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Japanese teaching technique to boost academic performance in Camden schools

PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 November 2013

The approach has been taught in Japanese schools for around 140 years. Picture: Dylan James

The approach has been taught in Japanese schools for around 140 years. Picture: Dylan James

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Camden schoolchildren will soon be learning mathematics the Japanese way as schools are to adopt an Asian method of developing teaching techniques to boost academic performance.

What is Lesson Study?

The Japanese model sees a group of teachers first research and plan a lesson together, focusing on one area within a subject that children have struggled with in class, such as fractions in mathematics.

The teachers will then typically choose three children to perform a “research lesson” on in front of other teachers, who observe and make notes. A meeting will be held to reflect on what worked and what went wrong in the “test” lesson.

Two or three “research lessons” will be carried out before the findings are shared with the rest of the staff, who will then implement the techniques in their own lessons.

Primary schools across the borough will use the “lesson study” approach, where teachers work in small groups to come up with a lesson plan together, perform the lesson and then report on its success.

Camden Council bid against other London local authorities to develop the unusual method of developing teaching strategies in partnership with the University of Cambridge.

The approach has been used in Japan for around 140 years and is currently utilised by about 50 countries worldwide, as well as at St Aloysius Catholic Junior School in Aldenham Street, Somers Town.

Jim O’Shea, headteacher of St Aloysius, has been using the approach in his school for four years and has seen an increase in performance year-on-year.

He said: “The method is used in one area, such as teaching fractions, that the children are having issues with or are finding challenging.

“We just want to get it right. Performance has increased year-on-year, as well as the motivation of the staff in terms of the amount of application they are prepared to make.”

The “lesson study” method will be developed across 28 Camden schools in mathematics lessons, with University of Cambridge researchers supporting the project over the next two years.

A group of teachers will research and plan a lesson together, focusing on one area within a subject that children find tough.

They will choose about three children to test their lesson strategy with and perform the lesson in front of other teachers, who make notes.

Teachers will then have a meeting to reflect on what worked and what went wrong in the “test” lesson.

Two or three research lessons will be carried out before the findings are shared with the rest of the staff.

The method is being funded by the Mayor of London’s London Schools Excellence Fund, a £25million project to boost performance in “priority” subjects, including mathematics, sciences and languages.

Camden cabinet member for education, Cllr Angela Mason, said: “I am delighted that we have won this exciting bid.

“Camden has set its sights on having the very best schools and I believe that this approach will give our schools the tools to improve even further, giving our children the mastery and confidence to learn and succeed at the very highest levels.”


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