SU Faculty Collaborate with Willow Field Elementary to Host Public Research Lesson

Faculty from the Syracuse University department of Science Teaching have partnered with the teachers and administration of Willow Field Elementary in Liverpool to explore a process called “lesson study.” Their efforts will culminate this Thursday, May 19 at 6 pm in a public research lesson held in the Willow Field Elementary gymnasium. This event is open to the public, and will be particularly beneficial to pre-service and in-service teachers, as well as education professionals of any discipline. Willow Field Elementary School is located at 3900 NY Route 31, Clay NY 13090.

The science lesson to be demonstrated on May 19 is designed for fourth grade students to investigate the relationship between the size of a vibrating object and the pitch of the sound it generates. Based on a lesson described in the Physics of Sound kit developed as part of the Full Option Science System (FOSS), this lesson will also incorporate the use of science notebooks – a writing and reflection tool used by the students.

Lesson study is a process where teachers collaborate to identify areas in which they would like to see improvements in learning and they 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.

Sharon Dotger, assistant professor of Science Teaching in the School of Education and College of Arts and Sciences, has been doing lesson study activities with Salem Hyde Elementary School in the Syracuse City School District since 2008. She expanded her efforts to Willow Field in 2010 and, with the support of Principal John Sardella, the team involved was willing to make their practice a public event.

Dotger says, “This program is a significant part of the broader lesson study process undertaken by some Willow Field faculty and myself. The event will begin with an overview of lesson study, followed by the live research lesson with our fourth graders. Dr. Catherine Lewis, an international expert in lesson study with mathematics, will participate in the debriefing process, which will occur after the students have completed their experiments.”