Friday, March 11, 2011

New Research Article

"Creating Shared Instructional Products: An Alternative Approach to Improving Teaching" by Anne K. Morris and James Hiebert is a featured article in the January/February 2011 issue of Educational Researcher. Paralleling our work in lesson study, the authors seek to solve two enduring issues in education: large variations in learning opportunities for students across classrooms and improving instruction. In the article, Morris and Hiebert propose a system that centers on the creation of shared products that guide classroom instruction via three features:

1. All members of the group share the same issues, for which the product, e.g., a lesson, offers a solution;

2. Improvements to existing products are usually small and are assessed using data; and

3. The products are jointly constructed and continuously improved with contributions from everyone in the group.

Among other things, the authors also note two examples of systems that build public and changeable knowledge products. The first was the quality movement in health care and the second was lesson study in Japanese schools. The latter has grown over the past 60 years into a nationwide system that is seen by many to be largely responsible for the high quality of teaching in Japanese classrooms in grades 1 to 8. This lesson study process depends on small tests of small changes over extended periods of time. It is a focus on the details of instruction and is not a quick fix. The data collected from the first teaching of the lesson is enough to suggest a change in the lesson. The data collected from the second teaching of the (now changed) lesson is an assessment of the change made. This process, replicated over time, by many lesson study groups, is what begins to amass these small changes into improved instructional products. Moreover, the authors argue, the variation of the lessons taught across classrooms is reduced and all students have the opportunity to be involved with higher quality instruction.

Morris and Hiebert note that the four key characteristics of these lessons are:

1. They are created around particular learning goals;

2. They must be detailed enough to directly affect instruction;

3. They are testable and improvable; and

4. They are accessible to teachers when needed, not stored in a drawer somewhere.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Making Time Count

Tips for Making Lesson Study PLC Time Valuable:

• Keep the focus on students and student needs (prevent a gripe session).

• Distinguish between learning and "business as usual" with the focus on learning during PLC time.

• Establish expectations for team learning (NOT organizing class parties)

• Specify the content for team learning time

• Teach processes that encourage smooth meetings (setting norms, using protocols, facilitating, use of dialogue, etc.)

• Focus on teamwork by doing real work, not on doing unconnected activities

• Practice skills of collaboration by agreeing to them, then trying them out with real work and individually and as a group evaluating how well they worked

• Establish mechanisms for being accountable to the rest of the school/others in terms of PLC work (blog, email, post minutes, share learning, log, personal journal, portfolio, etc.)

• Plan for transitions (turnover in faculty or administrators, especially)

• Begin with more objective activities – such as a book study – saving more personal activities – such as examining student work – until the group has found a way to work together well.

• Focus on data – from a variety of sources, including interviews with students, analysis of student work, notes from classroom walk‐throughs, etc.

Making the Case

How to Make the Case for Teacher Learning Time

• Be prepared to find new ways of using existing resources, such as time and personnel.

• Keep and display time logs that indicate how time is spent (and how so little of it is typically spent on professional learning).

• Be flexible and even creative in how to think about schedules.

• Be willing to make trade‐offs in order to gain what is really wanted.

• Be clear about the connection between teacher learning and improvements in student learning.

• Be prepared with Plans B and C if Plan A doesn't work.

• Have a compelling purpose for using the time that doesn't exist.

• Cite the research (latest is Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the U.S. and Abroad,

• Have a plan for the learning time.

• Show results of learning (journal, portfolio, blogs, emails, etc.)

• Begin with an estimate of how much time you'll need for professional learning (examining student work, analyzing assessments, planning lessons, doing lesson study, coaching, etc.).

• Emphasize that PLC time is NOT for planning, personal activities, returning phone calls, having a regular meeting, copying, assembling materials, grading, etc.