Lesson Study in PLC: Yea or Nay

IMG_4963Lately, I have been going around the elementary schools in my district to witness the implementation of lesson study in the classrooms, following a series of sessions of sharing with them what Professional Learning Community (PLC) is and introducing them to lesson study as a tool to transform classroom instructions in the past recent weeks.

It is with great pride and humility that I would like to praise all the schools below and teachers who had implemented lesson study wonderfully and extraordinarily. They are,

i) SK Batu 36 (Two cycles this year)

ii) SK Sungai Sepiring (Two cycles this year)

iii) SK Nanga Kua

iv) SK Sungai Kemena

v) SK Sungai Bawang

vi) SK Sungai Anak

vii) SK Bukit Arip

viii) SK Nanga Tajam

ix) SK Nanga Selangau

x) SJK Tong Ah

xi) SK Kuala Pelugau

I strongly believe that the English teachers there deserve all the praises and recognition. As we know, teachers are hard-working creatures whose contributions are often underrated and hardly acknowledged.

So, having witnessed a series of lesson study in actions, is it a powerful tool like what researchers claimed to be? Here are my thoughts.

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1. It potentially transforms classroom instructions

This is one of the purposes of doing a lesson study – to improve one’s classroom instruction through the work of sharing and collaborating with others. After witnessing lesson study at different schools, I have observed that every teacher had walked away filled with more ideas and knowledge of what to do and what not to do. We begin to shift away from ‘observing’ the teachers to observing how the students react to the activities. We begin to see student learning issues as a collective issue where the solutions can help every one of us to improve our own instruction.

2. It potentially builds cultures of sharing, collaboration and interdependence

From the teachers’ experience of doing this lesson study, I can see that they are moving a step forward towards building a more positive culture of sharing, collaboration and interdependence. The fact that they are working together towards a lesson plan shared by all says a lot about the amount of negotiations they have to make – to give and take the best activities, methods, strategies and ideas. And listening to their reflection during the post-lesson study makes me believe they are already a step ahead of where they were previously.

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3. It potentially solves the issue of teachers being transferred in and out

My district is always facing the issue of teachers asking for transfer out of here. It is frustrating to see that after 3 or 4 years, experienced English teachers get transferred back to their hometown, and basically the schools have to rebuild the English culture in school with the beginning teachers. Here, lesson study can prove to be one of the most effective tools for beginning teachers to watch and learn. This way, they will learn faster and better.

4. It potentially increases academic performance

The fact is, PLC is not something new in the world of education in Malaysia. Back then when there was no ‘propaganda’ or ‘advertisement’ on PLC, we teachers had already started working together to share ideas and knowledge. But what makes lesson study so interesting and powerful is that it develops the a sense of accountability in each teacher in the team when planning the lesson. It is like every teacher is accountable for the student learning although they might not be the one teaching the lesson. Once this accountability increases, teachers will try to work their best to analyse and create the best lesson for their students.

5. It potentially moves away from traditional observation style

The traditional way of lesson observation is downright daunting and nasty. Nobody likes to be observed by superiors. This includes me. Sometimes it is not like we dislike to be observed, but we like to be given more guidance and support. I believe teachers usually have no issues with superiors or colleagues who can offer constructive suggestions or ways to improve. And, this is what lesson study can come into the picture. Lesson study is not about looking at which teacher teaches the best. It is not about the experienced teachers trying to show off. It is never about those. In lesson study, we observe the students’ reactions towards the lesson planned collectively. It takes away the burden or stress put on one teacher.

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Notice how I put the word ‘potentially‘ above? It’s because I don’t think it will work without the genuine intention of making it happen. I like to think that the implementation has got to be right for it to bear those positive outcomes. Just because we have done the lesson study doesn’t mean all the above will be achieved. Sometimes, we have to dig down into our heart to question ourselves the true purpose of doing it. Inevitably, some schools are doing lesson study because of the orders from above. Understanding that although that could be playing a part, I found many of my English teachers moving beyond that authority order. Many of them did it wholeheartedly. From their responses, they made me believe that they sincerely want to do something for their students.

At the end of the day, I want to share these prerequisites to successful lesson study culture in schools.

Lesson study SK Sg Sepiring

1. Ground rules are important

Establishing ground rules in the first place during the discussion allows teachers to know clearly of the things they can say and how they should behave. Also, the head of panel should include everyone into the discussion. Every one has an equal opportunity to listen, comment, discuss, voice out and acknowledge each other.

2. Sharing ideas is key

Ultimately, lesson study is about sharing the best ideas or techniques to improve classroom instructions. So, make sure that the discussion is filled with outpouring of ideas. Besides commenting on what had happened during the lesson study classroom, one of the more important task is to focus on what’s next and what to do in the next lesson. So, sharing ideas is key to how we can improve ourselves professionally.

3. Communication skill is important

When it comes to lesson study, it is good to remind each other of Dale Carnegie’s famous quote,

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Hence, communication skill is crucial to the effectiveness of a lesson study. Always show your appreciation to someone who has the courage to speak up their mind. Always show your support to those who had the will to try something new though turned out unsuccessful. Always show that you are genuinely interested in others by listening to their perspectives of things.

4. Head of Panel (Ketua Panitia) is the playmaker

Head of panel is the leader of the pack. If he can show all the attributes above, his team is sure to move forward. I can’t emphasise enough how important the roles and responsibilities the head of panel has in his team. Many times, ordinary teachers are waiting on their leader’s orders. They move where the leader goes. Many stumble or stay stagnant because of poor leadership. Hence, true leaders are those who will lead the way, show the way and go all the way till the goal is achieved.

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Conclusion

What I have got after observing their lesson study is not just a lesson discussed by all. I have seen a change in perspectives towards sharing, a change of attitudes towards trying out new ideas, a change of behaviour in the student learning and a change of culture towards more collaborations and deeper reflection of own classroom instructions.

On a positive note, other schools have also begun to plan their lesson study. For examples, SK St Matthew, SK Sungai Pakoh and many more. Reflecting on this whole process, I feel absolutely proud of my English teachers. I couldn’t be more happier to hear the feedback they gave me after the lesson study. And when people ask me if it’s Yea or Nay, I would tell them to experience it first-hand themselves to know the answer. May this lesson study be the platform for you all to move ahead and move beyond conventional classroom practices.

  • Please check out some pictures on lesson study in some schools under the tab ‘Lesson Study’.
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