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Lesson Study

‘What impact will using active assessment have on the written performance of underperforming y12 students in the Anatomy and Physiology unit of AS PE?’ Jenkins. C, Collins, C. Feb 2014

CSJ (PE) and CCO (English)                                                   Lesson Study report, by C Jenkins,  Feb 2014

Another lesson study from colleagues at Uplands Community College, Wadhurst. Written by Caroline Jenkins, study was Caroline Jenkins and and Carrie Collins.


Lesson Study is a collaborative process whereby teams of teachers work together to research a pedagogical line of enquiry. They then put their research into practice by planning, observing and reviewing a series of lessons with each other, before evaluating how well their interventions improved our students’ learning.

I was drawn to the claim made by www.lessonstudy.co.uk that ‘Alone in their classroom, a teacher may see only five per cent of pupil interactions. Lesson study helps slow lessons down. You can see much more. You can improve, innovate and transfer practice more effectively.’

I wanted to work closely with other teachers whilst getting to know my students better. I knew that my aim was to be to raise the attainment of my Y12 students in the longer answer questions of their anatomy exam, and I saw lesson study as the perfect way of being able to do attempt to do all these things.

NTEN lesson study

Initial planning meetings

Because my aim was to work on a study involving the improvement of written exam responses, I teamed up with Carrie, an excellent English teacher. We got our heads together and felt that we needed the students to become more active and take more ownership with their own assessment. We did also initially have a third member to our team initially but unfortunately they dropped out due to poor health. We weren’t phased, and despite being told the study is preferably done in teams of three, we decided to continue as a pair.

We set about sharing ideas to help us find ways in which each of us have approached this problem before. I also researched websites and journals which dealt with raising attainment in essay questions.

Despite being committed and very interested in the study we’d set up, my initial worries were how I would find the time to co-plan the lessons and get cover for Carrie to be with me as I taught what we’d planned. I was, however, very much looking forward to the intervention phase, despite the need for planning, observation and feedback to take place with a quick turnaround to be meaningful. I knew we would have to be organised but I also knew that the pressure would be worthwhile.

Our enquiry question was developed into:

‘What impact will using active assessment have on the written performance of underperforming y12 students in the Anatomy and Physiology unit of AS PE.’

Lesson 1:

The Planning stage

We chose to plan our interventions for the whole AS PE class but we focussed on three underachieving students as our focus group. All 3 ranged in ability and had different personalities. After deciding to gather base line qualitative information by interviewing the three students, as well as setting them a practice paper to gather some base line numeric data and grades, it was clear that they were struggling with how to be more independent with their long answer writing.

Uplands Pe pic 2

We shared our individual research into active assessment strategies. We believed we had some key ideas for how we would develop a greater independence with my PE students and allow them to be more involved in their assessment throughout the lesson.

One strategy we decided to try was to use a concept cartoon, which was chosen to get the students to assess what they know already about the topic area. The teacher can find out any misconceptions and all students were already engaged in their learning and working independently.

Several other tasks were chosen for later on in the lesson, including a task where students had to place an individual sports performer along a continuum line and justify their position using the criteria provided.

The focus of the lesson planning was all about working out how best our 3 case pupils would learn these strategies and techniques best. We planned in great depth, taking into account what each student’s reactions to each of the tasks would be, and what our contingency plan, back up questions, etc would be to provide as much independence at every opportunity.

The lesson

Due to unavoidable issues with cover, it was decided that if Carrie couldn’t be physically present in my lesson that I would film the three students’ learning (not my teaching!) so that we could both watch it together later to see how well our plans had been received.  It was found that initially that the year 12 students were put off by the camera and were slightly reluctant to start the conversations.  The lesson structure was delivered as below

  • Concept Cartoon
  • Match up criteria to grade
  • Post-it note rank order of achievement in relation to the learning outcomes.
  • Pass it on: tell another student something they don’t know about stability
  • Using photographs for students to Justify their stability
  • Continuum line: what is most/least stable

I then carried out student voice interviews straight after the lesson (which was break time) so that we could get some instant verbal feedback from the students before they forgot what they’d just done!


After watching the film of the lesson and the student voice interviews together, Carrie and I discussed what we thought we’d done well and where the learning could have been enhanced better for these students. What was clear from the footage was that the concept cartoon was engaging and an excellent start for a new topic that enable the students to be independent and actively assess their prior knowledge of the topic area.  Each of the students reacted differently but positively to the activity.  One student said it helped having a more able student seated with them for the activities as it gave them a start as to what to say and discuss.

The students found the match up criteria very useful and were able to track where they are during the lesson and have a greater understanding of their learning.

The students liked the photograph task however they would like to have even more of them so that they can attempt to apply it to a wider range of sports.

One student suggested having a way of notifying the teacher how stuck they were.


This 1st lesson study intervention lesson was for a whole hour and included a lot of different tasks we were trialling.  We decided next time to just try one as it was very difficult to assess the effects of one idea when there were so many other ideas trialled at the same time!

Students (both the three focus students and the rest of the class) enjoyed the lesson and concluded (without prompt) that they felt more independent in their ability to think more deeply about the topic.

