Monday, October 26, 2020

Desirable Mindsets in Lesson Study

 By Rolando M. Tan

Lesson study provides a collaborative atmosphere where teachers reflect on their practices in the pursuit of instituting pedagogical reforms in their lessons (Gutierez, 2015). While improvements of research lessons through implementation and post-lesson reflection and discussion are important outcomes in lesson study, it is also vital that teachers develop desirable mindsets in every aspect of the lesson study cycle. 

Desirable mindsets of teachers were evident in a school-based lesson study program conducted in an exclusive private school for boys, where three research lessons were implemented in the teachers’ respective classes. One of the three lesson study teams developed a research lesson on weathering, a Grade 5 Earth Science topic. The research lesson aimed to make students identify the agents of weathering in the environment: wind, water, plants’ roots and changing temperature from situations taking place in the natural environment. The research lesson made use of learning stations. At each station, students were asked to identify a particular agent of weathering in a given situation. The post-lesson reflection and discussion became an important venue where pertinent issues were raised and deliberated upon. Arising from these discussions were desirable mindsets that were instrumental in identifying gaps or oversights in the research lesson. 

1. Identifying problematic areas based on students’ responses 

One of the learning stations aimed to make students identify that wind is an agent of weathering. A video animation showed the wind “rubbing” against the surface of a rock as the rock decreases in size while particles of it are carried by the wind. One of the Knowledgeable Others (KO) in the lesson study team heard students say that the rock looked like a potato, causing confusion among the students. 

Another problem in the animated video was that it did not show that the particles carried by the wind collided with the surface of the rock causing the rock’s surface to get scratched and weathered. The use of the animated video failed to make the students understand the natural process of how wind can weather rocks. Selection of the appropriate learning material in science is crucial to the teaching-learning process. Thus, teachers must always position themselves from a critical standpoint when selecting video materials especially when an animated video simulates a natural phenomenon like weathering. 

The use of animated video to simulate another phenomenon called frost wedging became a major talking point during the post-lesson reflection and discussion. The teacher-implementer realized that there was a problem in processing the answers in the video simulation of frost wedging as the video failed to demonstrate how frost wedging could weather rocks. He realized that the video watched by the students made them answer that water softens the rocks, which may be a possible source of misconception. This is an important realization because it will help the lesson study team decide whether they will continue to use the same video or find a better material that will not lead to a misconception. Cheng and Yee (2012) stated that listening to what students say gives teachers a better understanding of how students learn. 

2. Foreseeing possible problems in future lesson implementations 

One of the learning stations focused on the role of plants’ roots in the weathering of rocks. A sequence of pictures showed how a seed dropped by a bird on the ground grew and became a tree while the roots continued to grow downward thereby breaking the rocks underneath. While the processing of this activity made the students conclude that the roots of the plants is an agent of weathering, one of the teachers opined that the pictorial story might make the students conclude that the bird is the agent of weathering. This kind of observation is commendable as it prevents possible errors in future implementations not encountered in the initial implementation. Such proactive inputs must be taken into consideration in the revision of instructional materials to prevent the occurrence of misconceptions. 

3. Raising unrelated but important comments 

In the processing of answers concerning plant roots as agent of weathering, one member of the lesson study team corrected the teacher-implementer regarding the function of plant roots. He heard the teacher-implementer mentioned that the roots grow into cracks to acquire nutrients. Actually, not only do roots acquire nutrients from the ground but water as well. Thus, plants send their roots into cracks in search of water. Although this issue is not related to the objectives of the research lesson, citing oversights, not related to the main objectives must be taken into account as these corrections are valuable for other lessons and therefore must not be ignored. 

4. Planning the research lesson considering the allotted time 

 Realizing that the time was not enough to cover the four agents of weathering, one of the lesson study members suggested that each group focus on one station and for them to share their observations during the processing of the answers. One of the KO suggested that they focus on two agents in one meeting and the other two in the next so that all students would get the chance to get engaged in the learning stations. Time management is just as important as the content of the lesson itself as time constraints can affect the execution of lesson as well as the processing of students’ responses. 

5. Appreciating the importance of post-lesson deliberation 

One of the members of the lesson study team gave a positive impression about the conduct of the whole process of lesson study. For him, it provided opportunities to see the strengths and weaknesses of the research lesson, especially when the lesson was implemented with observers present. Such appreciation is vital to the sustainability of the program. Lewis (2002) mentioned that one of the supporting conditions for lesson study to succeed is the belief that improvement can be achieved through a collective effort. When teachers stop believing that nothing will be achieved from the inputs gathered in post-lesson reflection and discussion, the sustainability of the lesson study process will definitely be undermined. 

References: 

Cheng, L.P. & Yee, L.P. (2012). A Singapore case of lesson study. The Mathematics Educator, 21(2), 34-57. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ961515.pdf 

Gutierez, S.B. (2015). Teachers’ reflective practice in lesson study: A tool for improving instructional practice. Alberta Journal of Education Research, 61 (3), 314-328. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301633235_ Teachers%27_reflective_practice_in_lesson_study_A_tool_for_improving_ Instructional practice 

Lewis, C. (2002). Does lesson study have a future in the United States? Nagoya Journal of Education and Human Development, 1, 1-23. doi: 10.4119/UNIBI/jsse-v3-i1-967

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