Monday, December 7, 2009

Looking to Lesson Study in 2010

Many of Singapore teachers are now in Hong Kong for the Third WALS Conference. Unfortunately, I am not able to join them this year.

Looking forward to 2010, I will be conducting two inservice courses in the first half of the year. The first is for beginners Lesson Study in Primary Mathematics: Concepts & Design while the second is for those who want to actually try it out Lesson Study in Primary Mathematics: Implementation. The first course is workshop-based training where participants will have a go in crafting research theme and have a sense of what lesson study involves. I was told that 35 participants have registered and as such the registration is closed. The second course requires participants to form teams of three to six and they will be guided through the stages in lesson study.

APEC HRD Lesson Study Project is having the first meeting in 2010 in Japan with research lessons in primary-level science and mathematics. This is followed by two days of conference on discussing lesson study with a focus on assessment and curriculum materials. I will attend as a country specialist under the Tsukuba University fund and four teams from schools and MOE will be joining the conference. Fifteen of us from Singapore will attend the conference. There will be a follow-up conference in Chiangmai, Thailand in November 2010.

The East Asian Regional Conference on Mathematics Education EARCOME5 will be held in Japan and will include a lesson study component.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lesson Study Symposium

The lesson study in primary mathematics event on 2-3 September 2009 was organized by Ministry of Education Singapore in collaboration with SEAMEO RECSAM. About 50 teachers from more than 10 primary schools participated. On the first day, I did a lecture on lesson study in primary mathematics in Singapore. Dr Cheah Ui Hock was the main facilitator. Teachers in the two research lessons - Siti and Niswan presented their lesson plans and the participants wrre forth-coming with suggestions to improve them. The second day revolves around the two research lessons - one on division for Primary One and the other on word problems for Primary Six. The slides of my lecture is at

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lesson Study at PCF Kindergartens Tampines East

The team has completed the research lesson and post-lesson discussion. I will be writing about this research lesson in a few days. The team, in the coming days, will be compleing the lesson study cycle by revising the lesson plan. I have made several suggestions for the team o focus on students collaboration and problem solving which are the reseacrh theme. As the lessons included science as well and art-and-craft, I have also suggesed that the team discuss concepts and skills in these domains that are natural to children as well as those that requires explicit instruction, those which are easy for children this age grasp readily and those that are difficult to them.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lesson Study at PCF Kindergartens Zhenghua

The second team to launch their lesson study journey is the team from Zhenghua comprising of the vice principal and three teachers teaching Kindergarten 2 (K2). They have decided to do lesson study on the unit on Nature. Their research theme is to develop amongst the students a sense of responsibility towards the environment.
The research lesson is on methods of seed dispersion. The lesson plan comprises three segments. First, students sort seeds into groups. Later, a book will be used to show how a seed is dispersed. The children will then be engaged in a discussion of how seeds they have brought are dispersed. In the last segment, they will be made aware of their roles in seed dispersion.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lesson Study at PCF Kindergartens Tanjong Pagar

It is so exciting. We presented lesson study as a means of professional development of teachers in PCF Kindergarten some time back. Five kindergartens have taken up the offer to try it out. Most of them will do it in Term 3 of the school year. But Tanjong Pagar's centre has kicked start the process. This project receives the support of Ministry of Education.
The team of four teachers met last Friday. The team includes the principal. After the planning meeting, the team has decided to focus on how children acquire a new idea. The lesson is on addition within 20. The team decided that addition by making ten will be a new idea. The members were interested in how the new idea can be developed through play, how to create a situation for children to move into the idea, how the teacher can facilitate the process and how children interact with each other and respect each others' ideas in the process of moving into the new idea.
When asked what their learning is during the planning session, one teacher said she learnt a lot, new things she has not heard before or used before. Another teacher mentioned she learn about the tens frame that can be used to help children acquire the make ten strategy. Another teacher used to think that teaching addition is well simply teaching adding. She said she now realize that there are many strategies to do addition. Another concurred with her and said she learnt by listening to her colleagues.