Students were far more aware of where they were and what they needed to do next.

I found planning the response and contingency plan for each student very helpful.

Lesson 2:

Planning stage: We responded to our review of lesson 1 by planning lesson 2 fairly soon after. We decided to plan one main activity, as aforementioned.  Having read some research on study led plenaries we decided to try this concept in the plenary of the lesson.

Uplands PE pic 3

Students used the questioning grid above to create questions about the topic on the board.

We planned that I would provide a modelled question to show an aspirational example.

Cards were provided with some prompts and questions to scaffold for some students.

The 2nd lesson itself (end of lesson + Plenary)

Carrie was able to be present this time. Whilst she was then able to observe the students first hand, by not filming the students I was not able to experience the learning of each individual at such close quarters (as I was also teaching the rest of the group!). We decided that both a physical observer (two in other studies that had teams of three) and filming the learning would enhance both our abilities to review the learning if we had time for a third intervention lesson.

Students were having to create questions for their group based on the lesson to check their knowledge and understanding. These students were not notified until near the end of the lesson. Students were using the question grids to write the questions and then ask their group the answers.  Some only managed a couple of questions, which we were a bit shocked by.

Teacher monitored the task using the challenge/comfort card to see if they needed help.

Feedback: review meeting

Not all questions were answered so more time was needed for the task and checking answers. – We felt we’d pitched this task too high or hadn’t provided enough support. This allowed me (as the class teacher) the opportunity next lesson to address any misconceptions/ use the questions again with the group.

More independence again which was challenging for them.

Student interview revealed they enjoyed the independence even though the task really stretched them all.  They felt that they needed more time to check the answers to the questions.  They felt that they didn’t get to ask all their questions, but perhaps the difficulty of the task skewed this.


It was easier to look at one task (within our enquiry) which could be developed again in following lessons, rather than several tasks in one lesson.

Students are more independent when they are provided with adequate scaffolding/support. However, more time needed for the task. We also felt that smaller groups would make it more easy for students to ask all the questions as they would feel more comfortable asking each other in close proximity.

Overall summary of findings

We found planning for those students in all lessons easier thinking about their reaction to the task and the contingency plan for that reaction.

Students liked independent work but to enable this to happen there had to be detailed modelling from both the teacher and the more able students (who were evenly distributed about the class ton support the weaker members of the group). A model was even needed to demonstrate how to go about a discussion and without it the students could not take control of their responses to the task.

Student led plenary needed more time, but with coaching and practice this time may be reduced.

Overall we have seen a greater independence by students in lessons and this has had a positive effect on their long answer questions. They have engaged with our strategies and felt more confident with writing longer answers by practicing these techniques, rather than attempting the simply recount the info required from their notes or text books.

We gave the students the same test that they had done in previous lessons again, and noted the difference in their scores/attainment. Using the NTENs effect size calculator, it was clear to see that in terms of quantitative assessment, the majority of students had improved with their long answer questions. However, our effect size calculation showed a negative effect size.

Uplands Pe pic 4

I’m no mathematician and thank goodness the data you input is then crunched by confidence level formulae and other maths stuff formatted into the spreadsheet. We think this only happened because our class is so small but basically, an “effect size” is a number that shows you how much a set of test results changed compared to how spread out they were in the first place. Technically it is the change in average (aka mean) mark divided by the spread (aka standard deviation).

NTEN says that our sample was not big enough to show the positive result we would have expected, and therefore we should assume that with a bigger class set of results, would then be able to be 95% confident that this was a meaningful intervention, and not just a randomised second set of results. Obviously this was the issue with doing our study on a small AS group but there are other ways of gathering final data.

Qualitatively, working in a team has helped me to challenge my planning and the way I did things in the past. I feel like I’ve got to know my students better and I’m confident they’re learning better as a result of putting our research into action. As a direct result of our research and intervention all 3 of our AS PE case pupils indicated that their confidence had grown.

I found the experience extremely rewarding and the joint planning really helped me to think about how learning could be enhanced when there are more teachers problem solving together.

Although Carrie was a brilliant partner, I would suggest that she didn’t get as much out of this particular study as I did. Despite taking joint ownership for the research, planning, interventions and reviews, she was very much the expert and already had lots of suggestions to our line of enquiry. I would suggest to other Lesson Study participants that all members of your team need to start off with the same level of knowledge – i.e. no one should know the answers to the problem you are trying to solve! An expert can be drafted in later in the study, i.e. the science study that was going on at the same time as ours realised that they need the expert help of the MFL department as learning specialist scientific terms was like learning another language!

Although it was challenging at times, there is no doubt that the process of reflecting on the lessons and their impact on the pupils has helped us to both improve our practice.  It was the best CPD that I took part in last year!

Next steps

I want to continue to develop independence with this group. Student led plenaries to be developed with more time and training. Continue to seek student voice re preferred learning styles and methods wherever possible to gain feedback from the floor.

I am aiming to do a second (different) study in the second half of this year, having got so much out of this one!

Caroline Jenkins




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