Thursday, October 20, 2011

Student Shadow Studies - Data from Students

Schools are awash in data and principals and their staff are expected to use that data to guide improvements. Recently I was reading some materials from NASSP and was reconnected to the idea of a Student Shadow Study.

A shadow study is a different way of gathering information about how students experience your school. They involve selecting students at random and “shadowing” them throughout their day. The process, originally developed by NASSP, charts what students are experiencing every 5 minutes or so. This allows the observer to chart the ebb and flow of activities during the day. The emphasis is on what the student experience and it provides interesting insights into your school’s program.

Of course students quickly figure out that something is going on. So the best approach is to talk with the student you’re shadowing and assure them that you are not gathering information about them to share with the office. At the end of the day, spend some time with the student. Ask him or her about the day and about his or her typical experiences. Provide time for the student to tell you about their school.

Typically, several students are “shadowed” on the same day. The goal is to put together a collection of snapshots that can help design a portrait of your school from the student’s perspective. The data can then be used to complement other data and inform your school improvement efforts.

I’d enjoy hearing form you about other ways you gather data directly from students about their experience in your school.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Using Lesson Study to Improve Instruction

Recently I was talking with Jim Boen, principal of La Pine Middle School in La Pine, OR about his school’s use of lesson study as a professional development tool. Jim discussed how interdisciplinary teams use the lesson study design as a way to focus on improving instruction and building a collaborative culture.

Lesson study, originally used by Japanese teachers, involves groups of teachers in a collaborative process designed to systematically examine their practice with the goal of becoming more effective. It emphasizes working in small groups to plan, teach, observe and critique a lesson.

A sample lesson study protocol:

  • Participants should be volunteers
  • Members work collaboratively to design a lesson
  • One member teaches the lesson in a real classroom while other members observe
  • The group discusses their observations about the lesson and student learning
  • The lesson is revised and another member of the group teaches the revised lesson while other members observe
  • The group reconvenes to discuss the observed lesson

The revision process may continue as long as the group believes it is necessary.

I'd enjoy hearing from you about your experience with lesson study and other strategies for working with your teachers to improve student learning.

Resources on Lesson Study:

What is Lesson Study? – Columbia University

Chicago Lesson Study Group -