Public Research Lesson Improves Learning and Instruction Methods

Sharon Dotger, dual associate professor of science teaching in the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences, hosted a public research lesson on Tuesday, Nov. 11, in 500 Hall of Languages. About 25 currently practicing school professionals and future educators participated.

Lesson study is a process where teachers collaborate to identify areas in which they would like to see improvements in learning and set a goal for addressing this area. Then, together they look at multiple approaches of working toward that goal in the context of a particular content area, in this case, science. A very detailed plan to guide learning is developed by the team of teachers. The lesson they plan is then taught and observed in real time. The teachers gather data that focuses on the students, such as how they interact with one another and the learning tasks. Following the lesson, the teachers analyze this data to determine the effectiveness of the lesson, and use their new understandings to modify the lesson for further re-teaching.

Dotger has been partnering with school districts and teams of educators in Central New York to explore the lesson study process since 2008. Tuesday’s event was the sixth public research lesson event she has hosted.

“Public research lessons give all of us a chance to study the relationship between teaching and learning. We had a diverse group today, faculty from different universities and programs, graduate students in multiple content areas, teachers, instructional coaches and district leadership,” Dotger says. “Through their observations, we were able to talk about how to improve instruction and where we might focus efforts to further develop student thinking. Research lessons go beyond the sharing of instructional ideas—they help us determine how those ideas work for helping students learn.”

Tuesday’s lesson, facilitated by science teaching doctoral students Peter Rugano and Erica Layow, was designed to meet the “Matter and Its Interactions” Common Core standard for fifth grade. During the lesson, School of Education students observed several chemical reactions in a closed system and were challenged to construct an evidence-based explanation of the conservation of matter and the types of substances that need to be mixed to produce heat, gas and color change.

Following the lesson, Helen Doerr, Meredith Professor of Teaching Excellence in Mathematics Education, facilitated a debriefing session with attendees to discuss observations of the students’ learning and interactions with the lesson materials.

View photos from the November 11 Lesson Study event

Original story on SU News