Reflections on the EEF report into Lesson Study published in November 2017
7 December 2017
Esther Gee, Acting Deputy Headteacher from Rosendale Primary School, reflects on the key findings of the EEF’s recent report into Lesson Study in the context of her own work in this area over the last three years.
A key conclusion of the report is that Lesson Study does not improve maths and reading attainment.
This is concerning for all those schools who are continuing to invest time and money into Lesson Study as part of their CPD programme. It has raised the question:
Are we wasting our time and money?
Here at Rosendale Primary, we have been involved in Lesson Study since 2014 as part of a project called Connecting Knowledge which was initially funded by the London Schools Excellence Fund. This project involved several schools and the initial aim was to use the Lesson Study model to improve teacher subject knowledge in maths at ks2 with the expectation that this will improve outcomes for learners. Although the funding for the project has now finished, many schools, including Rosendale, are continuing to use versions of Lesson Study to improve teaching and learning. This means we have been keen to read and reflect on the EEF report.
The EEF describes this as a ‘large, well designed, two-armed randomised controlled trial’ where the ‘findings have very high security’. It involved a team from Edge Hill University who developed a Lesson Study programme with a content focus on Talk for Learning. This content was selected because a previous EEF study had found ‘promising findings’. From 181 schools, 89 schools were randomly selected to be treatment schools. The impact of the project was evaluated by looking at the pupils KS2 test results, comparing the children’s progress from KS1 between the control and treatment schools.
The report gives details about how the Lesson Study model was run in the 89 treatment schools and it has been interesting to compare this approach to our Connecting Knowledge project.There are many similarities which seem to generally appear in models of Lesson Study; 3 teachers being involved in collaborative planning, child focussed observations and non-judgemental post-lesson discussions. However, they also seem to be several key differences.
A key difference is that in our approach we have an external expert referred to as a ‘Koshi’. This is someone who is extensively trained, not only in managing the organisation of the Lesson Study cycles but in ways to coach teachers and deepen their thinking. Once the group of teachers have picked a research question, the Koshi provides research material for the group to read in order to develop their understanding of the research question. For example one of our research questions was ‘Can talk at the prewriting stage enable Pupil Premium children to show their depth of understanding in writing’. As Koshi, I gave the teachers a selection of articles including ‘A Meta-Analysis of Writing Instruction for Adolescent Students’ (Graham and Perin 2007). Throughout the project, we have found this pre-reading valuable as it helped give lesson planning a focus which was based on using evidence-based research.
The role of the Koshi is also to lead the post-lesson discussion and to help the move from descriptive processes to interpretive processes; guiding teachers to look beyond the individual lesson to general points that can be applied to their own practice. As Koshis on the Connecting Knowledge project, we received training from Sarah Seleznyov (IOE consultant) into how to lead these discussions. We looked at Four aspects of Emotional Intelligence (Goleman), the Johari window model and Guskey’s levels of professional development. We watched examples, discussed and practised scenarios to try and achieve a balance between coaching and sometimes needing to confront. I feel this may be a key element that was missing from the Lesson Study project used for the EEF project. The role of a Koshi is not to give solutions but to enable teachers to find them, and when needed to challenge and question to ensure deeper thinking. For example, I ran a Lesson Study group of 3 teachers from our local secondary school who all taught different subjects. We had to move from individual observations about the children in the jointly planned Science lesson, to drawing out general ideas relevant to the History and English teacher such as the need for structured allocated partner talk.
Our understanding of the role of Koshi is still developing. There is an event here at Rosendale on 8th December where Professor Akihiko Takahashi, is coming over from Japan to help develop the practice of over 30 experienced Koshis.
Finally, it is worth mentioning a few other points about the EEF report.
- There is evidence that some control schools implemented similar approaches to Lesson Study.
- The data was collected from the whole class or year group but the focus children in each Lesson Study group were not tracked or identified.
- The prescribed focus on Talk for Learning meant it was as much about implementing this teaching and learning strategy as it was about Lesson Study.
- Teachers felt Lesson Study was ‘useful professional development, valued the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in a structured way and reported several changes in their practice’.
This final point is one we are reflecting on here at Rosendale. Teachers value the non-judgemental, collaborative process and the time to think deeply about teaching and learning. But alongside this our focus must be on changes in practice related to evidence-based research. This year we are implementing a slimmed down version of Lesson Study which Scott Palmer explains the details in an earlier post.
Our aim is that changes in teacher practice will occur when the teachers take a strategy from the observed lesson and are then supported implementing it in their own class.
The professional learning from Lesson Study must lead to change before it leads to improved pupil learning outcomes.
Then it will certainly not be a waste of time or money.
Posted on 7 December 2017
Posted in: Blog, Evidence
Tags: Lesson Study