Section Menu

Endeavor Foundation Center for Faculty Development

Lesson Study Projects

Form a team to develop a lesson study project.  See below for details.

What Is Lesson Study?

Lesson study projects are team-based studies of a single lesson, carefully developed to support a significant learning goal. Three to six people work closely together to create, implement, and study a single lesson, typically a class period plus its preparatory and post-class homework.  The goal of lesson study projects is to “put a lesson under the microscope, to carefully analyze how students learn from our teaching and then use that knowledge to improve future performance—ours and theirs” (Cerbin, 2011, 2).

At the end of these projects, the team has

  • a set of shareable activities carefully developed to support a significant learning goal,
  • a deep, evidence-based, multi-perspective analysis of a thin slice of student learning, and
  • the opportunity to share the work through publications and presentations in SoTL and pedagogy venues.

How does it work?  Bill Cerbin's 2011 book Lesson Study: Using Classroom Inquiry to Improve Teaching and Learning in Higher Education is a simple, effective guide to conducting an effective lesson study project. Teams will receive copies of Cerbin's book to guide their process. Click the "How Does It Work?" tab above to see a brief outline of the process.

How Does It Work?

These projects are intensely collaborative: rather than efficiently "jigsawing" the work across the team, every step is completed collaboratively as the entire research team works together and contributes from relevant and varied perspectives.  The steps are as follows:

  1. Form a research team with relevant and varied perspectives. Disciplinary or multidisciplinary groups of faculty members may form a team, but students, librarians, instructional design partners, and other staff are also fantastic members of the research team. Think about the learning goal (step #2).  Whose perspectives would be most helpful?
  2. With the entire team, identify significant learning goal, and design a lesson that supports that goal.  A single lesson typically includes relevant preparatory homework, in-class activities that make student thinking visible, post-class homework. (See an example on pages 3-4 in here.)
  3. With the entire team, design the study of that lesson. What evidence or artifacts of student thinking are generated through the lesson's activities? Are there any additional artifacts or forms of data that would be helpful? 
  4. Apply for IRB approval. At least one member from the team will probably want to publish something from this project, so this is the perfect time to put the information from steps 1-3 into an IRB application
  5. With the entire team, teach the lesson, and observe and analyze the artifacts of student thinking. While one team member teaches the lesson, the rest of the team observes the students and collects evidence of their thinking. Afterwards, the team analyzes the lesson's artifacts and discusses what and how students learned (or didn't), and what the team learned. Revise the lesson as needed to support student learning.
  6. Repeat step 5 in another team member's class. This step helps clarify any unclear parts of the lesson and, perhaps more importantly, allows the research team to gather additional evidence of student thinking relevant to a significant learning goal.
  7. Document and disseminate. At a minimum, the team will have a clearly written lesson (with instructions for instructors and handouts for students as relevant) to share with colleagues. There are plenty of peer-reviewed journals that accept narrative descriptions of effective lessons. Lesson study projects are also highly publishable as forms of SoTL projects (e.g., the study, the findings, the collaborative work of the team).  See "Where To Publish, and/or consult with Nancy Chick.

If you're interested in conducting a lesson study project, click the "How Do I Get Started?" tab above.

How Do I Get Started?

After you've read the "What Is Lesson Study?" and "How Does It Work?" sections, let Nancy Chick know that you're forming a team. You'll get a copy of Cerbin's book, which will walk the team through the process.  You can also invite Nancy to one of your early meetings (or consult with her individually) as you get started--or at any point along the way.

The Endeavor Center will support lesson study projects with $300 to each fully-participating team member--awarded upon submission of a brief explanation of the study, the first iteration of the lesson, and a study plan.  (Complete this form and submit it to Nancy Chick.)

An additional $450 will be awarded to each fully-participating team member upon the completion of the lesson study project and submission of a final report.