There are four key steps to lesson study: goal setting, planning, implementation, debriefing (Lewis, Perry, Murata, 2006). In addition to these key steps, our research has allowed us to observe teachers engaging in additional complex stages beyond the key four. Researchers asked teachers to list the tasks that took place during the lesson study cycle with specific attention to how their time was spent. The diagram in this window represents what specifically took place during and between the formal phases of the cycle. The informal or “backstage activities” that occur between the formal phases are a significant addition to our understanding of what takes place for teacher-participants as they move through the cycle. As researchers, we recognized these in-between activities as essential building blocks of a successful lesson study cycle and as representing the real work and commitment of the teacher teams as they supported one another.
In the initial goal-setting phase, teacher participants begin by setting a goal for their students that they are aiming to address in the research lesson. This is often something that is difficult for the students to learn, or difficult for the teachers to teach (or both). Teachers work collaboratively to set goals, asking one another questions to hone in on the lesson goals. Further, teachers discuss the challenges they face in supporting deep student understanding of key mathematical ideas (such as proportional reasoning and understanding linear systems). At times, the learning goal is based on a testing of theories presented by other researchers and/or teachers – including seeing what students are capable of, given positive learning conditions. Often, “the desire to improve is stimulated by seeing what’s not working” (Lewis et al., 2006). Goal setting leads to an exploration for the best instructional strategies that could be used to achieve the goal (Fernandez, 2002).
The following clip is taken from the initial meeting of a group of lesson study teachers, administrators and researchers engaged in a two-year lesson study project (in four school teams). After reflecting upon the previous year of lesson study and renewing the goals of the 2008-2009 academic year as whole group, individual schools broke off into their respective teams to brainstorm what their lesson study goal might look like. One member of the team summarizes the key issue that teachers identified during their initial discussions.