Lesson Study Communities
The project will run during 2014 and 2015 at a time when systems of school governance and their relationships with universities are undergoing considerable change. For example, an increasing number of schools are becoming academies, alliances are being formed, and initial teacher education is becoming increasingly school-led. These changes provide challenges, but also opportunities for our initiative to develop new partnerships for professional learning. Other initiatives, such as the establishment of a network of Mathematics Education Strategic Hubs (MESH) around the country, also provide opportunities to support dissemination and expansion of the work of the project.
There is, consequently, no single model of lesson study partnership that will be developed in the project; rather, the project will deliberately seek out diversity in what works. The only expectation is that a cluster of schools will work together and as part of their partnership will draw on expertise from Higher Education. The motivation for the establishment of a community and sustaining its ongoing work may come from a Higher Education Institution, a Local Authority, a Teaching school, a school or an academy, MESH...
In the first year of the project, the Nottingham team will support up to eight lesson study partnerships. This will increase in the second year to up to 12 lesson study partnerships.
Lesson study in Japan is an expected part of the life of a mathematics teacher: it provides life-long professional learning. It is thoroughly embedded in the system and ensures that teachers constantly question their teaching in relation to students' learning.
The project seeks to explore whether something similar can be achieved here, that is, if it can become embedded in the ongoing work of communities of teachers. Such sustainability needs to be planned for so that the process of lesson study makes an impact beyond a limited group of enthusiasts and a relatively small period of time. The project will, therefore, research "what works" to develop tools that might in future support partnerships in planning for sustainable practices. This raises the issue of what support the project will offer.
In setting up the project there was much discussion about what level of support the project team might, and should, offer schools. The decision was taken that to ensure a focus on long-term sustainability the support during the lifetime of the project will not include direct funding to cluster partners. Somehow each cluster will need to develop a partnership that works for them without project funding, as experience suggests that, if partnerships become dependent on project funds, when this is withdrawn it is almost inevitable that the partnership will struggle to continue. However, the project will support partnerships in other ways, primarily through:
- a number of cross-project meetings
- a developing set of tools that will support the work
These tools will be developmental during the project, and indeed project partnerships will assist in developing a final toolkit that will be one of the outcomes of the project.
We envisage that lesson study partnerships during the life-time of the project will benefit significantly from being involved in the ongoing work of the project.
This is a research project with two main areas of concern:
- How different models of lesson study partnerships that bring together expertise in school and university based mathematics education might be initiated, developed and sustained
- How best to support the ongoing lesson study practice of partnerships by offering insight into key aspects of lesson study for mathematical problem solving
The project will have a research strand that investigates, using a range of different research methods, these two main areas. The outcomes of this work will provide both formative feedback to project partnerships and advice to those who might wish to form a lesson study partnership after the lifetime of the project.
All project partnerships will be invited to be part of the research of the project, although some may be more heavily involved than others. The research, which will be ongoing during the lifetime of the project, will of course help the Nottingham team in supporting project partnerships.