01 SES 01 A, Teacher Learning in Lesson Study and Peer Observation
Topic. The focus of this study lies on better understanding the opportunities for teacher learning in lesson study and developing theories on how to optimize the potential for critical professional discourse and reflection in its post-lesson discussion. Several studies have demonstrated that lesson study, a collaborative and iterative professional development approach, can facilitate growth and change in teachers (see Seleznyov, 2019). However, only few studies have examined the specific learning processes and opportunities underlying this change. In lesson study, a group of teachers with a common focus co-plans a so-called research lesson, which is then taught by one member of the group. The other members observe the students in the classroom, taking systematic notes of their learning activities. Lastly, teachers share their observations and reflect on their teaching practices in the post-lesson discussion, with the goal to translate their observations into future pedagogical intentions (Perry & Lewis, 2009).
Lesson study is thus a highly collaborative approach to professional development. The group’s joint analysis of student learning processes allows teachers to experience cognitive dissonance, de- and reconstruct long held assumptions about practice, and generate new knowledge (Perry & Lewis, 2009). Most importantly, the research lesson is the product of the group’s joint effort and it is not the enacting teacher’s skills that are scrutinized during the observation and the post-lesson discussion, but the students’ responses to the co-planned lesson. These characteristics - collaboration, joint responsibility and a shared need, as well as an unpersonal object of critique - have been named important preconditions for reflective conversations that facilitate learning and can evoke transformational change (e.g., Hickson, 2011; Fook & Askeland, 2007; Nelson, Deuel, Slavit & Kennedy, 2010). However, while critical dialogic reflection is considered an integral part of lesson study in theory (Fernandez & Yoshida, 2012), it is far more challenging to achieve in practice. Empirical studies indicate that teachers often stay on a superficial level of reflection and dialogue in the post-lesson discussion (Myers, 2012; Bae et al., 2016), rarely managing the transition to deeper disciplinary or reflective talk. In order to maximize the opportunity for teacher learning in lesson study, we need to better understand the ways in which lesson study-groups reflect together and why some groups manage to increase the depth of their dialogue, while others steer away from potential conflict and only skim the surface.
Research questions. We are using a mixed-method design to examine four lesson study-groups in regard to (1) their depth of discourse in terms of reflective stages, and (2) the respective trajectories through their reflective practice. By considering each group’s discussions as a whole instead of analyzing single episodes we hope to gain a deeper understanding of how the four investigated schools differ in quality of discourse and the journeys through their reflective practices.
Conceptual and Theoretical framework. Our conceptual framework is grounded in Korthagen’s (1985; 2010) ALACT-model, which proposes systematic and iterative stages of reflection. Korthagen distinguishes five levels: (1) action, (2) looking back, (3) awareness of essential aspects, (4) creating alternative methods of action, and (5) trial. While newer conceptualizations of these steps have been formulated, we chose Korthagen’s model as theoretical backdrop for our analysis, as its five steps mirror important phases of the lesson study cycle and its post-lesson discussion.
Our methodological approach is in line with Qualitative Content Analysis (Mayring, 2010; Schreier, 2012). Using maximum variation selection strategy (Patton, 1990), four primary schools were selected from the wider sample that differ in factors such as geographical location within Germany, whether they are private or state-funded, as well as in their experience with cooperative lesson planning and differentiation for (potentially) high-performing students. We audio-recorded the post-lesson discussion of each group (average length of discussions = 1.31 h; total audio data = 6.45 h) and collected additional data, such as photographs of the learning activity curves, notes, lesson plans, and, if applicable, student works. All four lesson study-groups had received the same introduction to lesson study, used the same methods of observation, and were led by the same two facilitators through the process of the post-lesson discussion. While a number of coding tools aiming to capture teacher learning in lesson study have been devised (e.g., Bae et al., 2016; Warwick et al., 2016; Vrikki et al., 2017), none of these tools allow for a detailed examination of the depth of dialogic reflection. Therefore, a new theory-driven coding tool grounded in Korthagen’s (1985; 2010) phases of reflection was developed. Precise coding rules and anchor examples for each subcode were set up in a coding manual; coding was carried out in MaxQda. The transcripts were coded by two coders; a satisfying inter-coder reliability of 0.82 % (Brennan’s Kappa) was achieved. Chi-square tests for independence were used to compare the frequencies of codes between schools in order to understand whether some schools spent significantly more time on some reflection stages than others. Building on previous work that concentrates their analyses on isolated episodes of interest, we considered the post-lesson discussion holistically and on a micro-diachronic scale. With the aim to portray the schools’ respective trajectories through their reflective practice, we used the code-line function in MaxQda for a sequential view of the coded segments, both aggregated to the main codes as well as including the sub codes.
Our findings indicate that the reflection processes of the four lesson study-groups differed significantly. The micro-diachronic portraits of the schools’ conversations show consistency with the view that phases of reflection are hard to distinguish from each other and transitions are seamless (Rodgers, 2002). The groups varied in their time spent on reflective stages, as well as in their trajectories through these stages. Specifically, the analysis revealed differences in the ratios of concurrent codes and in the schools’ onsets of certain reflective stages. For example, two groups interactively described and explained observations at the same time, whereas the stage of explaining emerged later for the two other groups. Concerning the onset of reflective stages, we observed an early emergence of the last reflection stage in all discussions. The data indicates that groups underwent mini-cycles of reflection (Slavit & Nelson, 2010), meaning that proposed solutions or insights were re-tested and adjusted by a further exploration of the topic. Reasons and implications of these findings are discussed. For further research we suggest a closer analysis of mini-cycles of inquiry in order to better understand how groups generate and develop potential moments of learning.
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