Using lesson studies to put teachers at the forefront of school improvement

How do we ensure that professional development leads to effective and sustained changes in teachers’ practice? To answer this question, we need to understand processes that lead to the most effective ‘teacher learning’. In this post, Sophie Denyer explains how the Lesson Study model impacted positively on practice and pupil outcomes in her school.

When an area for improvement has been on your school improvement plan for longer than you care to remember it’s time to think creatively about how to tackle it once and for all. For me, that was standards in writing. I’d seen different English leads work incredibly hard to change the face of teaching and learning of writing with marginal, often short term, impact so when I took up the mantle I knew I needed to approach things differently.

“Our greatest resource is our teachers and our most precious resource is their time; it is common sense, then, that we must give our greatest resource the time to learn to become even better teachers”

(John Tomsett, Headteacher, Huntingdon School York)

I utilised lesson study to establish and test hypotheses about the best strategies for teaching writing. The impact was astounding. Trios of teachers from across key stages were trained in the lesson study cycle following Dudley’s 2011 model and set about researching, planning and trialling different strategies. Yes, it was a logistical challenge to arrange cover but the results far outweighed the cost. Put simply, it revolutionised writing in our school.

Over the course of 6 weeks the teachers were able to interview colleagues and pupils, watch each other teach, discuss findings in light of research, adapt approaches and repeat the cycle until they settled on a strategy that secured the highest impact; backing everything up with academic and action research.

When they presented their findings to the senior leadership team we found that these three groups, working entirely independently of each other, inexplicably came to the same conclusions - and so was born our new approach to the teaching and learning of writing; an approach grounded in research and the thorough testing of hypotheses in the context of our setting. Crucially, it is an approach developed by teachers for teachers and based on the needs of our pupils. The teaching of writing is now consistent across the school and our standards and outcomes have continually improved year on year – at last, the long term, significant impact we’ve been looking for. Sure, schemes and programmes are quick and easy to roll out, but if you can harness the energy and expertise of your teachers, afford them the training, time and collaborative working environment to really drill down into what works for your staff and pupils, you may just find that the recurring target on your school improvement plan can finally be ticked off.

References:

Dudley, P. (2011). How Lesson Study orchestrates key features of teacher knowledge and teacher learning to create profound changes in professional practice. Presented at the World Association of Lesson Studies Annual Conference, Tokyo.


Written by Sophie Denyer, Evidence Lead in Education, Springfield Primary School

Find out more about Sophie here.