Critique and Comparison: A Lesson Study Exercise



Courtesy of the Library of Congress

This past week’s lesson study prompted some interesting and insightful dialogue in class with my colleagues regarding our prospective lesson plans in our respective student teaching placements. It quickly became obvious that though we share a singular passion for social studies, many of us have found ourselves teaching subjects and curriculum well outside our expertise and experience. Such is teaching.

I chose to focus my efforts on a human geography class I’ll be teaching at some point in my spring placement. My lesson plan revolved around evaluation and analysis of the agricultural revolution and its far reaching, though by no means worldwide, effects. Given the interest of my cooperating teacher and I in a cooperative learning environment, students would be broken into small groups and asked to evaluate the social, dietary, and environmental effects of an agricultural society compared to a nomadic one. They would have to support their evaluations with documents (pictures, video, and research articles) and then present their findings to the classroom. The students would engage in higher level thinking, critiquing a mode of life to which they’ve become more than accustomed, and comparing it to a lifestyle that’s all but extinct in the developed world.

 lesson study was incredibly helpful when it came to simply putting my thoughts to paper in a more free-flowing manner of writing. The lesson plan format can often hamstring the loftier ideas one might wish to convey in the classroom; the lesson study helped to bear such goals in mind while focusing my efforts on the stringent requirements of a traditional lesson plan. It acted as the necessary intermediary between pedagogy and applicability. Discussion with my peers allowed for constructive criticism of our lesson plans. I, for one, would alter my lesson plan significantly after hearing the input of others. Having to vocalize and justify my lesson to my peers helped me realize that my plan was not easily explicable. If I could not explain it to a group of fellow educators, how might I explain it to a group of skeptical high school students?

 There seems to be a legitimate effort on the part of myself and my peers to make lessons as engaging, interactive, and educative as possible. Few, if any, stuck to the traditional formula of lecture and assessment. Student-centered lesson planning on the part of prospective teachers portends a positive evolution of the educational system. Our work has just begun in the college classroom. The real difficulty lies in our success at applying what we’ve learned to a room full of learners.

Variety in Perspective Enhanced My Advancement

By: Tom Malone

Through this lesson study, I saw my thought process through the perspective of other people. After explaining my lesson’s content, objective, and process, I found major gaps because peer feedback provided angles that I previously overlooked.

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I hope other students found this concept useful. I’m sure I noticed aspects of my partner’s lesson plan that he didn’t originally see. From this multi-perspective lens of a single lesson plan, I was able to better approach my lesson’s effectiveness.

I gleaned ideas from other students’ lesson plans as well. By pairing with classmates with like-minded units and strategies, I found ways to apply their ideas to my lesson’s situation.

During the large class discussion, I grasped one concept in particular: what is the objective that I want my students to reach? What is the point of a lesson if the end result doesn’t reflect a learning goal?

I enjoyed the varied teaching approaches that the class took. Some focused on a lecture approach, while some wanted to utilize a student-centered activity.

While the concise explanation of an individual lesson seemed difficult for some, I think this speaks to our excitement as educators to implement our lesson creativity in the classroom.

In short, this activity worked. I was able to see lesson brainstorming from kindred subjects, yet from different perspectives. Some ideas don’t fit my style, while others will enhance my vision as I advance as an educator.

9/9/13: Reflecting on Reflecting

During the early stages of learning a new skill or piece of information, I always like to take in as many views as possible. I recognize my mind has certain tendencies and limitations that might prevent me from understanding something fully, and what might be obvious for one person might never cross my mind. That’s why the lesson plan study we took part in was so beneficial. Listening to how others approached lesson planning helped to fill in some of the gaps I had. By reconciling my approach with those of my class mates, I gained a more holistic perspective.



Lesson Study Reflection: Share Out of Ideas!


Today in Ed Methods, we went over our Lesson Study assignment. Each person wrote their own plan on a topic they hope to teach in the future. We paired up based on similar topics, which was nice because we could see similarities and differences in our plans right away. Then we did a share out to the class so everyone could hear everyone’s ideas. It was a discussion-filled class for sure that did not need much prompting from the professor, which to me is a good sign (it means we are thinking!).

I really enjoyed that the lesson plans were all varied, ranging from world history to specific congressional roles in the U.S. It was interesting to see how much people varied their writing style. Some were super detailed on a specific lesson for one day, while others did a broad scope on a unit. What I did notice that almost everyone’s lesson dealt with the (sometimes-daunting) Work Sample. I think it is okay that everyone zoned in on that, it shows that we are excited and wanting to prepare for it.

The discussion of the lesson plans was almost more beneficial than the writing of the plans actually. It was quite funny because while I was writing my plan, I kept thinking how I wished someone was near me so I could bounce ideas off of them. Then I get to class and I have eleven colleagues throwing ideas and suggestions at me! It was great!

At times, the sharing felt like a long process though. It was hard at certain times to see how someone else’s lesson related to mine. I also noticed that people struggled to give concise summaries of their plans (I included!). I think it is because we are all educators at heart and educators just seem to be a bit more longwinded. We want to make sure everyone is clear on what we are saying which means a detailed explanation, of course. Other than the summaries though, I think we had a great higher-level discussion. It is so beneficial to talk with our peers because we understand both theory and classroom reality, and can therefore give more detailed feedback. The feedback was not simply “that sounds like a fun activity.” Instead, the feedback went deeper by discussing how students will probably respond and potential speed bumps that could occur.

This assignment allowed me to gain some good ideas from my peers on activities to try in my future career. I especially like it when people share their simulation ideas because I am big on simulations in classrooms. To me, lectures and simulations are a great way to solidify knowledge.

Before class was even out, I found myself contemplating how I could do the assignment differently next time. I know I want to be more specific next time, picking a specific lesson instead of an overarching unit. Discussing the unit was helpful because it gave me a direction to head in, but now I am ready to figure out the specifics and start to lay down actual plans to carry out. I also want to be more mindful of including formative assessments because I noticed many of our lessons did not include much of either kind of assessments (formative & summative). Sometimes assessments (especially formative) are the hardest to create because it is difficult to boil down a whole lesson into a specific (and usually brief) summation/quiz. I know they are just check-ups on student learning but I still struggle to find specific things to gauge their processing of the new information.

Overall, I am feeling more ready for lesson planning in the future!

Photo cred: StefCooke on