesson Study model still needs work for it to be successfully embedded.   There are potential issues around cover and creating the time and space needed to run Lesson Study properly.  We are probably still too kind to each other when it comes to professional discussion and I am sure the gloves will come off given time.   We placed great importance on the protocol and everyone signed up to this but we will revisit it in the next round and ensure everyone really does feel safe to disagree, to challenge assumptions and beliefs and to share ideas and approaches, however outlandish they may sound.  The level of dialogue generated following each research lesson has been staggering and I believe that will only grow over time.  The protocol is important in clarifying to all involved that there is no hierarchy rather equal research partners co creating lessons and reflecting on the findings.   This takes away the notion of one teacher and their work being the focus and encourages a sense of collaboration and joint professional development.

In the next cycle we are keen to involve support staff more as they have such a crucial role to play when it comes to learner response.  We have not yet settled on the right way to collate and share the research findings.   For this first round it will be disseminated through staff meetings and electronically via the school server but in the future this could take the form of teacher demonstrations, presentations, handouts, booklets or videos.   As our overarching focus for this first round has been questioning, we have begun to run a series of staff meetings to share the research and open up ways to move practice forward as a result.  The use of praise, learning partners and resourcing also featured significantly in this cycle and sharing the findings of these areas is planned over the next term.  For us to develop teaching and learning it is important that we move away from simply evaluating lessons and their effectiveness to a system that promotes professional development by allowing staff to experiment with new ideas and strategies in a safe and supportive environment.   I believe Lesson Study gives us that opportunity.