Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College, Worcester
Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College is an 11 to 16 secondary college with a specialism in Mathematics and ICT. It is a Teacher Learning Academy and a Learn 2 Journey School. The latter recognises the emphasis and importance placed on ensuring students know how they can become successful learners.
Aims and overarching theme for the lesson study cycles
- To promote creativity, encourage risk-taking, plan collaboratively focussing on the learning and for the mathematics teachers to have ownership of the lesson.
- For the students to learn kinaesthetically, working in pairs and independently investigating transformations of functions and developing reasoning.
How we set up the project
The Head of Area explained the aims and the objectives of the lesson study project to the department. It was emphasised that the focus and analysis would be on the learning NOT the teaching. The whole project cycle is intended to be non-threatening and any videos of lessons would only be seen by the department.
Teachers identified an area that they would like to develop. The consensus of opinion was that a lot of resources had already been developed in the KS3 framework strategy along the lines of the project aims but the higher levels of GCSE were still taught in a fairly
traditional teacher-explanation style.
The department chose to develop the learning of transformations of graphs. Comments on the planning session were:
“We really enjoyed that.”
“At last we are actually doing want we want to – we’re not being bogged down by administration but sharing good ideas and practice to inform and develop our teaching.”
“We actually had time to do what we are paid for and what we joined the profession for – improve our teaching skills.”
The Senior Leaders were very supportive of the project and one teacher was given time to video the lesson which another teacher delivered to a Year 11 top set. The teacher videoing the lesson was also able to circulate around the room and take notes on oral learning and strategies used by the students.
The second phase after the delivery of this lesson was to meet as a department with the Head of Area and review the learning that had taken place. This lesson was discussed in depth with the focus on the learning and all members of the department were enthused and engaged in the ensuing discussion. Various refinements were made to the lesson after reflection and then it was delivered again to a comparable Year 10 set. Again the lesson was videoed but this time two members of the department team-taught the lesson, with a third member noting the learning that had taken place.
The Head of Area was very aware that she might influence the discussion or the analysis of the learning unintentionally by her body language or by what she said, so the Assistant Principal responsible for Learning was asked to attend the meeting with the brief to observe the role of the Head of Area in the discussions. He then reported back to the department on his observations. This exercise for the Head of Area was very useful – she had to consciously consider the probing questions she asked to help develop clarity around pedagogy. It focused her attention on how many teachers contributed to the discussion and whether they contributed equally.
- Staff empowered to be leaders in learning
The mathematics staff became animated and enthused when planning a topic that they had previously agreed. The collaborative planning aspect ensured that no one person was accountable and the staff were more willing to take risks and to be more creative. By not being involved in the initial stages of planning it meant that the Head of Area was not leading and the staff were taking responsibility for the learning in their classroom as they were given the opportunity to develop pedagogy and independent learners (staff as well as students). It empowered them to be leaders in learning.
- Increased awareness of students’ misconceptions
When reviewing the research lesson the teachers were focussed on learning rather than teaching. They became more aware of oral learning and they developed probing questions to clarify the learning. They also became more aware of the misconceptions that students have in this topic – many that may never have been identified otherwise.
- The students felt that the lesson supported a range of learning styles
The students who were engaged in this activity said that the mixture of activities supported by ICT, the matching tasks and the physical demonstration (when a student imitated the shape of the graph before and after transformation) supported a variety of learning styles.
- Plans in place to take it further
On each departmental meeting agenda there is now a lesson study item so every half term an aspect to be developed will be identified. This could be a topic, a skill, or targeting a specific group of students. The lesson study cycle will be repeated at least three times a year, if not more. The enthusiasm generated for this project by the mathematics department has meant that this approach will be rolled out across the college into other departments by the Assistant Principal responsible for Learning.
- Changes made to planning
The whole lesson study process has changed the planning in the department. It used to be that a lot of time was spent looking at the curriculum for each Key Stage, writing long, medium and short term plans, identifying or building resources, linking progression and then finally teaching the lesson. Now the needs of the student are the starting point:
- what do they need to learn?
- what could their misconceptions be?
- what are their learning styles – what learn 2 learn strategies need to be embedded?
- how is learning recognised?
- what probing questions would clarify understanding or provide evidence of learning?
Top tips for other schools that wish to develop lesson study
The department thoroughly enjoyed the process. The focus is now on the quality of learning in the classroom and good practice is shared. Teachers are:
- learning how students learn
- not taking anything for granted
- empowered to make mistakes
- more creative.
Spending the greater proportion of time focussed on students’ learning has raised both students’ and teachers’ enjoyment of the lesson. Just try it! The rewards are worth it.