I recently blogged about our changing approach to Lesson Study. Having operated in a number of different ways, we have moved to a school to school model that we hope will be sustainable in the face of cuts to school budgets. Our existing model requires a lot of release time for staff, and although every cycle of lesson study has proved to be extremely valuable, such as model is operationally challenging as we move forward. The school to school model requires less release time and has other benefits that we are beginning to see from our early forays into this CPD research field.
As blogged previously, we have tried out different approaches and engaged in some school to school research but are now planning more strategically to build on our previous work. We recently completed a first round of school to school lesson study with three Y4 classes. One class acted as host and the research lessons took place in this class over a two week period. The three teachers involved followed the same approach as we had successfully employed in our own setting with joint planning time and post lesson pupil interviews and review built in to the process. As is often the case with such things, staff gave their own time over and above the release each school allocated, simply because the research findings and conversations enthused them.
The research in this round focussed on the language used in maths. The findings suggested that children in the class were put off tougher problems if they didn’t understand the words being used in the problems. Some children didn’t have a clear understanding of the word ‘explain’ and therefore avoided any problems using this word, even though they could solve the actual calculations. In response to this the teachers decided to create a bank of words often used in maths, and find simple explanations and meanings to display in classes next to them. From the post lesson pupil interviews it was felt this would help the children access the questions. The research shows that we may assume children’s understanding of some of the words we regularly use in maths and that it is worth spending time unpicking meanings carefully with children in order to give them the best chance of answering the word problems.
The staff involved in this latest round of research have now planned a presentation to deliver in staff meetings in the schools after the Easter break. This opportunity to share their findings in more than one school is also a great CPD opportunity and I am sure, it will open up further rich dialogue around this area. Following this successful trial, we plan to extend the model to other year groups during the summer term.
We embraced lesson study wholeheartedly a couple of years ago. The developmental approach to teaching and learning sits more comfortably than the judgemental. It encourages research and innovation and enables staff to improve their practice in a supportive and collaborative environment.
The problem with the Lesson Study model we adopted is that to run it successfully there’s a lot of release time required. We have worked in triads thus needing three teachers out of class to plan and review with two out of class for each research lesson (we work with a cycle of three research lessons). To sustain this model of LS is a challenge and we have therefore thought carefully about how we can continue to reap the benefits but without the financial costs and potential disruption to timetables.
Earlier this year we trialled a school to school Lesson Study with a partner school in Birmingham. Two Y6 staff worked together on a small research project and this gave us the incentive to take the idea further. We have decided this time around to work with two partner schools closer to home. This means each of us releasing just one teacher for each round of Lesson Study rather than three. In January we will begin a Y4 maths Lesson Study which we are all very excited about. It will build on the successful approach we have employed in school but with the added benefit of insights and ideas from beyond our own community. It further develops our school to school work and gives staff a great opportunity to learn and research with other practitioners. We still aim to continue with the distance LS using technology as much as possible to enable us to successfully work beyond local confines. Staff will still present their findings to their peers and the opportunity to deliver staff PD meetings with colleagues in other schools provides yet another opportunity to share research and learn from each other.
In this era of austerity with educational funding decreasing, it is important to continue to move forward as a profession and school to school Lesson Study provides a great opportunity for us to work together, share research and learn from each other.
Tomorrow it’s our annual Kaizen Inset Day. Each year we agree one common training day for all our staff. We pool our resources to bring in the best people to lead a day in one of our schools. This work can then be further developed in our own settings with collaborative approaches informed by a shared message.
Kaizen means small steps to continuous improvement. The name of this Japanese business model suits our aims perfectly. We set up this informal network as a group of new (ish) head teachers around ten years ago. Our initial aim was to support each other in our burgeoning leadership roles. We shared a common set of values and beliefs and we were all keen to work closely, to develop a school to school support model that would help our schools grow, and help us grow as school leaders.
