Comments Regarding Chapter 7

Posted at Aug 31/2018 10:26AM by Stu 1:
During my student teaching experience, I was able to take part in weekly meetings that resembled a miniature version of a lesson study. Each week, teachers that were teaching the same course gathered for an hour and a half and discussed the "concept of the week" or the learning goal of the week. These meetings were designed for teachers to meet and discuss teaching methods being used, misconceptions students had, and the creation of good assessment questions for the given learning goal.

Posted at Sep 01/2018 11:54AM by Stu 3:
My first semester teaching statistics (second semester teaching overall) I participated in an activity where we were analyzing student results on a problem that had been given to a group of students the previous semester) in weekly meetings over the course of the semester. There was a lot of discussion about what individual teachers thought were important, meanings the students had in their explanations (or what they thought the meaning was), ... It is still one of my favorite memories as I learned an incredible amount about what others teaching of statistics. I often sought out these type of activities- but there were too few of them and very few of the faculty I worked with elected to participate. I am enamoured by the idea of this being a part of the teaching culture.

I have spent a lot of time over the last year working with collegues in preparation for the changes they will be making to meet the demands of a new law in california. The law requires that students be allowed to enter into transfer level mathematics courses within 1 year of coursework (limiting the requirement of basic skills prerequisites unless it can be shown that taking hem substantially improves the likelihood of success for the student). I have repeatedly suggested that more then just class sequence changes we also need to implement teacher support groups (in my mind similar to what the book described) to help the new instructors as well as to make incremental improvements. Reading this chapter reinforced in me how critical those groups are as well as helped me understand better the resistance I was getting (as it is definetly not part of the culture of the college I taught at). It also makes me think that the superficial changes forced by the laws will not see the same results as at the schools who made these changes including changes in the teaching culture at the school. The question I have then is, how is the culture changed? The book was clear that it was incremental - but if we don’t have a process for the inframental change then how do we get started?

Posted at Sep 01/2018 12:13PM by Stu 3:
While reading the description of the Japanese teacher lesson studies I was really drawn to the part where it described that the groups would present their ideas in assembly to “solicit criticism”. This stood out to me because most of the experiences I have had in this the groups only presented completed results more looking for acclimination then critisim in order to improve. Similarity faculty reviews are often met with anxiety instead of as an opportunity to improve. Thinking about this as a cultural difference really helps me to understand a lot about what I have seen in the meetings I have attended related to mathematics reform. US teachers think reform is because we are not doing well (and changes are only needed if we are failing). I think the teachers in Japan think that improvement in teaching is always needed and a natural part of the teaching process. They don’t see improvement as needed for only the ‘bad’ teachers. Therefore they don’t have the same reaction to critisim.

Posted at Sep 01/2018 01:02PM by Stu 3:
On page 136 the authors propose that the issue of teachers failing to correctly implement the researchers instructions as either an inability for the teachers to understand the instructions or the researches making incorrect guesses due to not being teachers (so not having the same access to what is happening in the classroom).

While I would suspect those two possibilities do play a role, I wonder if there is a third explanation that is also having an impact on the success of Us reform. Perhaps the researchers are ‘teaching’ the teachers in much the same way the US teachers are teaching. Meaning they are perhaps not considering how the teachers are perceiving the instructions (what they are actually getting out of the instructions are not what the researchers intended). It seems to me to be part of the same cultural issue. Since the focus is on the methods and not on what learning has happened by the students (what they actually took away from the instructions as opposed to the instruction itself). As I was reading this chapter I kept imagining the animation from last weeks PowerPoint with the instructor in the role of the student and the researcher in the role of the student.

Posted at Sep 01/2018 02:42PM by Stu 9:
Did anyone else find it strange how many people could potentially be in a classroom during the teaching of the reformed lesson during a "lesson study"? If that was the culture, I assume it would not affect students tremendously. However, this is a night and day difference compared to the solitude of American teachers.

