Lesson Study Mathematics Professional Development in an Urban Elementary School: Sustaining a Promising Practice
Project Team: 
Sarah Woodruff, PhD
Director, Discovery Center and Ohio’s Evaluation & Assessment Center for Mathematics and Science Education, Miami University
Chris Cox, MSEd
Senior Research Associate, Ohio’s Evaluation & Assessment Center for Mathematics and Science Education, Miami University
Ann M. Farrell, PhD
Professor, Wright State University, Department of Mathematics and Statistics and Mathematics Education, Wright State University
Sachiko Tosa, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Teacher Education, Wright State University
Key Words: 
lesson study
professional development

In summer 2010, mathematics education faculty introduced Grades K-8 teachers in an urban elementary school to and engaged them in an intensive school-based professional development program modeled after the lesson study process that is prevalent in Japanese schools. The primary goal of the lesson study professional development is to improve teachers’ lesson planning and implementation skills by increasing the teachers’ abilities to observe, predict and react effectively to students’ mathematical thinking. The theory of change underlying this professional development effort has three important suppositions: (a) when students are provided with focused, effective mathematics lessons, they will be more engaged in the lessons and increase their understanding of mathematics; (b) when teachers work collectively and collaboratively to design, implement and improve their lessons, schools will experience more coherent mathematics curricula; and (c) the development and implementation of protocols to facilitate lesson study work enables teachers to sustain the efforts beyond formal professional development.

Lesson study is an ambitious and promising approach to transforming teacher professional development. This lesson study project has provided evidence that the approach can be effectively implemented in an urban school setting with elementary grades teachers. Early findings suggest that this project positively impacted teachers’ perceptions of their instructional efficacy, their content knowledge, and their instructional approaches, but questions regarding impact on the culture of teacher collaboration and students’ mathematics learning and achievement warrant further investigation.

The purpose of this case study is to determine the nature of and extent to which a teacher professional development program funded by the ODE and the OBR is contributing to the State’s goals of improved teacher quality and student achievement. The study will document the progress and outcomes of a lesson study approach to improving elementary teachers’ mathematics learning and instruction, with attention to determining the transferability and sustainability of this model in other Ohio elementary schools. The methodology of this study will utilize several sources of data, including teacher questionnaires, teacher content knowledge assessments, classroom-level student achievement data, and observations of summer and school-year lesson study professional development sessions, as well as collect additional qualitative data to inform the research questions surrounding school culture, sustainability, and transfer of professional learning to classroom practice. Case study data will consist of focused interviews of teachers, independent protocol-based classroom observations, semi-structured interviews and observations of students, student and teacher lesson artifacts, and observations of teacher lesson study sessions.