Influence of Lesson Study on Teacher Sense of Efficacy in Middle School Mathematics: A Mixed Methods Multiple Case Study Design
Mathematics education continues to be a critical equity issue in the United States. Traditional teacher-directed math instruction reveals disproportionate numbers of students of color and students of lower socio-economic status struggling to engage and identify as mathematicians (Boaler, 2014). The recent implementation of Common Core State Standards (National Governors Association, 2010) requires significant changes in mathematics instructional pedagogy, content knowledge, assessment, and curriculum. Yet, this shift can result in declining teacher efficacy, leaving teachers feeling overwhelmed and questioning their capacity. The emergence of lesson study approach holds the potential to impact teacher sense of efficacy as teachers collaboratively build mathematics content knowledge, skills, classroom culture and resources. This mixed methods multiple case study examined whether and to what extent lesson study approach as professional development affected mathematics teachers’ sense of efficacy and the social networks of students in their classrooms. It included sense of efficacy surveys from 24 middle school mathematics teachers. Five case study teachers were individually interviewed and social network surveys were collected from the students of their classrooms. This study supports earlier findings on teacher efficacy but offers new insights into the influence of lesson study approach on teachers’ sense of efficacy. Teachers reported four sources of efficacy from lesson study, lesson study shifted the focus from teacher performance to student thinking, and an increased efficacy that they could effectively engage students, utilize student-centered instruction and manage their classroom. Lesson study structures that supported teacher efficacy included sharing a student-centered focus, situating learning with a classroom context, and framing the lesson study. This study also presents a new awareness of help-seeking networks of students in diverse middle school mathematics classrooms. Although teachers did not identify direct links between lesson study and their efficacy to manage student relationships, notable differences in student help-seeking networks emerged. Although there are limitations on generalizability, the findings are especially useful to teachers. Understanding the mechanisms of relationship ties can help teachers attend more intentionally to social participation of students, particularly students of color, English learners, and students with designated disabilities. This study arises at a critical time in education that may have implications for the types and likelihood of teacher collaboration and school policy.