The effectiveness of lesson study has been called into question, following a £543,000 EFF study involving 181 schools and 12,200, pupils found it made no difference to Y6 pupils attainment in reading and mathematics.
Lesson Study is a CPD approach originating in Japan that has become more popular in England in recent years and is a collaborative approach to professional learning. Simply put, lesson study is a joint practice development approach to teacher learning, in which teachers collaboratively plan a lesson, observe it being taught and then discuss what they have learnt about teaching and learning
The project found no evidence that a particular version of Lesson Study improves maths and reading attainment at KS2. However, there is evidence that some control schools implemented similar approaches to Lesson Study, such as teacher observation. As such the trial might, therefore, underestimate the impact of Lesson Study when introduced in schools with no similar activity.
So does this EFF report sound the ‘death-knell’ for Lesson Study in England. David Weston, Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust states in the TDT blog
There are some possible options.
1. If we decided to ignore the above and assume that the pedagogical content was effective, then either:
a. Lesson Study is an ineffective mechanism in all cases, or
b. it was an ineffective mechanism in this particular case
2. If we were determined to conclude that Lesson Study is always effective (which is also not plausible), then we would conclude:
a. This implementation is flawed, or
b. This pedagogical content is definitely bad.
My suggestion would be that none of the above conclusions are supported, in my view, by any reasonable reading of this study and the wider evidence base. We also need to question the extent to which we can draw any strong conclusions from a study where so many in the control group appeared to be engaging in similar practice
However, a report on peer lesson observation published by the EEF at the same time indicated that peer observation led to no overall improvement in combined maths and English GCSE scores for pupils of the teachers involved. This would suggest the concerns about that the control group in the Lesson Study evaluation were enjoying improvements in pupil outcomes, and offsetting the impact of Lesson Study are possibly not warranted.
So what are school leaders and research leads to do. First, if you are thinking about implementing Lesson Study it would be worth remembering there is more than one variety of Lesson Study. In particular, I would recommend that you have a look at the work of Sarah Selezynov of the UCLIOE who identifies seven components of Japanese Lesson Study as this will allow you to make comparisons between for want of a better phrase ' the original and cheap imports'.
Second, and this is more generic advice, it's worth turning to the work of ( Miller et al., 2004) state when critically examining whether to implement change or changes, which appear to be fashionable, school leaders and school research leads, could usefully ask themselves the following questions.
• What evidence is there that the new approach can provide productive results. Are arguments based on solid evidence from lots of schools followed over time?
• Has the approach worked in schools similar to our own that face similar challenges?
• Is the approach relevant to the priorities and strategies relevant to our school?
• Is the advice specific enough to be implemented? Do we have enough information about implementation challenges and how to meet them?
• Is the advice practical for our school given our capabilities and resources?
• Can we reasonably assess the costs and prospective rewards (Amended from (Miller et al., 2004) pp 14-15
If the answers to these questions suggest positive outcomes, it may well be that school may have identified a change which has ‘legs’.
And finally, if there is one lesson to come out of this discussion, it is that school leaders need to actively engage in evidence-based school leadership. Failure to do so, will lead to resources being misused, time being wasted, workloads increasing and pupils not making the progress they deserve.
MILLER, D., HARTWICK, J. & LE BRETON-MILLER, I. 2004. How to detect a management fad—and distinguish it from a classic. Business Horizons, 47, 7-16