Posted at Sep 02/2018 12:56PM by Stu 1:
Stu 9, I too found it quite strange and immediately wondered how this affected the students behavior and participation in the class. I also found it very neat that the Japanese teachers felt comfortable sharing their lesson with so many other professionals. I think this is largely due to the fact that the teachers view any problems that may emerge as a result of the lesson design, rather than attributing the problem to the teacher who is implementing the lesson.

Posted at Sep 02/2018 01:36PM by Stu 9:
@Stu 1, I agree it is cool. The cooperation and group-thinking mindset of the Japanese lesson study truly lends itself to a more research oriented view of teaching. I thought it was awesome the emphasis the Japanese teachers put on the lesson itself, not who taught it. This further enforces the author's hypothesis that reforms of teaching have a higher impact than reforms that impact teachers.

Posted at Sep 03/2018 11:42AM by Stu 4:
I will admit, I have yearned at different times in my short high school teacher career for the opportunity to observe other teachers and collaborate on lesson material.

As I read about how the Japanese do lesson study, it was interesting to note over and over again that their approach was exactly what I wanted in my own school and teaching.

As the book notes at several times, unfortunately most districts prioritize classroom time for students over improvement time for teachers. The current mentality seems to be that there is a strong positive correlation between how much time a student spends in the classroom and their performance on standardized tests.

I anticipate there would be strong public resistance to any movement that took away classroom time from students and exchanged it for professional development time for teachers. I also feel that there would be even stronger resistance from teachers if they were required to participate in unpaid lecture studies after hours.

The authors provide no specific direction on the implementation of the lesson study, just that it should be at least two hours per week. I am curious what other people would recommend... I am currently leaning towards two early release days during each week to give teachers the necessary paid time to complete the lesson studies.

Posted at Sep 03/2018 11:44AM by Stu 4:
I meant implementation of the lesson study in the context of the daily and weekly school schedule, the establishment of the routine if you will....

Posted at Sep 03/2018 03:10PM by Stu 6:
U.S. reform is about making fantastic high impact changes in a short period of time or no change has actually occurred. We are in too much of a hurry to make changes for the benefit of outsiders of the profession—parents, politicians, etc. The teaching profession thus is not a profession. It is worker bees who are expected to perform. Japan treats teachers as belonging to a profession. The teachers see themselves as part of a profession. Something to be proud of. They don’t consider whether they are being paid for hours rather they see themselves as salaried professionals that do the work necessary to do well in the profession. I think trying to nail down “paid time” is what discourages teachers from feeling ownership to improving teaching. They don’t view their work as being related to being a professional. However, they often are not treated as if they have the capability to make important decisions about their profession. If schools created the time for teachers to be professionals, respected the time and efforts, and treated them as capable then they wouldn’t consider if they were being paid for their time. Most professionals work until the job is done, not on a time clock. That being said, professionals deserve a professional salary.

Posted at Sep 03/2018 03:23PM by Stu 6:
To me lesson study is an amazing and enriching activity. It allows teachers to really explore the ways students understand mathematical concepts. It changes the profession from test results to student learning and understanding. When I create lessons I do some of this work but as most U.S. teachers experience I am mostly isolated in my experiences. Thus, what I create is limited to my understanding. It takes a longer period of time to complete the student understanding and continuous improvement loop.

Posted at Sep 03/2018 09:49PM by Stu 7:
Speaking on what Stu 4 had mentioned on two early release days, my elementary school used to have one early release day per week where teachers would stay after to have meetings and work on staff development. So I believe that method is a great start for sure!

Stu 9 and Stu 1 discussed the Japanese Teachers' ability to share their lesson plans with each other as well as their presence in the classroom. I too think it is great that they are able to work as a unit to create this amazing well thought out lesson plan. In contrast to Japanese culture, the book mentions American teachers work by themselves. It seems as if this would lead to a fear that one teacher is better then the other and it could create a competitive atmosphere to be better. The only result that arises however is that each teacher is limited to the teaching methods they can think of rather than working together to create better methods. This also adds to the focus on teachers rather than teaching. In addition, the American system steers away from the overall goal of student learning and shifts towards the status of teachers themselves. This, as the book also says, isn't the teacher's fault whatsoever; it's just the culture we've fallen into over time.