Initially our network was a leadership support mechanism but it quickly grew to a body which included pupil teaching and learning groups, digital leaders, debating societies and subject leader clusters. Recently children from each school visited Houses of Parliament. This followed a joint pupil teaching and learning day looking at school values. Before half term the teaching and learning groups shared presentations based on findings amongst pupils in their own schools on ‘what makes the ideal teacher, the ideal learner?’ Debating societies at the same pupil conference debated whether the government should pay for homes for the homeless (this topic was chosen by the pupils from a number of options). The work the pupils are engaged in is shared back in their own schools via assemblies and school council meetings. A focus on speaking and listening is developing the confidence and understanding of those involved, and the more we can involve, the better!
Staff work together on key aspects of their roles and this is something we will be developing further this year with our focus on collaborative improvement and lesson study. Subject leaders find it useful to moderate beyond their school and local clusters (Kaizen involves schools from across the region and internationally) and in this new age without levels, such sessions are more important than ever. Last year our Kaizen Inset Day was led by Professor Barry Hymer, we looked carefully at the research into Growth Mindset and how such work could impact on our schools’ approaches. This year the day is being led by Dr Pete Dudley, to build on our approaches to Lesson Study. Plans are already afoot for inter school research using the Lesson Study model. The afternoon will be given over to a Teaching and Learning Exchange, where staff from Kaizen partner schools share a range of pedagogical approaches that they are having successes with in the classroom. These practitioner led workshops provide a ‘warts and all’ view that is refreshingly honest and helpful to colleagues in developing their own practices.
The Kaizen network grew organically. There was no top down initiative, no external funding and no outside agenda. The strength of the partnership is the shared belief that by working together, supporting each other and collaborating, we can improve the teaching and learning in our schools and provide a better all round education for our children.
Following our first year of lesson study, we have changed the format in school for this academic year. As a staff we spent time at the end of the summer term discussing the impact of LS to date and deciding on the best way forward. We were all convinced that this was the right way to develop teaching and learning but felt it worth tweaking our approach to get more out of it.
As a three from entry primary we are well suited for the model we’ve developed. Each term a different class in each year group becomes the research class. The ‘host’ teacher works with their two year group colleagues to plan the lesson study and the three teachers (along with any support staff involved) write up their research. This research is then shared by the host teacher at a lesson study staff meeting the following term. Over the year each class in each year group will be the research class once, all teachers will take on the role of researcher/research teacher, and each will present research findings to staff. All staff will have taken part in at least three lesson studies. As in the past, we are restricted to two ‘formal’ research lessons during the cycle, due to timetabling and class cover required however, the impact of the research goes beyond the formal process and is instrumental in driving developments in teaching and learning. .
The cycle below outlines our current approach to lesson study
Planning Meeting 1
Agree and sign Lesson Study protocol
Agree on lesson to be taught, who is to teach it and area of focus from AfL work
Plan lesson in detail together as a research team with area of AfL focus in mind, considering any resources necessary and any pre lesson preparation.
Research lesson teacher to identify three pupils, broadly representative of the differing learning groups in the class. Teacher to identify how they think the pupils will respond at different points in the lesson, researchers complete proforma (planning, observation and discussion sheet)
Research Lesson 1
Camera set up prior to lesson to enable inconspicuous filming for class teacher’s reference. Researchers complete proforma whilst observing identified pupils (emphasis is on the learner response)
Researchers also record thoughts regarding AfL focus for feedback in post lesson discussion.
Post Lesson Pupil Interviews
Each researcher interviews identified pupil following the lesson using profroma (suggested questions for post lesson interview) encouraging pupils to answer fully and share any thoughts on the lesson and the learning
Post Lesson Discussion
Following the first research lesson (RL1) and pupil interviews, research team come back together. Session follows format below:
a) Teacher shares thoughts on the lesson/learning
b) Researchers take turn to share findings (notes) on pupil’s response to learning (how teacher thought they would respond/how they were observed to respond)
c) Researchers take turns to share post lesson pupil interview findings
d) Film footage shared (if necessary) to support findings. Footage then provided for teacher to view later
e) AfL focus discussed in general terms and researchers share any notes made during research lesson.
f) Next lesson discussed in light of findings from RL1, changes/amendments made as appropriate, children for observation agreed.
