Lesson study

This unit examines the effectiveness of the lesson study approach to addressing pupils’ educational needs. We look at the rationale underlying the lesson study process and work through each of the steps involved in planning and implementing the approach.

The unit includes information on the following:

  • The steps to effective lesson study.
  • Lesson study tools and templates.
  • The importance of collaboration with colleagues and your school’s leadership team in planning lesson study.
  • Identifying the most appropriate research question to guide your planning.

Lesson study

In this clip, a head teacher, vice principal, and faculty leader talk about the key aspects of lesson study, including the way it works, benefits of the approach, and the challenges that teachers may face during its implementation.

This audio clip relates to task 1 in your PDF of unit 9.

Show transcript

Marie Barrett - Faculty Leader for Creative Industries and Art Teacher:

I’m Marie Barrett, I’m Faculty Leader for Creative Industries and Art teacher at Stoke Damerel Community College.

Lesson study works by planning a lesson together, and one person delivering the lesson and the other person making very detailed observation notes about specific students in the group. We set criteria in our planning of what we want those students to achieve by the end of the lesson. And the observer makes very, very, careful notes about at what points they do specific things and how they react to the lesson, and then after the lesson we evaluate and plan for the next lesson. And there’s a series of 3 lessons for each lesson study.

Lesson study gives you the chance to experiment with ideas in a very ‘no blame’ way because you plan together, you evaluate together, and there’s that element of risk taking that I think you probably wouldn’t do in your own lessons if you were being observed by a member of the senior leadership team. But building that relationship in a lesson study means that you can try things out together and that can inform all your teaching not just the lesson study lessons, but everything you do to try out new ideas.

Experimenting with different techniques has really put excitement back into my teaching, especially working with another professional from a different department, is giving me the skills to deliver literacy more confidently. And then that impacts on every lesson that I teach. The idea of using sentence openers, of different structures and connective maps, and all those things that would happen naturally in English lessons, I now do as a matter of course with all my classes so I can support every student. Whether their MLD students, whether they’ve got specific learning difficulties, they all have different needs. What lesson study does is gives you the opportunity to focus in on them completely so your planning works around observing how they will react.

Claire Price – Vice-Principal:

I’m Claire Price, Vice Principal at Stoke Damerel Community College.

I think the challenges are multiple really. One is time, in order to make it work we need to invest time in it - and that is time in thinking about planning for the lesson, making resources, reviewing the session and also in order for it to work effectively you need to have more than one person giving feedback on each session so its factoring in that.

Really I think those challenges are inherent with any CPD opportunity where you are trying to develop your practice although those challenges are there, in a way they’re also the doors that open the way to looking at your practice.

We’ve overcome the time challenge to lesson study really by the people who are involved in doing it. So a very committed team. People who really want to make it work, people who have been inspired and our inspiring about the whole project. So in fact it’s become a part of practice, so it’s been a part of what they start do every day.

I think the other way is by probably by starting small, we haven’t gone in and said right everybody has got to do that. It’s starting small and the word spreading so more and more people are wanting to be part of that because they see the benefits of it.

In order for this to be sustained long term it has to be done by people who want to be part of it, and I think that’s going to be the key of it. So we’ve already got people who are looking on and saying ‘that would really work with NQTs,’ ‘that would really fit into our teacher learning community that we are doing on post-16 and independent learning,’ ‘we could really use that effectively looking at differentiation, how we plan or differentiation’ so people are seeing and wanting to go forward to do more of it. We are planning to sustain it by setting up a lesson study group and we’ll have two of our teachers being lessons study coaches or champions and it will grow organically from there.

Paul James - Headteacher:

My name is Paul James, I’m the head teacher of Crispin School which is in Street in Somerset. We’re a comprehensive school of about 1,100 children as of today. All between the ages of 11 and 16. Some of the brightest children that you’ll ever come across, and then those who have some significant learning needs as well.

The benefits of lesson study to a whole school agenda have be in twofold really. First of all, obviously with regards to the progress the children have made. From our point of view it’s provided fantastic CPD opportunities for colleagues here, which we hope will spread throughout the school. There’s a real need to focus on progress of some children with Special Educational Needs so that they leave school with the outcomes that are going to help them progress in further education and training, and so on and so forth.

What I’d say about lesson study is to anybody in any other school, is get involved in it, because we’ve seen real benefits as far as Crispin school are concerned, not just with regards to the progress that the children have made, but also the motivational side of it with regards to our colleagues here. They’ve been really enthused by it and we want that to spread throughout the school.

