My school district, like most, has begun to adjust the way it implements TPEP, Washington’s Teacher evaluation system. It’s been in place for a few years, long enough for us to learn about its strengths and weaknesses and adapt accordingly.
The biggest change for us concerns focused evaluations. Beginning next year, the default criterion for anyone on focused evaluation will be Criterion 8. Which, in a nutshell is “Exhibiting collaborative and collegial practices focused on improving instructional practice and student learning.”
So it looks like I’m going to be evaluated on my capacity to function in a Professional Learning Community. Hmm…not my strongest suit, but hey: that’s what growth goals are for, right?
I was mulling this over the other morning, listening to NPR when a story came on that couldn’t have been better placed. It was about Lesson Study, a professional development tool that originated decades ago in Japan and has come in and out of vogue here in the US.
Lesson Study is actually pretty simple. A team of three to six teachers meets on a regular basis to plan a learning activity. They begin by examining data to see which area should be targeted. Then they decide on the nature of the lesson to be planned. Once they decide where to focus their efforts, they plan completely together, tapping into the expertise that each member brings to the team. And they discuss everything: how to pique student interest, the way new content is presented, the questions to ask, the practice work for the students and the assessment they’ll use to gauge their success. Everything.
Once the lesson is fully planned, one teacher is selected to teach it to her or his students, while the rest of the team silently and unobtrusively observes and takes notes. This is followed immediately by a debriefing session in which the focus is on learning from the observations. Then the team can either have another member try the revised lesson or begin to develop another lesson.
I haven’t done Lesson Study recently but I’ve done it quite a bit in the past and I love it. It sounds like a lot of work for the sake of one measly lesson, and it is; teams usually meet five to ten times to produce each lesson!
But there’s a lot more going on than just planning the lesson. Think about it: Planning and delivering lesson is the absolute essence of our job. Therefore, during the course of the Lesson Study cycle, everyone discusses everything; all the minutia that goes into everything we do as teachers. Everything is processed by everyone on the team. Which means that the entire team of professionals basically discusses the most important aspects of what we do in our classrooms in the process of developing a top-notch learning activity. Not only that, but when it’s all finished, the whole team gets to watch as it’s played out in a real classroom setting.
If there’s a more meaningful professional development activity, I’m not aware of it.
So that’s what I’m doing next year in regards to TPEP. I’m going to form a Lesson Study group and we’re going to plan some lessons.
And it’s going to be awesome.