The purpose of the Talladega College Education Department Innovation Center is to promote an interactive professional learning process that allows professors to study student responses to active learning strategies and consider faculty and student interactions, which have been shown to increase student retention and increased learning. The Talladega College goal of retention with increased faculty and student interaction is worthy.
The innovation will be the use of the process of Lesson Study which is similar to other methods of teacher group learning such as Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Lesson Study, and Video Study. The Lesson Study will be facilitated by a group of experienced professors who form an Innovation Team. The innovation requires supportive leadership and a clear vision that connects learning and teaching while focusing on instructional improvement. The Lesson Study creates an environment for instructional improvement through carefully designed lessons with active learning strategies. Interest has peaked among college professors regarding the teaching methods grouped as ‘active learning’ and ‘cooperative learning.’ Even with the interest, confusion and lack of trust in the instructional “movement” still exists as most professors still use the traditional lecture method of teaching. “Active learning” is what students do in place of a lecture.

Data and Notetaking

The innovation of Lesson Study generates data for study and research. The Lesson Study use of observational note-taking is for discerning the impact of professors’ use of active learning on students and creates a basis for the professors’ discussion of active learning. Other ways to test the impact of this promising practice and gather data for research are to study active student learning with DART: Decibel Analysis for Research in Teaching that is employed in the Talladega College Lesson Study. This inexpensive innovation, a machine-learning-based algorithm that can rapidly analyze audio-recorded classes measures the use of teaching strategies beyond traditional lecture through the analysis of classroom noise and by classifying the sounds as a single voice, multiple voices, or no voice. Another technique used during the Lesson Study by selected trained observers is the Active Learning Inventory Tool,  which is a valid and reliable active-learning inventory tool for use in classrooms to compare faculty perceptions of active learning. The three methods of data gathering on the use of active learning strategies create conditions for triangulation of data to discern the impact of professors’ use of active learning strategies on students and thereby professors’ instructional use of active learning strategies. Videotapes of Lesson Study provide another data source that can be shared across classrooms and colleges. 

This Lesson Study innovation uses faculty and students as a vibrant resource much like the descriptions of Brian Bridges (2016) who is the leader of UNCF’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute (FDPRI). Bridges write that classroom interaction develops into deep relationships among HBCU faculty and students. These interactions are visible during the process of the Lesson Study. Relationships forged at this level between faculty and students during active learning in the classroom have repeatedly shown results in HBCU student achievement and their persistence rate. The quality of teacher-student relationships that occur during interactions between and among students and faculty is demonstrated during the professors’ use of active learning while Lesson Study makes this visible and produces the opportunity for research data gathering. 

Lesson Study is the innovation suggested for use in this proposal. Researching and testing of this promising practice reside inside the classroom while looking carefully at the interactions between the professor and students. Researchers often label this process of close inspection of the classroom as looking inside the “black box” with a nod to an airplane black box, which draws attention to the critical nature of seeking answers in the classroom with a focus on the interactions between professors and students during active learning.  

Lesson Study creates the innovation for professors to work in small teams to plan, teach,  observe, analyze, and refine individual class lessons, called research lessons. Techniques such as Modified Lesson Study and video sharing of the lessons utilize the capacity of professors as researchers of student achievement and position professors as collaborative equals in solving and testing problems of their teaching practice. Individual teacher’s instruction improves, and students’ achievement increases. Improved lessons and improved teacher learning results from the cycles of research lessons in lesson study and lesson study events.