Leveraging the Power of Improvement Networks to Spread Lesson Study

By High Tech High Graduate School of Education

The High Tech High Graduate School of Education, in partnership with three Southern California school districts, will leverage lesson study within a networked improvement community (NIC) to explore how student-centered instruction and assessment strategies impact student mathematical understanding and achievement, particularly for Latinx and African American students. NICs, with their emphasis on scale and spread, are a unique opportunity to leverage lesson study as a powerful learning tool by engaging teachers in cycles of inquiry focused on real-time student sense-making and understanding.

The research team will use a continuous improvement framework to:

  • Craft a communal vision of ambitious student-centered teaching for equity
  • Build the mathematical knowledge necessary to teach for student understanding
  • Develop pedagogical skills necessary to enact ambitious instruction in classrooms

What is Lesson Study?

Lesson study is a form of professional learning that teachers use to deepen their understanding of student thinking. Public lesson study events are a common occurrence in Japan. A group of lesson study teachers, a research team, craft a lesson together to explore an aspect of student thinking – usually guided by a broad research question. (i.e. How can we facilitate rich mathematical discussions in our classrooms?) One member of the group teaches the lesson (although the lesson belongs to the group and is not seen as any one person’s lesson) while the other teachers collect data on student thinking. The research team teachers then share their findings during a debrief and discuss implications for student learning, future lessons, and what they learned about their research question. By making the process public, student and teacher learning are made visible.

Research Questions

The study will address the following research questions:

  • How does teacher participation in lesson study – anticipating student thinking, planning student-centered instruction collaboratively, collecting data on student thinking, and debriefing together – within the context of a NIC influence their students’ mathematical agency and achievement?
  • How does participating in lesson study impact teacher practice and agency –the belief that they can improve and have the tools and pedagogical skills to meet the learning needs of all their students?
  • How do teachers use data within the context of lesson study to assess student thinking and drive instructional next steps?
  • What are the contextual, structural, cultural, and interpersonal conditions in schools – and in NICs – that support and/or hinder lesson study and teachers’ development of student-centered, equitable practices?


This mixed-methods study will explore the impact of lesson study within a NIC on Latinx and African American students’ mathematical agency and success. Several student-centered math practices – including a launch-explore-discuss lesson structure and strategies to foster positive group work interactions – have been shown to increase student achievement in mathematics for traditionally underserved students (Boaler, 2006; Cross et al., 2012; Kisker, et al., 2012). However, the siloed nature of teaching makes it challenging for teachers to experience and refine practices in their own contexts. As a result, conflicting visions of what mathematics is and who excels at it can impede the adoption of ambitious, equitable teaching practices.

The research team will engage K-12 students as co-designers and collaborators in the lesson study process and in the networked improvement efforts, and hold public lesson study events where parents and community members will be invited to attend.

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