5. Teach and Observe

In this step, one member of the group teaches the lesson, and other group members attend the class to observe and collect evidence of student learning, thinking and engagement.

Before the actual class period, inform students about the lesson study and the observers that will be in the classroom. This is also a good time to distribute and collect informed consent forms. On the day of the lesson, introduce the observers to the class and describe what they will be doing.

Traditional classroom observations tend to focus on what the teacher does during the class period. Lesson study observations lessons focus on students and what they do in response to instruction. To help them perform effectively, observers should have a copy of the lesson plan, any student handouts used in the lesson, and a copy of the observation guidelines.

Q & A

Do teachers need "thick skin" to be observed like this?

In ordinary classroom observations, teachers find themselves in the spotlight. Lesson study puts light on the students and the lesson itself, which was designed by the whole team, not a single teacher. If the lesson is carefully designed, another teacher should be able to teach it, albeit with a few modifications. The teacher is only one player in the full drama of the lesson, with students taking the lead roles.

Won't the presence of observers negatively affect student performance?

Initially students may be distracted by the presence of observers, but their presence appears not to have a pronounced influence—positive or negative—on their participation in class. As part of informed consent, instructors should explain the role of observers in the lesson. The team should emphasize that observers are present to help understand how the lesson works and not to evaluate student performance. You may also tell students that they are not being evaluated for grading purposes.

Should each team member teach the lesson?

No; it is best if one team member teaches the lesson and other members participate as observers. It is logistically difficult—even overwhelming—to teach and observe the lesson in each team member’s classroom. Teams that attempt to do this usually abandon the idea.  

Can the person teaching the lesson make changes during the lesson?

Many teachers make adjustments to their lessons as they teach them, responding to the needs of the moment. Minor changes are probably unavoidable, but the best situation is one in which such modifications were anticipated in the lesson planning phase. If the teacher makes major changes, then observers will find themselves unprepared to do their work and the data collected will be less valuable.

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Lesson Study Project

Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
1725 State Street
La Crosse, WI 54601