Redesigning Pedagogy Conference 2009

Deborah Ball's keynote on What is the Work of Teaching Mathematics? reminded us on the complexity of teaching. Teaching mathematics is an intricate activity that requires teachers to have all kinds of knowledge. Among others, subject matter knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. She mentioned two new categories - knowledge horizon under subject matter knowledge and knowledge of curriculum under pedagogical content knowledge.
Lesson study offers a viable way for teachers to acquire this knowledge set.
The team from Canossa Convent Primary School shared their use of lesson study to learn more about lessons that took into account learning styles.Tatang Suratno from Indonesia focused on teacher reflection aspect of lesson study.
I think SYM013 on variation theory by the team from Hong Kong is useful in selecting tasks in research lessons. There is also a Hong Kong presentation on Learning Study, a variant of lesson study. See SYM006.
Ho Geok Lan and her collegeaus will present a paper on building a professional learning community through lesson study and Michelle Tan will present a paper on the learning study approach to biology teachers' professional development.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chicago Lesson Study Conference 2010

The Chicago Lesson Study Conference will be held at DePaul University next spring, Thursday and Friday 4/29/10 and 4/30/10. There will be a pre-conference and reception on Wednesday evening, 4/28/10.
This is organized by a team led by Prof Takahashi Akihiko.

Lesson Study Team North Vista Primary School

The team of four teachers were participants of an inservice course. The meetings with myself were on 5 May, 23 May, and 27 May. In the first meeting, which was attended by the Principal and Head of Mathematics and Science, we focused on developing the research theme and helping teachers understand the lesson-study process better. Although they had attended some workshops, they still felt that they needed to have an opportunity to clarify some questions.
The team met on their own to plan the research lesson. I met them once to discuss the lesson plan. As their research theme is on students developing conceptual understanding in mathematics, I kept on asking the team if the steps in the lesson plans and the examples selection can help students develop conceptual understanding.
The team had to do a bit of modification to the research lesson as the students were going to m missed a lesson due to a school outing. Also, our discussion went off tangent for a few moments as some members brought up an interesting observation from a lesson on equivalent fraction.
The research lesson was on comparing two fractions with the same numerator but different denominators.
At the end of the lesson planning sessions, team members were asked to share a learning point. I started the ball rolling. One teacher noted that she realized how important the selection of examples was. In the discussion, I asked teachers several times why the tasks selected were so and if the selection or its alternative would lead to better conceptual understanding. For example when these three were put up: compare 1/2 and 1/8, compare 2/3 and 2/5 and compare 5/12 and 5/8, I pressed the team to explain the wisdom of having 1/2 and 1/8 as the first example. One member gave an illuminating answer that 1/2 and 1/8 are obviously different. Students would be able to say that 1/2 is larger without having to change both 1/2 and 1/8 to a common denominator. The discussion ended with the point that using an obvious case where students can use prior knowledge to validate the 'new' method would enhance conceptual understanding.
Two others said they learnt from the case of the unusual pattern students raised during a lesson on equivalent fraction other members shared (see photo). One of them mentioned that sometimes as teachers we tended to "focus on what is in the textbook (and) too quick to discount" students' responses.
Finally, another member realized how important the concept of trigger and source is. In the discussion, I discussed in the context of preparing for the research lesson, to be on a look out for conceptual understanding (I summarized some indicators of conceptual understanding which the teachers gave - if they can use correct terms, if they can recognize a pattern, if they are able to use diagrams to explain and if they are able to resolve apparent conflicts) and the triggers and sources of these conceptual understanding.
The team met on their own to finalize the lesson plan and to prepare the resources for the research lesson...

