A framework for analyzing the quality of mathematics lessons

There are only few studies on teachers’ professional development that involves providing teachers with a research-based lens through which they can analyze and think about their lessons. In this paper.

UP NISMED’s Lesson Study Program honored at the 2019 Gawad Tsanselor

UP NISMED’s Lesson Study Program honored at the 2019 Gawad Tsanselor The Lesson Study Program of the University of the Philippines National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development (UP NISMED) was honored as one of UP Diliman’s Natatanging Programang Pang-ekstensyon...

World Association of Lesson Studies (WALS) International Conference 2017

NISMED staff as well as teachers from partner schools presented papers at the World Association of Lesson Studies (WALS) International Conference 2017 held at Nagoya University, Japan on 24-17 November 2017.

PALS Inaugurated

The Philippine Association of Lesson and Learning Studies (PALS) Inc. was inaugurated on 10 December 2016 at the Pearl of the Orient Tower in Manila.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lesson study: A tool for building teachers’ culture of reflective practice

by Sally B. Gutierez
Researchers claim that personal reflection on one’s practice is one of the methods of capability building among teachers (Darling-Hammond & Richardson, 2009); Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, 2009; Reeves, 2010). Moreover, by blending reflective practice into continuing professional development, teachers develop self-knowledge and self-challenge on their professional learning journey (Leitch & Day, 2000; Klein, 2008; Ng & Tan, 2009). Based on these claims, effective professional development for teachers goes beyond enhancing their knowledge and skills to providing them with opportunities of self-reflection within a support group that establishes sustainability and collaboration. In education, a growing interest to move away from one-shot workshops has attracted education specialists to instigate a life-long learning community among in-service teachers. Teacher inquiry groups (Crockett, 2002), peer coaching, collaborative teacher consultation, teacher mentoring (Brownwell, Adams, Sindelar, Waldron & Vanhover, 2006), lesson study (Lieberman, 2009), and collaborative professional learning (Gutierez, 2015) are just few of the promising teacher professional development models at the present. According to Shriki and Movshovitz-Hadar (2011), through these professional development activities, teachers are able to acquire new knowledge and skills by participating in a learning community that focuses on teaching practices as learning objects. 
Reflective practice in education is said to scaffold critical thinking (Conway, 2001) and promote self-regulation (Singh, 2008; Boud, 2007) as the teaching process is believed to be a process that is open to examination and deliberation (Van Manen, 1995; Schön, 1983; Elliot, 2001) for significant improvement in the teachers’ instructional practices (Kemmis  & McTaggart 1988). Engaging in a reflective practice provides rigor in the shared repertoire of knowledge development through constructive sharing of opinions and feedbacks. Constant interaction draws collegial and critical examination of their actual teaching practices (Daniel, Auhl, & Hastings, 2013). In this method, feedback forms the basis of critical analysis which provides sustainable evaluation of existing practices (Han, 1995; Hatton & Smith, 1995). On-going feedback thus becomes a crucial component in a community of reflective practitioners in response to the changing paradigms of professional engagement. Through feedback, Loughran (2002) stressed the importance of establishing meaning to actual experiences so that these may be valued ‘in ways that minimize the possibility establishing a routine on a faulty teaching practice’ (pp. 34). In light of the foregoing literature, reflective practice brings implicit knowledge based on actual practice so that it can be recognized, questioned, and perfected (Parra, Gutierrez, & Aldana, 2015). Classroom practices serve as the objects of learning and not from the theoretical knowledge from formal education settings (Schön, 1983).
Lesson study captures the idea of enhanced learning and intellectual functioning when a group collaboratively work together which eventually leads to the development of personal expertise as a product of the constant interaction and deep reflection (Hadar & Brody, 2010). This means that constant interaction is vital to the optimum development of instructional practices. Moreover, the sustainable collaborative reflection to evaluate teaching routines not only examines the alignment of teaching practices to new and existing paradigms but builds a community of practice where teachers become more critical and constructive with each other (Achinstein, 2002; Grossman, Wineburg, & Woolworth, 2001; Little, 1990, 1999; Witziers, Sleegers, & Imants, 1999).
In a qualitative study which documented and categorized the reflective practices of three (3) groups of public elementary school science teachers from their year-long professional development through lesson study, findings reveal that there exist three types of reflection exemplified by the teachers across the stages of the lesson study process but these were hardly noticed during normal conversations. In-depth analyses of the transcripts show that the team mostly used descriptive reflection and this occurred mostly during the planning and goal setting stage (47.37%) and in the post-lesson reflection and discussion ([PRD], 41.78%]) between the teachers and the “knowledgeable others.” The presence of the knowledgeable others prompted the teachers to engage in a critical dialogue and make attempts to evaluate their lessons. In this study, critical reflection is considered as the highest form of reflective practice thus, as beginning reflective practitioners, teachers showed less skill on this method of reflection. However, the 26.24% attempts to use this reflection is indicative of teachers’ potential to become reflective practitioners among themselves which increases in the presence of the knowledgeable others in the planning and goal setting and PRD stages given a sustainable and enough opportunities.

