The Bowland Maths Lesson Study project
“it has changed the way I think about teaching in far more ways than I am able to express. It has had more impact on me than all my previous CPD combined.”
(one participating teacher)
The Bowland Maths Lesson Study project was designed to introduce new methods for professional development of secondary school mathematics teachers by adapting a Japanese Lesson Study approach; it was implemented in collaboration with Japanese maths education experts in nine schools during 2012-2013.
Lesson Study is a method of classroom-based professional development built round ‘research lessons’ that are planned by a team of educators and delivered by one of them. The research lesson is designed to explore ways to improve students’ learning, with the students being closely observed by the rest of the team – and often also by other invited teachers and experts. A post-lesson discussion is conducted, immediately after the lesson, in which the team and the observers discuss their observations of the students’ learning and explore ways in which the lesson could be planned better to further enhance their learning.
The experience of the project went well beyond its original expectations. One major outcome was that the vast majority of the participants, teachers and maths education experts alike, now strongly believe that Lesson Study is a powerful approach to professional development which would produce real benefit if it were more widely established for teachers of maths in England.
But the project has shown that the practice of Lesson Study can contribute more than to the professional development of the teachers involved. It can also operate as a (much needed) mechanism to link university researchers directly to classroom teaching; in fact, the project has shown that the use of the Lesson Study can help create an effective network of maths education professionals (teachers, academics, practitioner advisors, material designers), built round classrooms, which can then develop well informed views about ways to improve student learning. The project has also shown that Lesson Study can be a powerful demonstration and diffusion mechanism for classroom innovations.
Final project report
Professional Development using Lesson Study
Considerable effort was needed throughout the project to develop the lesson study approach so that other schools and teachers could reap the benefits seen in our study. The guide document summarises the approach, and should serve as a basis for wider adoption.
The success of the Bowland Maths Lesson Study Project has led to a number of initiatives large and small.
Developments in our participating schools are also impressive. One teaching school established an alliance with 10 other schools to practise lesson study together. Two schools are introducing Lesson Study across subjects. Three schools have introduced adapted versions of lesson study in their departments for professional development.
Our advisors from the University of Nottingham who worked with us in our project have initiated a new project to develop sustainable models of lesson study for problem solving, funded by the Nuffield Foundation.
One of our participating advisors in London has also launched another project, High Challenge for High Achievement (HC4HA) project, funded by London Schools Excellence Fund, which uses lesson study to improve primary-secondary transition in mathematics, involving 9 schools and two other maths advisors.