Lesson Study is a professional development programme that involves teachers working in small groups to plan lessons that address a shared learning goal for pupils. They then deliver these lessons while their peers observe, and refine the lesson plans based on feedback and review. The focus of peer observations is on the learning of particular pupils rather than the teacher. For this project, Lesson Study was used to deliver Talk for Literacy and Talk for Numeracy interventions.
A collaborative professional development programme that originated in Japan.
London School of Economics
Staff deployment & development
Lesson Study is a CPD approach originating in Japan that has become more popular in England in recent years. It involves many elements that are believed to be important for effective CPD, such as peer support and teacher observation, but its impact on pupil outcomes has not been robustly tested at this scale before, which is why we funded this project.
Classroom teachers in Year 4 and Year 5 took part in Lesson Study. We looked at attainment outcomes when their pupils reached the end of Year 6, and found no evidence of impact in this well-run, high-security trial.
This result does not show that all activities related to Lesson Study are ineffective. Some of the comparison schools in the trial were using lesson observations, for example. So what the results indicate is that this structured version of Lesson Study had no benefits over and above the status quo in the comparison schools.
The project found no evidence that this version of Lesson Study improves maths and reading attainment at KS2.
There is evidence that some control schools implemented similar approaches to Lesson Study, such as teacher observation. This trial might, therefore, underestimate the impact of Lesson Study when introduced in schools with no similar activity. If that is the case, the results suggest that this version of Lesson Study had no impact over and above elements of the Lesson Study approach that were already widely used.
Teachers felt Lesson Study was useful professional development, valued the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in a structured way, and reported several changes to their practice as a result of the programme.
Schools generally implemented the programme as the developers intended. Attendance at training was high and most schools implemented one Lesson Study cycle each term.
Full project description
Lesson Study is a popular approach to teacher professional development used widely in Japan. It involves a small group of teachers co-planning a series of lessons based on a shared learning goal for the pupils, with one teacher leading the co-constructed lesson and their colleagues invited to observe pupil learning in the lesson. The team then develop their practice further, based on feedback.
Some of the features of Lesson Study have been adopted, in a variety of formats, in the U.K. A team at Edge Hill University developed a Lesson Study programme combined with a Talk for Learning content focus, which involved a team of three teachers collaborating to plan, teach, (informally) observe and analyse the impact of teaching on pupil response and progress. Each teacher identified two ‘case pupils’ in their own class who appeared to be underachieving, and the observation focused on these pupils. The aim of the intervention was to raise pupil attainment by improving teacher effectiveness.
This evaluation tested the impact of a particular version of the Edge Hill programme on pupils’ Key Stage 2 (KS2) outcomes. Participating schools nominated at least one group of three teachers for the programme. They attended five training sessions over the course of the intervention, which lasted from September 2013 to July 2015. Each term, they completed one Lesson Study cycle where one of the team taught three co-planned ‘research’ lessons while the others observed pupil learning, interviewed the case pupils after each research lesson, and met with the teacher to review their practice. Each year, at least one Lesson Study cycle focused on literacy, and at least one on maths; at least one cycle focused on a Year 4 class and one on a Year 5 class. Lesson Study is an approach that can work with a range of teaching content. To provide the content of the Lesson Study cycles, teams were trained in Talk for Learning approaches, which support children’s learning through promoting positive talk in lessons.
The programme was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial of schools in the South West, East Midlands, and North West. Teachers in 181 schools (teaching 12,747 pupils) took part. The primary outcome was a combination of KS2 maths and reading test scores for pupils who were in Years 4 and 5 in the first year of the trial. The process evaluation involved observation of teacher training, analysis of surveys, school visits, and interviews with participating teachers and senior leaders.