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Thursday, July 1, 2021

Features of collaborative lesson planning (CLP) as a positive “dissonance’ to the teachers’ individual planning practices

 Sally B. Gutierez

Several researchers have proven the increase in teacher effectiveness when teachers collaborate with others of the same interests (Garmston & Wellman, 1999; Graziano & Navarrete 2012; Hawley & Valli 1999; Hiebert & Stigler 2000). One area for teacher collaboration can be planning their lessons together (Hiebert & Stigler, 2000), engaging in peer coaching, and observing new strategies being modeled (Garmston & Wellman, 1999; Hawley & Valli, 1999). 

Traditionally, most teachers are trained to practice individual lesson planning. Thus, collaborative lesson planning (CLP) has been widely researched to be a professional development for teachers (Rahman, 2019). During CLP, teachers can share their pedagogical experiences and conduct reflections-on-action on their teaching methodologies and assessment tools (Gutierez, 2015, 2019a, 2019b; Xu, 2015). Several authors recommend that CLP can be effective when experienced teachers who possess extensive knowledge and experiences on content and pedagogy share these to novice ones (Borko, Livingston, & Shavelson, 1990; Leinhardt & Greeno, 1986; Livingston & Borko, 1989). They can be joined by other academic experts such as those university-based researchers who can facilitate their PD activities. In CLP, it is important that collegial atmosphere is focused on linking teachers’ practices to students’ learning outcomes (Lovett & Cameron, 2011). Each of the members of the learning community, especially the teachers, should be provided with equal opportunities to share their insights and reflections. 

However, findings of a previous study conducted by Jones, Jones, and Vermette (2011) presented several gaps in lesson planning practices, namely: (a) unclear learning objectives; (b) unmatched assessment methods and learning objectives; (c) unspecific evidence for developing ideas; (d) failure to assess students’ level of understanding; (e) failure to specify students’ depth of involvement in knowledge construction; and (f) insufficient methods for deeper learning. Thus, in the study of Gutierez (2021), CLP was introduced and became a positive ‘dissonance’ to the teachers’ individual lesson planning practices. 

Based on the results of the study, CLP became a positive dissonance because it served as an opportunity for the teachers to establish mutual trust in a community of practice. In the study of Holmqvist (2019), in-service teachers have difficulty discerning the different approaches of teaching and learning because they have no opportunities to discuss theoretical assumptions with supervising teachers. This was addressed in CLP study through the observation, post-lesson reflection, and discussion activities in the ‘dissonance’ stage. As the teachers developed trust in each other, their anxiety of feedbacks were minimized as they developed a sense of collaborative accountability and joint ownership of their lesson plans. During observations, the teachers were also trained to become keen and critical of the specific parts of the lessons which are effective and those which require further revisions. These observation data served as their pieces of information to evaluate their lesson plans in the process of collaborative reflections. 

Through collaborative reflective practice, Gutierez (2021) identified the stages as follows: 

The ‘dissonance’ stage 

The ‘dissonance’ stage is comprised of a series of activities, namely: goal setting and planning, lesson implementation and observation, and collaborative discussion and reflection (Figure 1). 

1) Goal setting. Two goals were set during collaborative lesson planning: (1) as a science team with a goal of designing an inquiry-based lesson; and (2) goals of the lesson plan based on the students’ learning competencies. For example, the Grade 5 team’s lesson objective was to let students identify some common constellations. Students were also asked to infer how these constellations were named. These goals and objectives served as their guide to formulate the teaching procedure, the materials to be used, and the assessment methods to measure students’ understanding. 

2) Lesson implementation and observation. Here, one teacher taught the lesson while the other teachers of the team observed. The first lesson implementation was conducted after the training workshop. One teacher taught the lesson while the other teachers acted as students. The other two lesson implementations and observations were taught to actual students. The other grade-level teams were invited to observe. As observers, they focused their observations on the students’ responses. Moreover, they observed whether the objectives of the lesson were met based on the sequence of students’ activities. They particularly noted whether the allotted time for the students’ engagement in the activities was sufficient, and whether the students were able to appropriately accomplish the given tasks. 

3) Collaborative reflection and discussion. This was done after the lesson implementation. A total of three reflections and discussions for each team were conducted; one after the lesson was taught to the teachers during the training workshop and two after the lesson implementations to actual students. These usually happened right after the lesson implementations so that the events in the classroom were still fresh in the teachers’ memories to be discussed. 

Refinement stage 

In the framework, the refinement stage was primarily done during the regular gathering for discussion of the teachers. This stage is composed of four activities, namely: (1) organization and reflection on prior knowledge; (2) reflection, organization, and development of new knowledge; (3) refinement and enactment of the new knowledge; and (4) planning for task accomplishment (Figure 1). This stage is crucial as the series of activities lead them to collaboratively plan, revise, or modify their lessons. 

1) Organization and reflection on prior knowledge. This is the first activity during the refinement stage. During the training workshop, they were guided by the science training team and asked to focus on recalling the features of inquiry-based science teaching. Since they were asked to bring their existing lesson plans, they identified the inquiry features of their plans. Moreover, they were prompted to reflect on whether the activities in their existing lesson plans were able to meet the objectives of the lesson and the required competencies of the students based on their curriculum. They shared their reflections with their grade-level teams, and together, they pooled all their ideas and came up with a common decision on how to improve their lesson plans collaboratively. 

2) Reflection, organization, and development of new knowledge. The new knowledge that they developed came from their decisions on how to improve the lesson plans in the previous activity. With five different ways (one from each teacher) to teach the lesson from their existing individual plans, they discussed, reflected, and agreed on how they will develop the plan. They identified which among their individual plans have most of the inquiry features. Then they decided to revise the existing activities to align the objectives and the curriculum-based students’ competencies. 

3) Refinement and enactment of the new knowledge. Through collaborative reflections, they tried to identify the significant parts of their lesson plans such as the objectives, materials to be used, the teaching and learning sequence, and the assessment methods. In this activity, the teachers reflected on the sequence of the learning activities included in the lesson plan. Moreover, they also discussed the materials to be used and the distribution techniques during the actual teaching. This was important because they had to allocate the time for all the activities they planned to do. 

4) Task accomplishment is where they finally wrote their lesson plans. At the end of their preparation, each teacher in the team verified the finished lesson plan to see if it was written as collaboratively planned.

Figure 1. The cycle of activities which make up the series of activities in the collaborative lesson planning (CLP). 

For details of this study, the article can be accessed using the link: https://doi.org/10.1080/13664530.2020.1856177.


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