By Tom Thursday morning in Nashville! This is actually a different conference from the one I’ve been blogging from. The first conference was College and Career Readiness; this is called High Schools That Work. They’re scheduled back-to-back at the same location by the same organization (SREB), so it feels like one long conference. I’m already familiar with Lesson Study. It’s a powerful profession development and collaborative model that was invented in Japan a few decades ago. I’ve facilitated it in my own school and worked as a consultant last year in DC with a faculty that wanted to use it. I’m always interested in a different perspective on topics I already understand, though, which is why I chose this session Our presenter was Alan Veach, an SREB consultant from Texas. His Big Question was essentially, “How do we increase student achievement using a PLC to increase the effectiveness of group planning meetings?” In other words, how do we get teachers to work together and plan together to increase student achievement? This biggest issue, of course, is time. Alan spoke of his experience as principal. He started PLCs before they were known as such. He learned early that PLCs only work when teachers get together who have something in common and something to talk about. They also need to be a manageable size. He built a case for Peer Facilitated Professional Development. -First of all, teachers know teachers. -Teachers are more open with other teachers than with supervisors. -Teachers’ self-reflection is more effective when they can bounce ideas off other teachers. -Fellow teachers can ask questions that help us examine an issue with greater depth. -Peers can collect better data about our teaching than we can collect ourselves. -Peer reflection partners’ only goal is to help their colleagues -Better collaboration improves teacher morale Alan spent a few minutes talking about the CCSS and the fact that the main idea is to raise rigor. Then he talked about lesson planning in general; referencing Madeline Hunter’s classic design. He explained that raising rigor has to happen at each step of the lesson plan. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a useful tool, as well; kids have to analyze, synthesize and apply things in order to perform at a rigorous level. Alan came across as a stickler for rigor. The success of any lesson seems to hinge on level of rigor. He spoke about “rigor audits,” walk-throughs focused on tracking the level of rigor in teacher questions. His advice is that teachers always write their questions down ahead of time, playing with words in order to get to the higher Bloom’s levels. Finally he got the steps of Lesson Study. -Step 1: Form a team. There should be no more than four or five with something in common; which in the elementary level could mean grade or near-grade level. At middle or high schools, it should be department, although cross-departmental groups could still work. -Step 2: Volunteer teacher selects a focus for the study. At this point, if the team is homogeneous, they plan the lesson collaboratively. If it’s an inter-disciplinary team, the volunteer teacher plans the lesson independently. -Step 3: (This step is only if the team is interdisciplinary.) The volunteer teacher presents the lesson to the PLC. The PLC examines the lesson in terms of the focus selected. If the teacher wanted to focus on level of rigor, then that would be the focus of the examination. The PLC then gives warm, followed by cool feedback, to which the volunteer teacher responds. -Step 4: The volunteer teacher teaches the lesson with some or all of the PLC observing. -Step 5: The entire team debriefs the lesson, utilizing a tuning protocol (warm/cool feedback, clarifying questions, etc.) The focus of the debrief should be the same as the focus that was chosen at Step 2. I love lesson study! Although I’m familiar with the basic structure, this session taught me another way to think about it; namely, the option of having a teacher plan the lesson independently in certain situations. When I’ve used LS in the past, we’ve ALWAYS planned it together, even with inter-disciplinary groups. Frankly, I think this is far preferable. I’ve found that the planning process actually yields the most learning. Of course, to be fair, I haven’t tried it the other way.
4th Grade Teacher at Edmonds School District
I teach fourth grade in Lynnwood, Washington. It’s a suburb of Seattle, about 15 miles to the north. I’ve been there for the past twenty four years. I can’t imagine being anything other than a teacher.