Dinner with the Lesson Study Ladies

I want to hold a dinner party with six women. Here’s who’s invited:

  • Nell Scharff Panero
  • Ellen Moir
  • Catherine Lewis
  • Erin Osborne
  • Jennifer Carr
  • Marilyn Crawford

In the past three months I’ve talked to all of these women. They are really kindred spirits—especially when it comes to the plan, do, study, act (PDSA) cycle that is so well known in the improvement sciences. They each have a variation on this theme of continuous improvement moving through their networks and organizations—a form of lesson study or inquiry cycles, whatever you want to call them. They each have a powerful protocol that leaves teachers wanting more time to design, plan and talk about their students’ work and their own practice. They each  have an emphasis on teacher leadership/ownership, improvement by looking closely at student needs and evidence, and collaborative practice.

Nell led the thinking behind the Scaffolded Apprenticeship Model work in New York City. Ellen is founder of the New Teacher Center and has a team of mentors who helped put data cycles in place across CA (and the country) with new teachers. Catherine has led the movement in the U.S. to use the Japanese practice of lesson study as a way to improve and reflect on teaching practice in math. Jennifer Carr, the Innovative Professional Development (iPD) administrator for the Fresno Unified School District, leads a form of lesson study with groups across the district in social studies, English language arts, and science. Marilyn Crawford worked in Fresno and Bridgeport to find the time for lesson study in some of our iPD districts and also was a lead designer of the Literacy Design Collaborative. I don’t think these women know each other, but they should.

There is something real, sustainable and powerful about the work these women are doing with teachers. Teachers are leading the way using their protocols. They are creating teacher leaders whose enthusiasm for student success and improving their practice is contagious. These teachers are the tipping point for larger, more systemic reforms. I have never met such committed teachers as the leaders that participate across these networks.

Wasn’t it another woman who said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Here’s to Margaret Mead and my dinner party!


– C.