Previous IES funded research

Improving the Mathematical Content Base of Lesson Study

Funded by U.S. Education Department, Institute of Education Sciences, Teacher Quality
September 2007 – August 2011


Project Overview

This project developed and tested research-based resource materials designed to help mathematics lesson study groups use research-based knowledge effectively. The materials focused on an area of mathematics that is problematic for U.S. students (fractions), and included resources designed to help lesson study groups learn about this topic and its teaching-learning (such as mathematical tasks, examples of student work, lesson videos, and research articles). The study specifically emphasized a linear measurement approach to fractions, in alignment with ideas now found in the Common Core State Standards. The project compared three study conditions: (1) lesson study with the resource materials; (2) lesson study without the resource materials; and (3) locally-chosen non lesson study professional development (i.e., “business as usual”).

Study Setting & Population

The sample was recruited via lesson study listserves and professional networks. Teams ranged in size from 4-9 educators and were drawn from 27 school districts in 11 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, for a total of 213 educators across the three study conditions. Most participants were elementary teachers (87%), with coaches, administrators, and middle school teachers making up the remaining 13% of participants. Students were included in the sample if their teacher was expected to teach the research lesson (teams decided this before assignment to condition, and on some teams more than one teacher agreed to teach the research lesson). A total of 1,162 students in 66 classrooms across the three conditions provided parental study consent and took the pretest and 1,059 of these students took the post-test and thus were included in the final analytic sample. Of the students in the final analytic sample, 37% were in grades 2 or 3 (389); 19% in grade 4 (203); and 44% in grade 5 (467).

Research Design and Methods

Using data drawn from teacher and student pre- and post-intervention surveys and HLM models of impact, the study found statistically significant impacts of assignment to the lesson study with resource materials condition on teachers’ and students’ mathematical knowledge of fractions (effect size of d =.18 for the teacher outcome and d =.50 for the student outcome). The study was identified by the What Works Clearinghouse as one of two studies of professional development mathematics interventions out of 643 reviewed that met their standard of scientific rigor and also found an impact on student mathematics proficiency. (See WWC Review online.)

In addition to impacts on teachers’ and students’ knowledge, the study found a positive and statistically significant impact of the lesson study with resource material treatment condition on two of six scales created to measure teachers’ beliefs and learning community (Collegial Learning Effectiveness, and Expectations for Student Achievement) and found a marginally significant impact on a third scale (Using and Promoting Student Thinking). Furthermore, educators in both lesson study conditions rated their professional development experience significantly higher in quality than did educators in the locally-chosen professional learning condition.

Findings on changes in teachers' mathematics knowledge and in teachers' attitudes have been published; findings on student learning are under review. A brief summary of findings can be found here, but please contact Catherine Lewis for additional information. A replication study involving a larger number of groups in each study condition is planned in the near future.