Supporting School Improvement through Lesson Study

Di Hatchett

Di spoke on developing great teaching through Lesson Study at Oxford University Press’ Developing Great Teaching Conference in London on 23rd June, hosted in collaboration with the Teacher Development Trust, NAHT and NAHT Edge. Here she follows up her seminar. You’ll find a selection of resources and videos from the day on our website.

‘A systematic and integrated approach to staff development, that focuses on the professional learning of teachers and establishes the classroom as an important centre for teacher development, is central to successful school improvement’

Hopkins et al, 2000, Creating the conditions for teaching and learning

Lesson Study has its roots in the Far East where it is practised widely in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and China. It has been an intrinsic part of Japanese education for more than 100 years and is strongly associated with the success of their education system. In the past 10 years Lesson Study has developed in a number of other locations, including USA, Sweden and UK.

What is Lesson Study?

Lesson Study is a highly specified form of classroom enquiry that focuses on improving an aspect of teaching and learning through collaborative study. It involves teachers collaboratively planning, teaching, observing and analysing learning and teaching in ‘Research Lessons’ and recording their findings

Over a cycle of research lessons, teachers may innovate, refine or develop further a pedagogical approach intended to strengthen pupil learning and accelerate progress. This learning – both pupil learning and teacher learning –  is then shared with others in the school and potentially beyond.

How does Lesson Study support School Improvement?

Lesson study fulfills the criteria shown from research as associated with effective professional learning for teacherseffective in that it results in teachers making changes in practice which, in turn, make a real impact on children’s learning and thereby help to close achievement gaps.

A Sutton Trust review found that, over a school year, pupils from poorer backgrounds gain over 18 months of learning with very effective teachers compared with 6 months with those who are less effective.

The impact of Collaborative Professional Development

The Lesson Study process involves intensive collaborative Professional Development and is based on 3 underlying principles

  • Teachers learn best from and improve their practice by observing other teachers teach;
  • In Lesson Study teachers focus on the quality of their pupils’ learning;
  • Teachers who have developed a deep understanding of subject knowledge and pedagogy should share that knowledge with colleagues.

Lesson Study is fully aligned with the findings of research into what works in effective professional learning, which:

  • Is intensive, ongoing and connected to practice
  • Immerses teachers in enquiry, questioning and experimentation
  • Focuses on pupil learning
  • Addresses the teaching of specific curriculum content
  • Aligns with school priorities and goals
  • Builds strong relationships among teachers – a commitment to improve not only one’s own practice but that of others.

Ref: Guskey, T. (2005 Evaluating Professional Development, eTech Ohio)

Lesson Study and Government Guidance on CPD

Lesson Study meets the criteria set out in the DfE Standard for teachers’ professional development (2016):

As the most important profession for our nation’s future, teachers need considerable knowledge and skill, which need to be developed as their careers progress. As the Teachers’ Standards set out, teachers make the education of their pupils their first concern, and are accountable for achieving the highest possible standards in work and conduct. The Teachers’ Standards set out a number of expectations about professional development; namely, that teachers should:

  • keep their knowledge and skills as teachers up-to-date and be self-critical;
  • take responsibility for improving teaching through appropriate professional 
development, responding to advice and feedback from colleagues;
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how pupils learn and how this has 
an impact on teaching; have a secure knowledge of the relevant subject(s) and curriculum areas;
  • reflect systematically on the effectiveness of lessons and approaches to teaching; 
and know and understand how to assess the relevant subject and curriculum areas.


Teach less, and teach better……Our greatest resource is our teachers and our most precious resource is their time; it is common sense, then, that we must give our greatest resource the time to learn to become even better teachers.

John Tomsett,Headteacher, Huntingdon School York


Lesson Study: Where to find out more

World Association of Lesson Study (WALS)

WALS aims to promote and advance the research and practices focused on Lesson Studies in order to improve the quality of teaching and learning. It provides a platform for research collaboration, mutual assistance and information exchange among its members. It is made up of educational researchers and teaching professionals committed to the improvement of the quality of learning.

WALS Annual International Conference 2016 : University of Exeter September 3-6

Lesson Study UK

Lesson Study UK aims to help education professionals who are interested in using Lesson Study to improve practice in teaching and learning. The aim is to provide practical support and information about Lesson Study to leaders and teachers in schools, settings, colleges and universities in the UK and beyond.

Teacher Development Trust (TDT)

The TDT is a collaborative partnership of schools and colleges focused on innovation and improvement through highly effective and evidence-based staff professional development and learning. The members shape and develop its work and are committed to the principle of peer-to-peer support.

Every Child Counts Lesson Study (Edge Hill University)

In 2013-2015, Edge Hill University completed a high-level lesson study research programme, which included 75 research schools and 75 control schools, and was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation; the findings will be announced in 2017.

The long established Every Child Counts Programme now includes provision of CPD in Lesson Study (available across UK)

Di Hatchett’s career in primary education spans over 40 years, including twelve years as a head teacher, service as Senior Director with the National Strategies, and Director of the Every Child a Chance Trust. Di’s expertise is the development of high-quality approaches to intervention for children who struggle with the development of core skills in literacy and/or mathematics.

Di is one of the series editors of Project X CODE and School Improvement Pathways on Oxford Owl.

If you missed the Developing Great Teaching Conference, you can find a selection of resources and videos on our website!