3. Design the Lesson

Lesson planning is by and large a self taught, private activity in higher education; teachers tend to “prepare for class” without input from colleagues. Lesson study provides an opportunity for teachers to benefit from one another's pedagogical knowledge.

In the planning phase, team members usually begin by sharing how they have taught or would teach the lesson, discussing and debating the merits of different types of class activities, assignments, exercises and so forth. To keep the focus on student learning, though, teachers also pool their knowledge of how students in the past have learned or struggled to learn the topic at hand. Once past experiences and personal approaches are on the table, the team can begin to design a lesson that will help students achieve the chosen learning goal.

With the learning goal in mind, teachers propose instructional activities that make student thinking visible, that is, open to observation and analysis. This is essential in order for the team to see how students learn from the lesson when it is taught.

Throughout the planning process, teachers practice cognitive empathy, looking at the subject matter from the student’s point of view, working to understand how students learn. When planning the lesson, teachers try to anticipate how students will perceive, interpret and construe the subject matter and the lesson activities.

Q & A

Does lesson study prescribe teaching methods or strategies?

Lesson study does not prescribe a specific teaching method or strategy. But, the lesson should produce evidence of student learning and thinking that can be observed, documented and analyzed. This has pedagogical implications. For example, a lesson in which students sit and take notes the entire class period is probably not a good candidate for lesson study.

What kinds of instructional strategies make student thinking visible?

There are many strategies that externalize student thinking. One example, often used in large classes, is think-pair-share in which the teacher poses a question, students think about or write a brief response and then discuss their answers with a neighboring student. The teacher can then ask students to discuss the question as an entire class.

Can we use a pre-existing lesson?

Yes. If the team decides to build upon an existing lesson it is important that the "new lesson" be a collective effort resulting in a collaborative product (i.e., "our lesson") rather than a slightly modified lesson that belongs to one person (i.e., person X’s lesson).

How much detail should be included in the lesson plan?

The lesson should be described in enough detail that another teacher could use it. This does not mean that every word is scripted. But, the plan is more than a general overview, and should describe fully the sequence of lesson activities, the material the teacher will use in class, the teacher’s questions, anticipated reactions of students, and possible responses to students’ questions.

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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