“It brought us together in a way that I’ve never seen before. When we’re all co-invested in a project or a lesson, the buy-in is there and we all want it to succeed…. This is such a good way to collaborate.”
Too much teaching happens in isolation. A central aim of our work is helping educators share practices—across classrooms, departments, and schools. One place we do this is through the Transfer School Institute (TSI), a multiyear professional development network we offer in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Readiness. The focus of TSI is to build the capacity of transfer school principals and teachers in order to help some of the city’s most vulnerable students build the academic behaviors and skills needed for postsecondary success.
As one facet of our 2017–18 Institute, we brought together three schools interested in developing Lesson Study, a model of lesson planning in which a group of teachers collaboratively develops, tests, and refines a lesson plan. East Brooklyn Community High School served as a host school, sharing their knowledge and experience at cross-site visits with two schools just starting the practice: Murray Hill Academy and Jill Chaifetz Transfer School.
At Murray Hill, math teacher Brandon Kline’s department combined the school’s pre-existing inquiry practice with Lesson Study. “We identified a historical problem, started with Regents data and an assessment,” he shared, “And then we created strategies to try to address those problems.” The team jointly planned a lesson incorporating these new strategies. As the lesson was taught, team members observed and then met with students to gather qualitative data on how they experienced it. Alongside quantitative data on which skills students demonstrated after the lesson, this helped them identify how to modify their approach for the next round. Through this work, Brandon saw firsthand different models of collaboration and feedback between teachers that helped inform his team’s work. As they designed their own practice, he witnessed the unique way Lesson Study strengthened collaboration in his department.
“It brought us together in a way that I’ve never seen before,” Brandon says. “When we’re all co-invested in a project or a lesson, the buy-in is there and we all want it to succeed.”
The new perspectives and practices Murray Hill’s team experienced through TSI have had effects beyond Brandon’s immediate team. Lesson Study has now spread to all departments throughout the school. In addition to improving the quality of lessons, this work has affected their model of teaching in a profound way, paving the way for deeper collaboration and team-building between teachers in the future. “Lesson Study is designed to help us build better lessons to help other students, but it’s also a team-building activity,” remarks Brandon. “This is such a good way to collaborate.”