At a Paterson, New Jersey school, teachers gather to develop, discuss and refine lessons, borrowing from a Japanese practice called “lesson study.” Education Week reports:
School 2’s lesson-study groups meet once a week during the school day for cycles of 12 weeks. Ms. Liptak schedules the classes of participating teachers so that students are taking physical education, art, music, or other special classes while their teachers meet.
Each cycle begins with a look at an entire instructional unit. Teachers study how the textbooks approach the concepts they are aiming at and how the topic is taught in surrounding grades. The individual lessons that teachers develop are tested once, refined, and then tested again with different students.
“This way, you learn to anticipate the shortcomings and the children who may not catch what you’re doing,” said Jill K. Precel, one of the teachers in the lesson-study group on fractions. “You teach to all the possibilities, where you might not have before.”
Afterward, the groups each prepare a report that chronicles their thinking processes and what they learned from their trial-and-error experiences. Mr. Jackson keeps those reports, as well as videotapes from the resulting lessons, in the school library for others to view.
The school also hosts open houses, much as schools in Japan do, where visitors can come to observe and critique the finished lessons being taught.
. . . Researchers studying the evolution of lesson study at Paterson School 2 say the school has come a long way in fostering an open-door culture. The process has also inspired the school to adopt math textbooks from Singapore in an effort to find a curriculum that teaches fewer topics, but in greater depth. Teachers also streamlined their use of “manipulatives” after some lesson-study sessions revealed that too many math toys distracted students.