Climbing The Hill

Categories: Pedagogy and Practice, Leadership Learning

How Lesson Study Is Placing Pupils At The Heart of Improving Learning

This term, staff from Woodhill have taken part in the Camden Local Authority and University of Cambridge Lesson Study project.  Click here for a great summary article about how this approach is empowering teachers to tackle the new primary maths curriculum.  For us at Woodhill Primary School in SE London, participation has given real momentum and drive for developing a learning focused, enabling, evidence based approach to improving teaching and learning.  The project has also led to an enormous amount of reflection and has challenged our thinking about what we think really happens in lessons.  A crude summary of our own Woodhill Lesson Study principles is shown below:


resources for blog_Page_3This is also supported through our CPD and self evaluation materials that have been developed in an attempt to build a more enabling, inclusive approach to self evaluation.  See links here:

An Evidence Based Approach to Improving Teaching

Primary Leadership of Learning Handbook

I am SO impressed with how Lesson Study improves practice, building professional capital through meaningful, forensic learning conversations; balancing 'marginal gains' and incremental lesson improvement, with the rigour of seeking to understand using an evidence base.  The structure of Lesson Study has also ensured participant teachers being 'observed' own their own learning and next steps.   Leadership discussions preempted by Lesson Study include: 


resources for blog_Page_1Perhaps though, the most impressive and significant aspect of Lesson Study comes from the pupils themselves.  As Graham Nuthall explains in The Hidden Lives of Learners, there are significant gaps in any school self evaluation framework if it does not focus on the perspective the learners rather than that of the teachers.  If we want to better understand how teachers craft and shape student learning, we must begin with individual pupils' starting points and explore just how they learn best and experience learning in different contexts.  Lesson Study makes this happen!

Shared below are our staff summary thoughts and reflections that the Autumn Term Lesson Study focus have revealed.  It makes fascinating reading and will no doubt, lead to a range of leadership of learning actions for staff in the coming weeks:

Our main observations were:

  1. High ability (and some mid ability children) demonstrated fixed mindsets, whereas lower ability children were more open to challenges and made better progress during the study. In lesson one, more able children were comfortable because their differentiated task was not, in reality, a cognitive challenge for them. When we addressed this with more complex problems the child we studied froze and wanted help without trying. Higher ability and middle ability children enjoyed using white boards and on paper and prefer it to working in their books because they feel they can't make mistakes in their books. The lower ability children preferred working in their books. It seems that children could be misinterpreting our focus on presentation as a statement that mistakes are bad. Lower ability children recognised that mistakes help them learn!
  2. Differentiation through time helped lower ability children make accelerated progress. During the series of lessons we narrowed the coverage for the LA children and took time to ensure their conceptual understanding of the basic principles was secure. In lesson 2 we sent them out with a teaching assistant to continue with the same concepts from lesson 1. As a result, in the next lesson less able children were able to access the same learning that middle ability children were doing the previous day. By giving the children more time, we gave them a chance to access the same learning as the rest of the group.
  3. Peer talk supported conceptual understanding as much as teacher modelling. It was interesting to see how much quicker another child could clarify something than we could! This was echoed by almost every school at the Lesson Study conference. The most useful peer talk we saw, however, was not teacher led. It was once children had started their learning and found something they did not understand. It was amazing to see a child move from having very little idea about the learning to being very secure without any teacher intervention.
  4. Games were highly effective at boosting conceptual understanding. Playing games provided a non-threatening environment where children could explore a concept and in the words of one child: 'I liked the game before we started doing maths'.

As you can see, it really gave us a lot of food for thought and has made us all think about our practice!"


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