Friday, March 9, 2012

Best Case PD

Lesson Study as "Best Case" Professional Development

Like most teachers, I would rather have cavities filled sans anesthesia than attend run-of-the-mill, "sit and get" professional development. Fortunately, participation in a different form of PD shifted my thinking about what professional learning can be—dynamic and intriguing.

Hello, Lesson Study!

The days were long and the work was hard, but it was wonderfully worthwhile. Much more valuable than a sit and get, much more fulfilling because of its participatory nature and level playing field, and much more informative and useful for instruction.

During each two-day cycle, we planned one lesson together. We used resources that were already available to us (our Teacher Editions) to plan one lesson with our students' needs in mind. We came to a group consensus about the lesson content and the content was taught as it was written.

Focused on the students

We all planned the lessons as a group, so it wasn't about us as individual educators. It was about the students. In fact, at the conclusion of the first day, we drew names out of a hat to decide who would teach our lesson (and we drew names again to decide whose class that person would instruct) so that we were all vested in the lesson and that the focus remained on the students' engagement and learning.

During the observation/data collection phase, we listened to and recorded conversations as they unfolded between students. We really listened. As a result of our listening, we are even more mindful about our assumptions about what learning should look like. Now we gained specific knowledge into how our students were learning:

  • We realized that Johnny, who was often described as "busy," was really listening, while Bobby, who looked as if he was on task at all times, was really zoned out and not paying attention at all! 
  • We realized the power of our words and that changing one word in the lesson changed students' understanding.
  • Being able to focus solely on the students, we learned to be adept kid-watchers and data collectors.
  • We are now more able to think of our students—individually and collectively—to guide our instruction each time we plan.

Professional Learning Community

Being already in a thriving Professional Learning Community, this process helped us become more efficient. We take ownership for all learning, both ours and the students of our school. One telling difference is the language that we use to discuss children. Instead of "my class" or "my students," we now say "our classes" or "our students."

Our time was well spent learning through Lesson Study. I learned more in those few months than I had in my entire teaching career. As a group, we gained a better understanding of what works for both students and colleagues in terms of differentiated instruction, learning styles and modalities, and collaborative planning and reflection. Most importantly, we developed a greater sense of ourselves as teachers and learners.

Note: This is a repost from DSC's Blog on 11/18/2010 – Thank you Ms. Rapp (Orange County Public Schools, Florida) and DSC!

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