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 following a research lesson. If you have suggestions for improving this document 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.

A stack of blank index cards can be useful for keeping track of issues to discuss.

Protocol overview

  1. Thank the instructor
  2. Remarks by the instructor
  3. Reminder of the purpose and process
  4. Group sharing and discussion of data
  5. Final comments by the invited knowledgeable other

1. Thank the instructor

Thank (applaud) 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. 

2. Remarks by the instructor

  • Invite the instructor to share his or her own observations—what he or she noticed students doing or saying during the lesson, and how he or she interprets those in relationship to the lesson goals.
  • If the teacher deviated substantially from the plan, invite him/her to talk about those decisions.
  • After the teacher’s initial comments, invite her/him to raise questions for the group to discuss beyond any questions that might be stated in the research proposal.
  • Optionally, invite one or two members of the planning team to share observations and raise questions.

2. Explanation of purpose and process

  • Summarize the protocol (listed above).
  • Remind everyone of the purpose of LS – teacher learning, not the creation of a perfect lesson – and of the post-lesson discussion: i.e. to help the planning team answer their research question(s).
  • If you have a final commentator, note that this person will present at the end for 15-30 minutes, uninterrupted.
  • At a future meeting (later today?), 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.
  • Observer’s role now is to provide data and discuss what it tells us about student thinking and learning. (“Without data… chatta… don’t matta.” –Patsy Wang-Iverson)


4. Group sharing and discussion of data

Invite lesson study team members and observers to present data from their observations. 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. Challenge people to take a stand: “Does everyone agree with that conclusion?” 
  • Invite discussion about the use of time in the lesson. Were students given enough time? too much? Ask for concrete data.
  • Occasionally summarize consensus (or disagreement), and then move on: “So there seems to be general agreement that __. What about __?”
  • Later in the discussion, review the goals of the lesson. Possible questions:
    • “What do the data suggest about the students’ progress on the lesson goals and long-term goals?”
    • “What data do we have about whether students learned this?”
    • “If students did not learn what we wanted them to, why not? What do we think the students need tomorrow that will help them?”
  • 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?

General principles:

  • Don’t get in the way. Especially at the beginning, let discussion flow relatively freely. Note important issues to return to later.
  • You aren’t a discussant. You don’t get to share your observations except (sometimes) after others have done so. 

5. Final comments

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.

Last revised May 2, 2018