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Improvement Science Applied to Teaching: Cases From a Randomized Trial of Fractions Lesson Study

Sun, April 7, 8:00 to 9:30am, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Floor: 800 Level, Room 801A


This poster analyzes data from a randomized trial of fractions lesson study to identify lesson study features and instructional elements associated with increases in students’ fractions knowledge.

Theoretical Framework:
Hallmarks of Improvement Science include use of short Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles and quickly-administered Practical Measures to test small changes (Langley et al., 2009). Use of Improvement Science in education is relatively new and work to date has concentrated on outcomes such as course attendance and completion, rather than classroom teaching (Bryk et al., 2015). Lesson Study, a Japanese professional learning approach, deploys Study-Plan-Teach-Reflect cycles focused on improvement of classroom teaching and has been considered an example of Improvement Science, using classroom-based cycles and Practical Measures to assess content learning (Lewis, 2015). Practical Measures for Lesson Study itself–measures that allow rapid assessment and improvement of Lesson Study quality–do not currently exist. Despite evidence, including a randomized trial, that lesson study can significantly improve teachers’ and students’ learning (Lewis and Perry, 2017, Collet, 2017, Perry and Lewis, 2010), we know little about lesson study features that have allowed successful impact in some cases but not others.

Eighty teams of 3-8 elementary educators (no more than one team per school) were recruited and randomly assigned to one of four conditions: lesson study with mathematical resources on fractions (C1); lesson study without mathematical resources on fractions (C2); fractions mathematical resources without lesson study (C3); and business as usual (C4). Teams video-recorded their lesson study meetings (C1 and C2 only). Analyses focus on the features of (1) fractions instruction (e.g., use of linear model or circle area) and (2) lesson study (e.g., study of content and curriculum, anticipation of student thinking, etc.) that moderate increase in student fractions knowledge, using multi-level HLM analyses.

Data Sources:
• Video-recordings of lesson study planning meetings and post-lesson discussions (C1 and C2 only);
• Video-recording of the first three lessons in the fractions unit;
• Pre- and post-assessments of students’ fractions knowledge;
• Pre- and post-surveys of teachers (mathematical knowledge for teaching fractions, expectations for student achievement, perceptions of collegial learning efficacy, growth mindset).

Analyses to date suggest no main effect of C1 on student outcomes, but do suggest features of fractions instruction (e.g., particular fractions models) and lesson study features (e.g., study of curriculum content) associated with higher growth in student fractions knowledge. Cross-case descriptive data tables comparing high-improvement and low-improvement sites (with respect to student fractions learning, teachers’ fractions learning, and teachers’ beliefs related to student growth potential) will illuminate the features of lesson study and classroom instruction associated with improvement.

The findings will allow more thoughtful and targeted future use of lesson study, by clarifying the specific lesson study features that are associated with increases in desired outcomes and providing an empirically-based framework for a Practical Measure to assess lesson study quality.


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