Research Lesson 2
Cycle begins again
Research is then written up by year group team and saved on the school server. The host teacher then uses the research notes to inform presentation to staff.
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.
One of the key areas of AfL development in school is questioning. We have been looking at effective use of questioning for some time and staff have embraced the work of Dylan William, Shirley Clarke and, more recently Bill Thompson, who has been in school working with our AfL group. The introduction of Lesson Study this term has enabled us to really progress this work.
We made questioning the overarching area of Lesson Study. In addition to the focus on three pupils representative of different learner groups we decided to look closely at questioning. This enabled us to observe Bill’s recent input at close quarters and also gave us an area that would allow for repeated research regardless of subject or theme. With each Lesson Study we have been able to learn from the questioning observed in the previous one. We began by looking carefully at wait time. Many teachers were surprised by how little time they left after asking a question. Following Lesson Study, staff are consciously making an effort to pause for longer, to give children more time to consider their response rather than rushing for an answer. We have also looked carefully at the ping pong v basketball argument, questions and answers that bounce back and forth between pupil and teacher as opposed to being passed around the room by the children to their peers for a range of responses. As with the ‘no hands up’ sessions this approach ensures all learners are alert and ready to respond rather than only the confident few. Through Lesson Study we have been able to observe learner response and have noticed that in some cases, if children put their hand up and are not chosen, they become more passive in their learning. We have also observed that many will not put their hand up and simply ‘opt out’ seeing this selective process as optional participation. Where ‘no hands up’ has worked best staff have been explicit about the session, explaining to the children that for this particular session they will be using lolly sticks or a name generator. Where this has not been clearly stated some children will continue to put their hand up as a kind of default for each question asked, regardless of whether they will be asked or not.
A recent research lesson gave us the opportunity to look at pre questioning. The teacher told certain children that after a film clip he would be asking them specific things about what they had seen. The questions were targeted to key children and differentiated accordingly. This gave the children a focus and time to consider their responses. The class were also told that those answering would be able to chose peers to help them, using the basketball technique thus engaging the rest of the class. Asking a question and giving the children time to discuss responses with talk partners before answering has also enabled pupils to give more thoughtful and considered responses and again, the opportunity to observe this process through Lesson Study has furthered our understanding of how such an approach to questioning can have a positive impact on learning. As with all aspects of Lesson Study, the conversation and professional dialogue generated around the use of open and closed questions, wait time, learner response, talk partners and more has been powerful and positive, leading to changes in approach that we hope with have a lasting impact. None of the techniques and approaches are new, some have been used to good effect in school already, but Lesson Study has enabled us to really get beneath the surface of questioning and support each other in developing and furthering classroom practice in a way that no other form of professional development has been able to.
One of the early successes of our Lesson Study has been the use of ‘pre learning’ sessions with key pupils. This simple idea came from one of our vice principals @glynnlee who suggested rather than supporting key pupils to catch up with learning after the lesson, they are given a pre lesson session that introduces them to the key concept about to be taught. This short session enables staff to look at resources and strategies that will help them access the learning in class and ultimately give them a greater chance to succeed with their peers.
These sessions have been delivered by teaching assistants who work closely with the class teacher and go through their planning to ensure a common approach is adopted that benefits key individuals who might normally struggle in the lesson. Interviews with pupils post research lesson have revealed just how powerful this technique can be. One Y4 pupil commented that he had just had his best lesson in school ever! He was able to access the learning and contribute more fully to the lesson due to a sharp, focussed pre lesson session that prepared him for the learning ahead.
