Talk about Lesson Study, and then talk some more

I had never heard of Lesson Study until I moved to the UK and started working at Central Primary school[1]. I first noticed Lesson Study in our termly staff calendar. I remember seeing the word neriage in the document and googling it, thinking that it sounds interesting. My initial interest was sparked with that. Then a whole year passed and I don’t remember anyone mentioning Lesson Study anywhere in our school. I’m still not sure if Lesson Study was taking place or not, but if it did, it was done very quietly.

I only got involved in Lesson Study almost a year later, when our Head Teacher told me that it would be beneficial for us to undergo some Lesson study to develop our phonics teaching further. And at that point, I was not really in a position to say no, it was my boss “asking” after all, but I also was not overly excited about participating, as I did not really know what it was about. A whole year had passed and I hadn’t heard anyone talk about Lesson study so I was really unsure what to expect.

Now two years later, as our school is, for the second time, planning on integrating Lesson Study into our school development plan, my own experience with the introduction to Lesson study turns out to be a very important one. This time around we are planning on being anything but quiet about Lesson Study. As it turns out that Lesson Study is more successful in a school, when people talk about it.

It needs to become one of those things, that you hear people talking about in the staff room, laughing about, sharing thoughts about and agreeing a coffee date to plan the next lesson. Only then, when others filling their tea cups close by, start listening into these conversations and think to themselves, “Oh that sounds fun. Wonder if I could get involved.” Only then will Lesson Study work in an organisational way.

Over the past two years, I’ve had a crash course to Lesson study[2]and during this time I’ve heard and read enough to understand that there are a lot of other hurdles that schools need to overcome to embed Lesson Study to their everyday practice.

And I do not disagree. Hurdles of time, organisational changes, introducing teachers to research, creating a school culture that fosters professional discussions and time again – all are among the things that schools need to sort out first. But after that, the key to making Lesson Study stick, is to get people talking about it, to get people wanting in. It’s like creating that queue outside a new trendy restaurant. That’s what we want!

But to create that, Lesson study really needs to be marketed well. I say marketed, as it really is about perception. Lesson Study only becomes desirable to teachers when they realise that it is worth the extra work. Just like queuing for a table is worth that extra work as you know that once you get inside you’ll be treated to a tasty meal. And how do these restaurants become trendy? By people talking about their success.

And that is what Lesson Study needs as well. It needs a crowd of people who have gained a new experience, new learning and, very importantly, had a good time while doing it, talking about it, creating that imaginary trendy queue so that everyone wants to get together and work collaboratively observing and giving feedback.

With Lesson Study particularly, this might be very difficult to achieve. Lesson Study teams can quite often fail or create too much dissonance that is not dealt with in a professional manner, which can result in teachers talking about Lesson Study in a more negative way. And if the reputation of Lesson Study is badly damaged, it is very difficult to rebuild.

But when there is a success story and that buzz within staff about Lesson Study meetings, it is much more likely for Lesson Study to become a meaningful part of school development and hence, teachers’ professional development.

For me, as my initial interest to Lesson Study was sparked by a single word written in tiny font in a termly memo, my journey to Lesson Study might have been a lot quicker if I would have heard my colleagues talking about it. I would have most likely been one of those people queuing to get in.

And now, as I am amongst the people that can spark the interest of others, and I do work in a school where most of the hurdles have been overcome, I try to remember to talk about Lesson Study as often as possible. The chances are that someone is listening and soon wants to get involved as well.

 

[1]Now if you have never heard about Lesson study but you are interested, I recommend to go to http://lessonstudy.co.uk/lesson-study-a-handbook/

[2]Thanks to working with Dr John Mynott and participating the Chartered College Network Events that he so brilliantly hosts.

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