Friday, May 8, 2009

IME4512 Lesson Study in Primary Mathematics: Implementation

So far two schools have started the lesson study process. The team at North Vista Primary School has met to discuss the research theme and their initial plan for the research lesson. They will now go into the lesson planning process. Their research theme is along the line of children developing conceptual understanding by having their voices respected.
The team from Haig Girls' Primary School met to settle their research theme. They are working on developing students' critical thinking through cooperation and collaboration. They have also started to work on their lesson plans which will be for lessons on decimals (primary five).
Teams are encouraged to read the blog about setting research theme. See below.


Please see the blog on WALS 2009 for information on proceedings of WALS2008.

Friday, April 24, 2009

NCTM 2009 Annual Meeting & Exposition

This is an annual conference for US teachers. Lots of professional development opportunities and a chance to look at teaching materials and manipulatives at the Exposition. Next year it will be at San Diago, California ( 21-24 April 2010.
There were 828 sessions in all! Plenty to choose from. There were some on lesson study in mathematics too. Akihiko Takahashi did one on What We Learn Through Lesson Study: Ideas to Design Lessons for All. I went to the lecture by Deborah Ball and she proposed this idea on teachers' horizon knowledge and how it can be developed. I suppose lesson study can help teachers develop this knowledge which essentially is knowledge that allows them to understand where the mathematics their students learn will lead them to.
Jane Gorman presented a session on Starting Lesson Study at Your School.
I went to the National Research Council Report on Early Mathematics (Doug Clements, Karen Fuson, Sybilla Beckman & Herbert Ginsburg) to get some ideas as I will be working more and more with the kindergartens. In the evening I went to a session that got us solving primary school problems - quite fun if you like solving mathematics problems. I was presenting on the second day - two presentations - so I doubt I will have a chance to attend any sessions.
Other than Takahashi, the other people from the APEC Lesson Study group who were there were Patsy Wang, Lim Chap Sam, Makoto Yoshida and myself.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lesson Study P3 Mathematics Teachers at PEPS

I have formed a lesson study team with a group of PEPS primary three teachers. We met for an hour on Tuesday. I tried to bring the team through the process of developing a lesson plan for research lesson. We talked about learning how to help low-achieving students develop into competent and independent problems solvers who can handle a variety of word problems with less scaffolding and guidance. In particular, in this research lesson, the team wants to explore the use of making-sense strategy (in particular with the help of pictorial representations and diagrams including but not limited to the model method), to find out how to assess students accurately during a lesson on word problems, and to see if students learn to do division better using an alternate strategy instead of the long division method.
The team leader doing such as session will request the team members to think of students' difficulties and use that to focus what the team has as it learning goals for the lesson-study cycle.
In this case, we have selected a stand-alone lesson which can happen after students have learnt a variety of operations - addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Lesson Study at Redesigning Pedagogy Conference 2009 at NIE

This June, we will have the Redesigning Pedagogy Conference at the NIE. Kiyomi Akita (Tokyo University) told me that she will be at the conference to be part of a symposium put together by Christine Lee (CTL/NIE). Don't miss this opportunity to hear more about lesson study if you are attending the conference.
Look out for Deborah Ball's (University of Michigan) keynote lecture a sit give us some ideas about teacher capacity. Deborah Ball is a mathematics educators so her examples are likely to be all mathematics.

Friday, March 20, 2009

WALS International Conference 2009 8 - 10 December

WALS2008 Electronic Proceedings is now available at
I am glad to announce that The World Association of Lesson Studies International Conference 2009 will be held from 8 to 10 December 2009 in Hong Kong. This year, the theme is “Collaborative Knowledge Creation through Lesson and Learning Study”. The conference features keynote speeches, presentations by teachers and researchers from different countries, school visits etc.

More information of the program will be uploaded onto our website at
Should you have any questions, please contact our conference secretary, Miss Anna SETO at (852) 2948 8052 or email her at .
Please bring this message to your friends and colleagues too. We look forward to seeing you at WALS 09!
Warmest regards,
KO Po-yuk, Ph.D.
Chairperson of the Conference Organizing Committee

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Crafting Research Theme

Lesson Study is a professional development process and involves teachers collaboratively investigating their own practice to become more effective.