On Monday 24th February, we have another joint training day with partner schools in the Kaizen network. This is an informal partnership of primary schools who believe in the Kaizen philosophy of small steps to continuous improvement. We have worked together for a number of years now and when planning our five Inset days, we always keep one free for a joint event. In previous years we have worked with the likes of @TimRylands, @ZoeRoss19 and Damien Hughes to name but a few of the inspirational contributors, but this year the day is being run in its entirety by practitioners from our schools.
The morning will begin with Gina (@mrsdonaldson) and staff from St Silas sharing their work on cooperative learning, the next two sessions will focus on iPads in the classroom and proven strategies one school has adopted to improve writing. The afternoon is running as a speed learning event with staff choosing five 15 minute presentations to attend. The range of subjects covered has been planned to ensure there is something for everyone. It also gives those staff presenting, an opportunity to share their learning with supportive peers in an encouraging environment. Ideal for any first time speakers.
The Kaizen Inset days are an important professional development event in all our schools’ diaries. They give us the chance to work together, to share ideas and learn from each other. This form of school to school support enables us to respond to each others’ needs in an immediate and bespoke way. Staff form supportive relationships and school visits around specific areas of mutual interest are encouraged by Headteachers keen to develop the network for the common good. This year’s event yet again, promises to be a great day for all involved.
Tonight was our staff surgery meeting for this half term. At these meetings we share technology and how it is working in class. This evenings session focused on iPads in the classroom, we re located to 6S where Mr Smith took us through how he is using the iPad to support and enhance learning. We have iPads and apple TV in every class so staff are always keen to look at which apps their peers are getting the most out of. The iPads are used to ever increasing effect and the apps Barry shared with us tonight are the ones he and the children in his class are currently getting a lot from. The list of favourites changes regularly but below are the ones he shared tonight:
Socrative.com- Barry challenged us all with a quick quiz, he then showed us how easy it is to create quizzes which can be used to support learning and assessment across the curriculum. Results are then saved in google drive. Socrative can be used to creat polls, quick quizzes, to monitor progress, assess learning and much more.
Google drive- all pupils in Y6 have google accounts so google drive is well used across the year group. In the words of Mr Smith, google drive acts like a giant pen drive in hyperspace! Children access their work via google drive both in class and at home, on any device. As children bring their smart phones, iPods and other mobile devices into school they can immediately get to their online work and save it back to google drive where Barry can then open it, mark it and share it as needed.
Explain Everything – this app is well used to share the children’s learning, it is a great tool to address misconceptions, create mini tutorials for key concepts and to present ideas and information. This screen casting app acts as a mini whiteboard. Pupils regularly use it to make tutorials to support learning, they then play these back to class and these screen casts then build up a bank of short videos to support in key areas for use in class. Show Me is another great app for this, once created the Show Me can then be added to class blogs for further sharing.
Book creator is another popular app used by children to make interactive books to support learning. The children have used this app to create their autobiographies adding images and film to the text they have written. The results look professional and inspire the children to achieve some great work. That fact the you can then save to iBooks is great for children as they can then see their own books alongside famous authors on the iBooks shelf!
Other tools worth a quick mention are listed below (we ran out of time as always!)
Puffin – this is popular with the apple users as it enables flash content to be played.
Wordpress – all make good use of this to enable quick posts to be added to class blogs.
Simple mind- pupils like using this as it enables them to create mind maps which can then be projected onto the class whiteboard via Apple TV
Kahn Academy- this is being used to support children who are having difficulties with key concepts. They can simply search and watch the short tutorials available through the Kahn Academy.
Google translate – used a lot in some classes where children have joined school from other countries with no English language skills. Google translate has been used to great effect recently with a little girl who arrived in school from Hungary with no English. She and her classmates have been able to communicate easily and the need for a mobile device to go everywhere around school with them is becoming less and less necessary as her English increases.
Within regular phase meetings staff share their app of the week and these are then shared across the school. If you have any that are proving popular with your staff and pupils at the moment, it would be great to hear from you.