After a week of observing lessons and interviewing key players who support of lesson study at a systems level it seems clear that the lesson is central to the professional development of teachers in Japan whether this be facilitated by lesson study or by other means. Lessons appear to be the main focus of thinking of teachers and other educationalists in thinking about professional developmental all stages of a teacher’s career.
After observing five lessons that involved some element of peer assessment focussed on mathematical problem solving in Tokyo what have I learned?
First I should clarify that the lessons all involved students in developing a mathematical model of some reality – or situation that is easily realisable to teenage students. By this I mean, in the sense of the Freudenthal group in Utrecht, that it is some form of reality that is more or less real and meaningful to students. In one particular lesson this reality was concerned with a virtual reality character, or avatar, so perhaps both real and virtual at the same time!
The lessons with respect to peer assessment were very similar to what we might expect in such lessons in England – I feel secure in this judgement given that one of the lessons was taught by an accompanying teacher from England (and the others taught by Japanese teachers were similar in form and structure).
It was very much noticeable that peer assessment is time consuming. Perhaps this isn’t surprising as we are asking students to make sense of someone else’s mathematical thinking and decide what they were doing – and how, make a judgement about how well this matches against the learning objective in relation to the design of the lesson, then give feedback about what to do next. This would be difficult enough if it were entirely in relation to understanding a mathematical concept but given that we have been exploring problem solving process skills we are definitely in uncharted waters. So it all takes some considerable time and requires a great deal of support. More than we saw in any of the lessons in Tokyo.
Indeed, given that the amount of time and support students will need with such peer assessment we need to be very convinced of the long term value of investing so much effort on the need to involve our students in this. Our ultimate aim in working on peer assessment in this way is that it will help students understand how best to monitor their own work and reflect on how to improve it. This seems a very useful, if not essential, skill in problem solving and therefore it does seem worthwhile to invest the time and energy in lessons that develop peer assessment in this way.and if this is the case we have to provide time and space in lessons to work on this – and to have a conversation with the whole class about how to support each other in making progress.
During the post-lesson discussion if one if the lessons I was reminded of this YouTube clip about Austin’s Butterfly. In this Austin makes huge progress as he drafts and redrafts his drawing of a butterfly to get closer to reality. We are a long way from being able to assist a problem solving Austin in becoming more proficient with his problem solving but that’s what we – and Japanese colleagues are aiming to do.
For more information about our current work see here.
A little more detail about lesson study by our colleagues in Japan can be found here.
I find I am constantly having to justify my use of photo-shop when ‘processing’ the raw data that my camera captures. Why is this? Isn’t all life photo-shopped?
Two views of the same doors?
Glance away from your screen for a moment and focus on a distant object. What do you see? All the other clutter surrounding you? Probably not. But if you took a photograph of the view from where you are it would include lots of distracting paraphernalia. Our brain does the processing – the ‘photo-shopping’ if you like. To some extent we see things the way that we want them to be. Our interpretation is individually unique. The way we see the world depends on our previous experiences and the filters we use.
This is nicely demonstrated by our use of Twitter (which if you don’t use, I fully recommend). You can browse the global ‘community’ of Twitter but much of what we read is filtered and restricted to those parts of the twitter world that speaks to our prejudices. I rarely read anything on my twitter feed that I disagree with as I don’t ‘follow’ disagreeable folk. Well, Toby Young is an exception – it’s good to be provoked into a disagreeable rant from time to time even if he must work particularly hard to maintain such a high output of such right wing cant.
And given that Twitter to some extent just mimics other social interactions (although you are restricted to a sort of grunting) by implication we ‘photo-shop’ our social world all of the time. We almost always only mix with those who can be considered ‘one-of-us’. Which brings me to one of my recent pet-hates…..Radio 4. Is it getting worse or am I just becoming increasingly aware of how Radio 4 speaks not with and to people of different classes and backgrounds? To be more direct – across Radio 4 programming there is a tendency to speak about and with the working classes, and to some extent anyone with a regional accent, in a way that makes it quite clear that they are not ‘one-of-us’. I’m beginning to get increasingly irritated by this. Just one recent example was James Naughtie’s interviewing of three women medal Olympic medal winners on the Today programme. It was absolutely clear which one Naughtie considered as ‘one-of-us’ and it wasn’t Nicola Adams!
Rant over! So we ‘photo-shop’ our own personal world all the time! Should I worry – certainly not as it makes it easier to deal with. But there are dangers as we can see with the ‘photo-shopping’ that we witness in the ‘difficult decisions’ that the millionaires in the current government cabinet have been making. It seems important to me that we are aware that we are photo-shopping and sanitizing the messiness of the world in which we live to our own personal preferences and prejudices. Maybe in 2013 we should experiment with some new filters and enlarge our ‘photo-shopped’ world!