Such investigation involves planning, teaching, observing, critiquing and revising a small number of lessons. These lessons are called ‘study lessons’ or ‘research lessons’. It is in these lessons that teachers study, research and investigate teaching and learning.

To provide direction and focus, an over-arching goal and the related research questions should be set right in the beginning.

The first step in the lesson study process is to formulate this over-arching goal, sometimes referred to as research theme, and the related research questions.
These are some drafts of research theme articulated by the participants of the lesson study course. The research themes are broad and long-term in nature. And they are linked to the vision of the department, school and Ministry of Education.
The research theme can be adopted by lesson study teams in different grade levels and for different mathematics lessons on various topics.
The research theme is broad to provide a wider range of learning experiences. The research questions, based on the research theme, can be made more specific.
For the research theme selected, what are the ideal characteristics of the students? What are the actual characteristics of the students? Hence, what is the gap between the two? How do we close the gaps? These are the questions that the subsequent stages of the lesson-study process aim to provide answers to.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Related Readings Educational Leadership February 2009

Educational Leadership, February 2009, Volume 66, Number 5, Page 7 .

This whole issue of Educational Leadership is at

When asked about the tough stance many policymakers currently take toward teachers, one middle school teacher and administrator had something to say. On a visit to the ASCD offices, ASCD book author Robyn Jackson noted, "If teachers aren't raising test scores sufficiently, reformers say they should be weeded out. The same people believe that 'All students can learn.' Why don't they start believing that 'all teachers can learn'?" Robyn asked.

Her book, with the provocative title Never Work Harder Than Your Students and Other Principles of Great Teaching (ASCD, 2009), reflects her faith that "the gift of being a master teacher is not the exclusive domain of a blessed few" (p. xv). Anyone can become a master teacher with the right kind of practice and mind-set, she writes. As her title slyly implies, however, the process entails taking a good look inward. "You want to raise your expectations of your students," she says, "but first you have to raise your expectations of yourself."

This issue of Educational Leadership examines the many ways that educators can improve their practice and refresh their mind-set, starting with an idea whose time has come: the professional learning community (PLC).

In a look at how high-achieving nations invest in their teachers, researchers Ruth Chung Wei, Alethea Andree, and Linda Darling-Hammond (p. 28) note that, internationally, time for professional learning is built into most teachers' work hours. More than 85 percent of schools in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland provide time each week for teachers' professional collaboration. And in South Korea, Japan, and Singapore, teachers spend only about 35 percent of their working time in the classroom; the rest is for sharing, planning, and working together.

"I believe that the professional learning community is the most powerful strategy and structure available now for schools to improve their effectiveness," says Shirley M. Hord (who with Stephanie A. Hirsch writes in this issue). "I am, however, concerned about the wide variation in definition of PLCs. The word learning seems so frequently ignored. But isn't it continuous professional learning that increases, expands, and improves quality teaching, the most significant factor in whether students learn well? Meeting together is only a necessary beginning."
In "Moving Beyond Talk," Debra Smith, Bruce Wilson, and Dick Corbett (p. 20) elaborate on the conditions that heighten the quality of learning in collaborative communities, among them voluntary participation and trained facilitators. Hord and Hirsch add rules for principals who want to help learning communities move from talk to action (p. 22).

Another author in our issue, teacher Bill Ferriter (p. 34), has found that an electronic meeting of the minds can enhance his learning, especially because "adult learning is often pushed aside in schools as educators sprint through the day." His solution was to join the education blogging community for 20 minutes each morning. "Some blogs leave me challenged. Some leave me angry. Some leave me jazzed. All leave me energized and ready to learn more," he writes. Blogs are not only a forum for public discussion, but also a way educators can prepare themselves-and their students-for a future driven by networked learning.

In her research column, Tracy Huebner (p. 88) reminds us that teacher learning is an iterative process, involving both group interaction and self-reflection. Teachers who at first reject a new idea may yet assimilate that idea and make it their own. "It challenges the myth that once teachers walk into their classrooms and close the door, no messages get through," Tracy writes. "In fact, we know that classroom doors are permeable."

