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Manchester Institute of Education

Teacher education and lesson study research

Organiser: Julian Williams, Olwen McNamara and Rosa Archer


Lesson study: Teacher education projects

Research team involved currently:

The primary aim of the research is to establish how lesson study can help practising teachers (novice and experienced) in developing their classroom practice; and how can lesson study be successfully developed within the secondary initial teacher education and CPD courses. No such research exists though there are many CPD projects encouraging lesson study world-wide and even a few in the UK.

 Lesson study is a means of improving and developing the practice of teaching by collectively focussing on the mathematics that the learners produce in the conditions of a jointly planned lesson: close study and analysis of the learners' work in the lesson is crucial. Our lesson study involves a small team of joint planners who collaborate with the 'usual ' class teacher in planning, and in collecting data from the focal lesson, and jointly review the experience afterwards with a view to developing an improved lesson.

Initially in 2011-13 the research was carried out by The University of Manchester in partnership with Altrincham Grammar School for Girls involving seven secondary schools in Greater Manchester and our University of Manchester PGCE mathematics team. During the following academic years the whole PGCE cohort of 50 student teachers with mentors from 6 partner schools.

In addition in 2013-14 we extend the work via a national DfE project run by NCETM: the multiplicative reasoning KS3 project, in which we partner with AGGS and Nottingham and Southampton lesson study teams.

Workplace learning in teacher education

Funder: ESRC
PI: Olwen McNamara
Grant: £18,000
Duration: 2011

The series of five seminars will focus on teacher workplace learning, an area of strategic importance both in England and internationally: current education policy positions teachers, and teacher professional learning, as key to the effectiveness of school systems.

The series plans to critically engage with current policy agendas in England to develop a more theoretically informed and robust model of teacher workplace learning that will generate evidence and understanding to inform policy and practice, and will in turn help to drive change in the profession. In doing so the series aims to cross-fertilise research and practice in the field of education with that in other professional fields, such as educational psychology and medicine, and also to draw upon knowledge of teacher professional learning from education systems across the UK and Europe.

The series will also attempt to explore what can be gleaned by drawing on insights from socio-cultural theory, activity theory and social learning theories in analysing the theoretical and pedagogic underpinnings of teacher workplace learning.

The seminars will additionally sustain and foster cross-institutional networking in the Northwest of England that was generated by a previous ESRC funded project focused on building the research capacity of and in teacher education.

The Teacher Education Research Network (TERN)

Funder: ESRC
Co-applicant: Olwen McNamara
Grant: £89,000
Duration: 2008-2009

The Teacher Education Research Network (TERN) is a network for research capacity-building in the North West of England. Its main aim is to develop a strong and sustainable collaborative network of teacher educators to build research capacity across the seven regional universities involved in teacher education. The participating institutions are the Universities of Chester, Cumbria, Edge Hill, Liverpool Hope, Liverpool John Moores, Manchester Metropolitan and Manchester.

The project methodology involves six researchers from each university, collaborating in small cross-institutional teams, supported by a senior research mentor, to develop research bids with high relevance to the field of teacher education. The teams will be supported in this activity by a blended learning programme, consisting of workshops, Virtual Research Environments (VRE) and an associated programme of regional seminars, conferences and colloquia. The project will culminate in the development of at least seven research bids for submission to relevant funding agencies. The methodology builds on the Meeting of Minds Fellowships (TLRP) and seeks to test the potential of the model for building a coherent research infrastructure on a larger scale across England.

Developing a 'how things work' research agenda in education

Funder: ESRC
PI: Valerie Farnsworth
Grant: £11,000
Duration: 2009

This grant supported a series of seminars held at universities across England in 2009. The guiding theme of the ESRC Seminar Series was to reflect on current demands for evidence-based practice and research on “what works” in education, examining the issues from both theoretical and practice-based perspectives.

The aim was to systematically and collaboratively examine the ways that theory could inform understandings of teaching and learning practices, and vice versa, to better understand theoretical perspectives in light of pertinent questions posed in relation to educational practice.

The series provided structure for these discussions by focusing on two theoretical perspectives at each session (eg Activity Theory, Communities of Practice theory, Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), Bernstein and Bourdieu) in relation to a level of the educational system (eg individual, classroom, school, district and national levels). These theories were chosen because they typically take ‘learning environments’ and systems as the unit of analysis, as opposed to individual learners and teachers.

Some of the presentations are reproduced in a book edited by Valerie Farnsworth and Yvette Solomon, Reframing Educational Research:  Resisting the ‘what works’ agenda (Routledge, June 2013).