Analyses show that the participatory, collegial, and collaborative nature of lesson study were the enabling factors in the open sharing of information and establishment of consensual and mutual understanding (Cooper, 2014) between and among the teachers and the knowledgeable others. This supports the claims of Healy (2009) who said that collective and reflective approaches to evaluate professional practice supports the development of understanding leading to a shared professional identity. This adapts the claim of Marcos, Sanchez, and Tillema (2011) that reflective practice among teachers helps them to deliberate and solve instructional problems critically. Findings also indicate that a professional development activity tailored to the direct experiences of teachers result to significant outcomes. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bridging the challenges of inquiry-based teaching: Commonwealth Elementary School teachers’ insights on lesson study

Teaching science is often equated to preparing students to cope with the changes and challenges of their lives (Shamsudin, Abdullah, & Yaamat, 2013). In fact, the Next Generation Science Standards (NRC, 2000) stress that “science is the pursuit of explanations of the natural world, and technology and engineering are means of accommodating human needs, intellectual curiosity, and aspirations” (p. 2). Lesson study captures the essence of social constructivism which emphasizes the importance of social interaction through negotiation, discourse, reflection, and explanation in the construction of knowledge. This supports its effectiveness as an inquiry professional development model in increasing teacher subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical skills (Rock & Wilson, 2005). Aside from transforming conventional classrooms into inquiry-based classrooms, teachers are empowered to build a constructivist and self-regulated professional learning community where they undergo the processes of collaborative goal setting, lesson planning, observing and monitoring outcomes, reflecting, and revising lessons to achieve meaningful results in terms of student achievement.

Researchers attributed the importance of learning of historical experiences of social groups from visualizing the object of their learning. In lesson study, teachers examine their teaching practices to identify the critical lenses for students’ learning (Cheung & Wong, 2014). In the processes of lesson study, it is the understanding of the connection between teaching and learning that builds the relationship between how the intended content is “made possible to learn in a lesson and what the students are supposed to learn” (Cheung, 2011; Lo, Chik, & Pang, 2006; Marton & Pang, 2006; Pang & Marton, 2005) which makes it an effective professional development activity.

According to Supovitz and Turner (2000), the ultimate aim of professional development is to produce quality instructions in classrooms that bring about significant improvement in student learning. Lesson study takes into account the gathering of exemplary teaching practices directly from teachers in the field that provide sustained application of inquiry for both students and teachers. As the team reflects together with the knowledgeable others, they were able to identify the barriers of inquiry-based lesson implementation. Each of the members served as a support in the adaptation of new and effective teaching practices. Because of the constant interaction of the teachers, they were able to build connections between their classroom dynamics to specific curriculum standards. This supports the call of early education reformers to establish a professional development effort that is intensive, sustained, and where teachers are engaged in concrete teaching tasks so that changes are directly obtained from pieces of evidence from teachers’ experiences and student responses.

In this study, the lesson study framework was used to identify and bridge the three challenges in implementing inquiry-based teaching in elementary school science education in the Philippines, namely, a lack of support, training, and availability of inquiry-based materials; an overemphasis on assessing content learning rather than learning through inquiry; and the difficulty and time consuming nature of inquiry approaches. Because of the robust number of collaborative discussions in the process of lesson study, the data of this paper were obtained from audio recordings, field notes, and video recordings gathered from each cycle of lesson study conducted by the author and the team. These were supplemented by a formal interview from the six (6) in-service teachers. Analysis of data took place in two phases. First, all transcripts related to challenges in implementing inquiry-based teaching were selected. Patterns were noted, coded, and categorized using the constant comparison method (Strauss & Corbin, 1990).

Recognizing the challenges of inquiry-based teaching, the teachers valued the importance of their professional development through lesson study in bridging the current challenges of their instructional practices. Teachers’ insights revealed that lesson study became an opportunity for them to discuss about the common issues they face during instruction, clarify their misconceptions on inquiry-based teaching, and address their lack of learning resources to develop an effective lesson. Their constant collaboration helped them clarify their doubts and built their confidence, thus enabling them to be more comfortable in teaching. Moreover, the participative nature of lesson study helped them in analyzing, reflecting, and revising their research lessons which reduced their individual time to do lesson planning and preparation.

In this study, results indicated a strong need for today’s elementary school science teachers to engage in sustainable professional development as they struggle towards the proper implementation of inquiry-based teaching. After characterizing the teachers’ insights, it was understood that the teachers’ analyses of their instructional practices deepen as they continuously engage in collaborative and constructive self-assessment and discussions through lesson study. While committed to adapt inquiry as a teaching strategy, it became clear that in-service teachers need collegial and collaborative support in implementing inquiry inside their classrooms. They became very vocal concerning whom to approach when they have questions in both content and pedagogy and wanted opportunities to learn more on how to align inquiry to the diverse nature of pupils. Thus, based on the results, this study hopes to provide a benchmark of information on how teachers learn as they become engaged in collaborative inquiry wherein their own classrooms become an object of their learning.

Complete and en-depth analysis of this article can be obtained from the following:

Gutierez, S. B. (2015). Collaborative professional learning: Discovering the challenges of implementing inquiry-based teaching through lesson study. Issues in Educational Research, 25(2), xx-xx. (In press, to appear at http://www.iier.org.au/iier25/gutierez.html)

Gutierez, S. B. (2014). Identifying and addressing the challenges of inquiry-based elementary science teaching and learning through lesson study. In Ulep, S. A., Ferido, M. B., Reyes, R. L., & Punzalan, A. E. (Eds.), Lesson Study: Learning Together, Growing More in Practice Together. (pp. 115- 146). Quezon City: University of the Philippines, National Institute for Science and Mathematics Development.