Facilitating a post-lesson discussion

We offer this guide for people who will play the role of “discussion chairperson”, a.k.a. moderator, for the post-lesson discussion followig a research lesson. If you have suggestions for improving this, or want to give us feedback, please contact us.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the post-lesson discussion is to have an in-depth conversation about how the design and implementation of the lesson impacted students, especially in relation to the team’s research questions. Just as in a good lesson, the discussion becomes more interesting if there are differences of opinion.


Thank the lesson instructor for teaching the lesson so that everyone could observe and learn from it. Thank the lesson study team for all of their work researching and preparing the lesson.

Review of Purpose and Process

Remind everyone of the purpose of the post-lesson discussion, and then outline the process. For example:

  • “Our purpose is to help the team answer their research question—they had a two-pronged hypothesis: If we teach the lesson in (such-and-such way), it will (1) help students learn this content better than they usually do, and (2) move students toward our vision as expressed in the research theme.”
  • You may want to remind observers specifically of what the lesson study team was experimenting with. Point out the lesson learning goals and the overall research theme, on page 1 of the research proposal.
  • Explain that what is needed now is data from the lesson about these goals. (“Without data… chatta… don’t matta.” –Patsy Wang-Iverson)
  • Explain that the teacher who taught the lesson will speak first, followed by some, but not necessarily all, members of the lesson planning team.
  • After that, you will open it up to the group. Remind participants that this is not a “debrief” or a reporting out, but a discussion. The big questions are: What is the data? What does it tell us?
  • If you have a final commentator, note that this person will present at the end for 15-30 minutes, uninterrupted.
  • At a future meeting, team members will reflect on today and summarize their learning from the lesson study cycle.
  • Verify that someone (ideally not from the planning team) will take notes.

Teacher’s Reflections

Invite the teacher to share his or her own observations—specifically, what he or she noticed students doing or saying during the lesson, and how he or she interprets this in relationship to the lesson goals.

If the teacher deviated substantially from the plan, ask: “You did X, which was different from what was planned. Tell us about what you saw that led you to decide to do that, and what happened.”

After the teacher’s initial comments, ask: “Beyond the questions in the written proposal, are there any new questions or issues you would like to discuss?” Record any issues for possible discussion or reference later.

Data and Discussion

Invite lesson study team members and observers to present data from their observations, but minimize serial sharing of disconnected data. Whenever someone raises an important observation, ask others to share data related to that. Possible strategies:

  • If the teacher has raised a good core issue, start with it: “Ms. X raised an important issue, so let’s discuss that.”
  • Use the “points of evaluation” or assessment questions that accompany the steps of the lesson in the written proposal to generate discussion about the impact of specific parts of the lesson.
  • If someone makes a claim, invite others to concur or disagree, and to share supporting or conflicting data.
  • Invite discussion about the use of time in the lesson. Were students given enough time? too much? Ask for concrete data.
  • Review the goals of the lesson. Ask: “What do the data suggest about the students’ progress on the lesson goals and long-term goals?” or “What data do we have about whether students learned this?” and “If students did not learn what we wanted them to, why not? What do we think the students need tomorrow that will help them?”
  • Occasionally summarize consensus (or disagreement), and then move on: “So there seems to be general agreement that __. What about __?”
  • Revisit the evaluation questions. Ask: “What are our answers to these?” (This is usually best saved for late in the discussion, after plenty of data has been shared and discussed.)
  • If not addressed, return to the research theme. Ask: “To what extent did the lesson address the research theme? How successfully? Why or why not? What ideas do you have for future lessons?

Final Commentator

An invited “knowledgeable other” may discuss the lesson in relation to key subject matter issues, link the observed lesson to larger issues in teaching and learning, and suggest possible next steps with these students in the lesson, and suggest next steps in addressing the research theme.