Lesson study process

What does the lesson study process look like in practice?

A diagram illustrating
               the lesson study process in practice

10 key steps to effective lesson study

  1. 1. Sharpen the focus of your assessment data and observation information through analysis.
  2. 1. Sharpen the focus of your assessment data and observation information through analysis.

    • Gather evidence on progress and attainment in your class.
    • Decide on what requires improvement, backed up by data.
    • Agree on a research question.
  3. 2. Decide on 2–3 colleagues who you can work with to carry out the lesson study.
  4. 2. Decide on 2–3 colleagues who you can work with to carry out the lesson study.

    • It helps if you share responsibilities or specialist knowledge with these colleagues.
    • Set ground rules for assessed risk-taking and joint ownership.
  5. 3. Agree on the focus, methods, roles and rules.
  6. 3. Agree on the focus, methods, roles and rules.

    • Collaboratively plan the process and methods for the lesson study.
  7. 4. Find out what has worked for other pupils and teachers.
  8. 4. Find out what has worked for other pupils and teachers.

    • Work out what information you need to build on your best practice.
    • Look for the research and evidence covering the area of SEN in which you specialise.
  9. 5. Decide on the focus group of pupils.
  10. 5. Decide on the focus group of pupils.

    • Select the lesson study pupils (2–3 pupils).
    • Involve 1 or 2 pupils from the specific SEN area in which you’re interested, and another pupil with different difficulties or disabilities.
  11. 6. With your colleagues, plan a study lesson with the focus group in mind.
  12. 6. With your colleagues, plan a study lesson with the focus group in mind.

    • Decide what the pupils need to learn next.
    • Use your research findings to decide how best to teach this.
  13. 7. Observe the learning of the focus group.
  14. 7. Observe the learning of the focus group.

    • As you teach them, see how the pupils progress.
    • Gather and review evidence to assess their learning and any barriers they encounter.
  15. 8. Review the group’s learning against planned learning outcomes.
  16. 8. Review the group’s learning against planned learning outcomes.

    • Analyse evidence from the study lesson and lesson review.
    • Research-informed knowledge and understanding may be useful here.
  17. 9. Plan, teach and observe further study lessons.
  18. 9. Plan, teach and observe further study lessons.

    • Extend or explore your ideas with your colleagues.
    • Continue your learning and professional development.
  19. 10. Decide how to share your learning and disseminate your approach.
  20. 10. Decide how to share your learning and disseminate your approach.

    • Review your learning, update your learning log and identify key findings.
    • Share these with others.
    • Detail your approach to sharing your learning.
  • Lesson study in practice

    This video shows faculty leader Marie Barrett working on an ‘art detective’ project with Year 7 pupils. She explains how this collaborative approach gives every pupil in the group an equal chance to contribute, and how it encourages engagement from a pupil with MLD.

    This video clip relates to task 1 in your PDF of unit 9.

    Show transcript

    Marie Barrett – Faculty leader for Creative Industries:

    I'm Marie Barrett, and I'm Facility Leader for Creative Industries and an Art teacher at Stoke Damerel Community College in Plymouth. This is a Year 7 Group. We’ve been looking at an art detective project. We’re looking at comparing works of arts and studying elements, different elements from art works, and being able to talk fluently about the elements.

    Classroom interaction:

    So this is “Starry Night”, this painting here, you’ve got them on your desk, and this one is called "The Persistence of Memory".


    So what I want to achieve in this lesson, is to ensure that every student was involved in group discussion, and that they came up with some higher level responses that they were really engaging with the content of the paintings, and that they would support each other to do that, that they would discuss ideas, and so that they could develop their ideas further through the talk.

    Classroom interaction:

    Pupil: I think it's the right sentence because they’re both on about the texture in each of the pictures.


    The students have to work together and this is where we introduced the idea of talk tokens.

    Classroom interaction

    Marie: When you've said something, you put a token in the middle, yeah? And my group leaders are the ones to make sure that everybody is putting enough tokens in, OK. And if they’re not, then you need to encourage them, ask them questions or encourage them to say something.

    Pupil 1: Why do you think that this one hasn’t got any mountains?

    Pupil 2: Because that one has like holes and all that, and the other one don’t, because it’s like a cliff...


