First non-professional-development day

Yesterday was a semi-productive inservice day.  None of the inservice topics were new to me, but we were tasked with improving on a previously written lesson using differentiated instruction.  Seeing as I had no previously written lesson plan, I assisted one of my CTs with improving one.  I plan to try to write one later using differentiated instruction methods to satisfy the principal’s call, but I haven’t yet selected a topic.  Although I agree with differentiated instruction in principle, I find myself getting anxious over a tendency to cater to each student’s preferred modality rather than build on weaker ones.  Surely some balance in this dialectic exists?  Perhaps even synthesized into a harnessing of group diversity to advance individual learning à la Japanese mathematics?  I like the idea of improving stale lessons, but the process lacks the accountability and collaboration of lesson study.

Today was the first day with students.  I assisted only in a minor capacity while trying to learn student names, something at which I am exceedingly bad.  The day, however, passed without incident, so I shall use the remainder of my evening to make some flash cards to help me learn student names (and for later when asking questions).  The one thing I will note, which carries increased salience now that I have read The Teaching Gap and its comparisons with Japan, is that there were an aweful lot of interruptions to class today.  The teaching could not help but be fragmented, though the teachers did the best they could.

Lesson Study

I just finished reading the updated (2009) version of The Teaching Gap by James W. Stigler and James Hiebert.  I know it’s a bit old, but I really like the idea of lesson study.  Moreover, I think that in the absence of superintendent and principal support that it might be possible to subvert this power structure by using the Internet to conduct distributed lesson study.  It might go something like this:

  1. Work collaboratively with other teachers interested in the same lesson topic.  Tag it with any state, CC, NCTM, ISTE, or any other standards that are relevant.
  2. Create assessments that can test the effectiveness of the lesson.
  3. Give the lesson.  Gather any in-class paper that the students used (to scan), video record the lesson, and otherwise obtain any data you can.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until the lesson is as good as it can be.
  5. Collect the materials on a website on which other teachers can comment, rate, and view the materials.  Do not publish it until at least three teachers have been involved in the development of the lesson and at least two have tried it out in a live classroom.

Blogs already provide a partial mechanism for Step 1, helping teachers to gather a wider range of ideas to use in lessons, but this alone will not help to create better lessons, especially if individual practitioners misinterpret the point of the materials (see the author’s notion of teaching as a cultural institution).

Technorati couldn’t find much on “lesson study” or “teaching gap”, so I wonder how much these ideas have circulated.  The University of Wisconsin La Crosse has incorporated lesson study into a project for college faculty.  There is also NSF- and IES-funded research into lesson study, but it is still conducted by researchers!  The Education Development Center also has an NSF-funded project going.

Published in: on 2011.01.01 at 17:06  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,