Lesson Study is a professional development activity which was developed in Japan for educators. In Lesson Study (or kenkyu jugyo), teachers work in small groups to discuss learning goals, plan an actual lesson, observe how it works in practice, and then revise and report on the outcomes so that their peers can benefit from the feedback. This article reports on a research project involving the use of Lesson Study among a group of administrators and teachers from Sparkletots Child Care Centre (Braddell Heights). Specifically, it examines the impact of Lesson Study on the teaching and learning of numeracy in a K1 class.
The Educators from Sparkletots Child Care Centre (Braddell Heights)
Research lesson on numeracy, focusing on more than/ less than concepts
Guess how many counters are there in the feely bag?
Count individual counters and compare the quantity with a friend
The impact of Lesson Study was as follows:
Teachers as Thoughtful Lesson Planners
The teachers engaged in a thoughtful and thorough lesson planning process. Apart from planning the lesson flow and activities, teachers were asked to constantly check for alignment between the learning task(s) and the lesson's goals. In addition, they had to anticipate children's responses to key learning task(s) and brainstorm interventions to provide the relevant support or challenge learning. Such thoughtful lesson planning places the children’s learning at the centre and shifts the teachers' attention from how the lesson is taught to how it is learnt.
Teachers as Keen Observers
One teacher conducted the research lesson while the rest observed the children's learning. Guided by the professional learning goals and children's desired outcomes that were crafted at beginning of the project, each teacher observed a small group of children and took detailed notes of what they had observed and heard. Such observation opportunities "sharpened" teachers' eyes and enabled them to better understand children's thinking and learning through their work samples and conversations. In the case study, teachers were able to observe children's thinking and discover their misconceptions in one segment. The children were asked which number was bigger, '2' or '7' with the pictorial representations drawn on the board (as shown below):
A few children replied ‘2’. When prompted further, a child explained that the two circles were bigger than those used to represent ‘7;. The teachers also observed that in counting, children had different ways of arranging the counters. Some ways facilitated counting better than others. For example, children who laid the counters in linear and array arrangements were more likely to count the quantities correctly than others who placed them in a random manner.
Observations of how the children engaged in the activities shed light on how children were thinking and learning, and helps inform and guide teaching practices. In the case where children were 'distracted' by the size of the circles rather than its quantity, the teachers learnt that the choice of concrete and/or pictorial representation was critical. To facilitate comparison of quantities, teachers need to be mindful in using identical objects (same shape and size) so that the children will not be 'distracted' by any variations and will be focused on comparing the quantities. In the second instance, where the counters were arranged differently, the teacher could sieze this teachable moment to solicit for the children's opinions on the different arrangements which would facilitate easy counting. This will encourage children to be reflective and to think critically.
Teachers as Reflective Practitioner
After the research lesson, a post-lesson discussion was conducted. The teachers shared and reflected on their observations, interpreted the quality of children's learning and discussed the professional learning gleaned from the experience. For example, the group reflected on an assessment task which was carried out towards the end of the lesson where the teacher asked the class to compare two number cards - which number was bigger?
Consolidate and assess children's learning using number cards
From the responses, it became evident to the teachers that while some of the children had clearly understood the concept and found this task relatively easy, a few of them found it challenging. The teachers reflected on the different levels of understanding and discussed ways to differentiate the task so that they could support the struggling learners as well as challenge the advanced ones. The table below lists the strategies that teachers came up with in the course of their discussion:
Teachers as Collaborative Learners
The teachers found that such professional learning was more authentic and collaborative in nature. They were able to work together with colleagues to address areas of concern unique to their centre. Such authentic, practice-based collaborative research promotes sharing of ideas, observation of each other's lessons and discussion of ways to improve the lesson so that all can benefit. The Lesson Study approach has the potential to build a strong learning culture in an organisation when it is implemented in a meaningful way and sustained over a period of time.
Ms Peggy Foo was the Head of the Lesson Study Academy in Marshall Cavendish Institute in 2011 and conducted Lesson Study Programmes for teachers in pre-schools, primary and secondary schools. Apart from teacher training, she also conducted Mathematics workshops in numeracy development in early childhood education. Her overseas experiences include training educators in Mathematics and numeracy development courses in the United States, Chile, the Philippones and Korea.