Pay attention to lesson study

28th September 2012 at 01:00

The Television channel Teachers TV produced hundreds of handy videos for schools in the five years before it was unceremoniously taken off air. However, only a few of its programmes could have appealed to non-teacher viewers and slotted easily into the evening schedule of, say, Channel 4.

One of those exceptions was Teaching with Bayley. It was essentially a makeover show but for classroom behaviour instead of people's homes or bodies. In the first part, cameras would be placed in an unfortunate teacher's classroom, and would film them trying to keep control of their class. Every pupil's yawn and eye-roll would be shown in close-up, giving viewers a hit of the voyeurism and Schadenfreude expected from good reality telly.

Then behaviour expert John Bayley would come to the rescue, like an educational Gok Wan. By the end of the programme the teacher's practice would be transformed - incidentally, these videos are still available on the TES website (bit.lyjImVsx).

More important than its entertainment value was the fact that the series illustrated the powerful effect of opening lessons up to the scrutiny of other supportive teachers. This is also the aim of "lesson study", an approach that has been long used in Japan and is now starting to spread to Britain (pages 4-7).

One of the ways it is done in Japan is for teachers to start by teaching a demonstration lesson in front of a small group of fellow teachers, take on board their advice, then teach it again and again with an audience that gets larger each time.

The version in the UK tends to be smaller scale, with teachers working in groups of three within schools. However, this does not make it any less valuable. Indeed, a core part of lesson study should be that teachers feel free to take risks. They should not feel self-conscious about performing in front of their colleagues or embarrassed if a section of their lesson fails to work.

The classroom should be a safe space, not a place for public ridicule. For, above all, lesson study is a form of collaborative research - not actually a piece of reality television.

Michael Shaw is editor of TESpro @mrmichaelshaw.

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