In our lead article, Sonia Nieto (p. 8) reminds educators of the many reasons they entered the profession-from the desire to engage with intellectual work to the hope of changing students' lives, from a belief in the democratic potential of public education to anger at the conditions of schools today. All of these are at the heart of what makes for excellent and caring teachers. She writes:
Probably the most significant action school districts can take in changing the nature of professional development is to provide meaningful and engaging programs that respect the intelligence and good will of teachers. The conditions in which they work are often trying. If we are to keep good teachers in the classroom, [we] need to find ways to create environments in which teachers can form strong collaborative relationships with their peers and in which they can continue to learn about themselves, their students, and their students' communities.

Her advice to first-year teachers is worth repeating:
"Make a friend." By this I mean work to create a community. When teachers develop allies, they remain fresh, committed, and hopeful.
And they also learn."

IME4511 Lesson Study in Primary Mathematics: Concepts & Design

Lesson Study in Primary Mathematics: Concepts and Design is an inservice and Maris Stella High (Primary) School hosted it on four Monday afternoons.
In the first session, participants were introduced to the basics of lesson study. In particular, they watched a video on lesson study in the Japanese education system to understand how lesson study fits into the professional development of teachers. They also watched another video on lesson study in mathematics, also from Japan, to see what it means when we describe lesson study as comprising of (a) lesson planning (b) research lesson (c) post-lesson discussion and (d) revising lesson plan.
By the end of the first session, we have gone on to identify the research theme for a lesson study effort. When schools want to begin lesson study, they should start by articulating the research theme which serves to give focus and direction to teacher learning. Participants were asked to compile the vision and mission of the education system, their school and their department to help them articulate their research theme. This research theme will be used to describe ideal student characteristics wrt the research theme. Participants were also asked to locate information about the actual student characteristics. The gap between the actual and ideal will be crucial in the subsequent stages of lesson study.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Lesson Study Events 2009

Inservice Courses

There are two in-service courses for lesson study in primary mathematics offered by NIE. The one in March (2, 9, 23 and 26 March 2009) focuses on concepts and principles. This is suitable for beginners. The other one is on the implementation and the course is essentially your team doing one cycle of lesson study. This can be done anytime between April and July and takes place in your school. This second course has started and schools have started to form their lesson study team to accomplish the task. Please see TRAISI for more details.
NIE Courses by CTL

Patsy Wang-Iverson conducted two level one workshops, one during the March school break in Temasek Secondary and another during the term in St Stephen's Primary School. There was also a level two workshop during th eMarch school break. She aslo did one in-house session for Jurong Secondary School.

Symposium on Lesson Study in Mathematics

We are planning to hold this symposium during the September holidays or end of the year. We are still looking at partners to co-host it. Details are still being worked out. If your school or organization is interested to co-host this with us, please let me know. This symposium is a follow-up from the one we had in June 2008 (NIE) organized by NIE and AME and the first one that we had in August 2007 (Cedar Primary School) organized by NIE and Tsukuba University.

Projects with Professor Akihiko Takahashi

Two primary schools are involved in a project with Akihiko Takahashi. When he is in town in September 2009, we will most likely organised workshops for teachers in Singapore. Keep a look out for this.


WALS2009 takes place on 8-10 December 2009. It will be in Hong Kong again. The subsequent WALS will be outside Hong Kong. In fact, we are looking for it to be held in Singapore in the coming year.

Learning Journey to Japan

I am discussing with Makoto Yoshida and Akihiko Takahashi to organise a study trip to Japan to learn more about lesson study in mathematics. The one planned for June-July for the US teachers is cancelled because of the economic situation in the US where funding for education has been reduced.

The photo shows teachers participating in a research lesson as part of an in-service course on mathematical problem-solving heuristics in October 2008. The lesson was held at Princess Elizabeth School, Singapore.