    The resources that we make are integral to the learning. The students can see the investment that you’ve made; the students are excited about holding things. The tactile nature of the resources means that they immediately want to go and pick things up. We found from a previous lesson study that the students were really engaged by active tasks. So, one of the tasks we came up with was sorting sentences, and we used this before and it was really successful to engage all the students, especially the students who find literacy difficult. So, what the idea is, is that they get parts of a sentence and they sort the sections out to make an object. In this case it was a trilby hat.

    Classroom interaction

    Marie: I’ve got another sorting exercise for you, but based on our theme of art detectives, they are detective hats, and you’re going to use your talk tokens, so you’re working as a group, and you need to sort these out to make sentences that work. You need to spread these out across your table so everybody’s got some in their hand, and you need to build a sentence. And all the tops of the hat are all to do with “Starry Night”, and then all the bottoms of the hat are to do with “The Persistence of Memory”, and then the middles are the connectives. So you need to make sentences which make sense.

    Pupil: (reading) “The brush strokes in “Starry Night” make an interesting textures showing movement”. “Also” “the smooth texture in “The Persistence of Memory” makes it feel calm and still”.

    Marie: Why have you put those two together?

    Pupil: Because they’re both about the texture of each picture.

    Marie: OK, so they’re both about texture, fantastic, so you’ve put those together, and “also” they’re both the same. So you’ve used “also” for that one.


    From my research from previous lesson studies, we found that specifically the MLD student found it difficult to start their writing. So we wanted to scaffold the activities to make sure that they had the best support. So they were experimenting with their ideas through talk before they started to commit to writing.

    Debbie who I’ve been working with is an English specialist, so I’m an art teacher, she’s a literacy specialist, and we can combine our skills to produce lessons for the subject which embed all those literacy skills that they’ll be learning elsewhere.

    The particular planning for the student who has MLD is that she lacks confidence to give her contributions. So in order to give her the confidence to do that, and to support her, I wanted to structure the talk so that she felt that she could make those contributions. Talk is a fantastic way to get the students to consider deeper responses.

    Classroom interaction

    Pupil 1: Which one do you reckon it is?

    Pupil 2: That one.

    Pupil 1: So this one. Do you know why? So why do you think there is texture in that and how can you see it?

    Pupil 2: Because it’s got brush strokes in it, in the picture...


    We haven’t really set any different criteria for any of the students with any different needs for the talk tokens because the idea is that it’s a leveller, it gives them all an equal opportunity to speak, and an equal chance to make their contribution.

    Classroom interaction

    Pupil 1: So why do you think this is the right sentence?

    Pupil 2: The texture in this picture is smooth and everything. It’s got bright colours and dark colours in some places.

    Pupil 3: So it’s quite bold.

    Classroom interaction

    Marie: Right, OK, so what I’ve done for you is because we don’t, in our arts lessons we don’t like writing on square pieces of paper, because it is too boring. As ever we’ve got some footprints, and these footprints are going to go on to our Art Detectives board, on our Art Detectives poster. These footprints are going to have sentences which you’ve written comparing the two pieces of work.

    Classroom interaction

    Pupil 4: I feel that both paintings show emotion. The reason I feel this is because,

    Pupil 5: …because it’s got like the stars.

    Pupil 4: So do you want to put that down?

    Marie: If you hear somebody writing a sentence about one of the paintings, OK, you hold one magnifying glass in the air. And if you hear them comparing it, using a connective, and comparing it with another painting, then they get two magnifying glasses in the air.


    The MLD student that we’ve been focussed on really surprised me in this lesson with the amount that she contributed. Her confidence levels have really risen, so that she feels that she can not only contribute openly, but she’s happy to read out in class, and she’s happy to contribute to whole class discussions. She’s really keen to have her point across.

    Classroom interaction

    Marie: Amy, can we have yours.

    Amy: In the “Starry Night” there are bright and dark colours. Also in “The Persistence of Memory” there are also dark and bright colours to make it look bold and effective.

    Marie: Brilliant. OK, how many are we giving it? How many, two? Billie, why two?

    Billie: Because she said about both paintings.

    Marie: Because she talked about both paintings, fantastic.


    So, once we’ve identified whether they’ve met the criteria, then the students are asked whether they’re good enough to go on to our art detective’s poster. So this is the collaborative piece of work that they’ve all been working towards, and then the students can glue them on, and that is a record of the whole process, so that the experiences that the students have had about discussing the work, and finding different elements, and we’ve recorded it all their sticking sort of bits together to create their own collaborative group poster.