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Determining an Equity Goal

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

This blog series documents how our network of schools became interested in lesson study. We have shared how our lesson study teams got started – by creating a shared vision of their hopes and dreams for students, determining a research question and theory of action, narrowing in on a specific content area for their research lesson, and then exploring the mathematical content and selecting a mathematical understanding goal for their research lessons. We have also documented our first three public lesson study events, a 3rd grade lesson on comparing fractions, an 8th grade lesson on negative exponents, and a 10th grade lesson on quadratics.

A high school research team preps before a 10th grade research lesson study event.

To support the learning of all students it is important to recognize that learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Classrooms are microcosms of social interactions that often mirror the broader society in which they exist. Unconscious biases based on race or gender, a desire for status in the eyes of authority figures and peers, and a fear of failure, all have an impact on how a teacher and students interact with one another in the classroom. These factors have a significant impact on who has opportunities to learn what and when in a classroom.

Creating an equity goal focuses lesson study research teams on patterns of participation and access present in a classroom and keeps the creation of equitable learning environments for all students at the forefront of the lesson design. Equity goals often focus on creating the conditions necessary for students to see each other as resources and to develop the skills to become independent learners.

To determine their equity goal for their research lessons, our teams reviewed their research question and theory of action and returned to their hopes and dreams for their focus students. By situating themselves in the student experience they were able to think about what classroom norms and routines would be necessary to create a learning environment where all students were actively engaged in learning. Some examples of equity goals from our research teams are below:

  • Students will present mathematical justification and show they value others’ ideas by listening to them and responding to them with their own mathematical justification (from an 8th grade lesson study team)

  • Students will listen to, value, and build off of each other’s ideas (from 5th grade and 9th grade research teams)

  • By the end of the lesson, students will have displayed at least one confidence behavior: sharing an idea or asking a question in their group, sharing an idea or asking a question in front of the class (from a 10th grade research team)

Anyone who has taught children (or adults) will recognize that neither the mathematical understanding goals presented in the previous blog post, nor the equity goals presented in this one, are achievable in one lesson. In order to make sense of a mathematical understanding goal, it is necessary to grapple with lots of related ideas to build a robust schema for the concept (How is an instantaneous rate of change similar or different to an average rate of change? When would the former be useful? When would the latter? Why?). Similarly, to create an environment where students communicate effectively – valuing each others contributions and building off each others ideas to achieve new insights and learning – is the result of strong classroom norms/routines and relentless consistency over time.

In light of this, both the equity goal and the mathematical understanding goal are tended to over the duration of the planning process. The detailed research about the mathematical topic informs the lessons leading up to the research lesson so that students develop the necessary schema to make sense of the new mathematical understanding being explored during the research lesson. Similarly, the presenting teacher creates and implements the structures and routines the team believes will help them achieve their equity goal throughout the planning process. Data collection during the research lesson provides the team with an opportunity to observe how the norms/structures are implemented in the host teacher's classroom, and to discuss what is working and what might lead to improvement. It should be noted however, that the task of creating an equitable learning environment is not limited to the host teacher! Each member of the research team can implement structures and routines in their own classrooms and then share what is working and ideas for improvement throughout the planning process. Some examples of routines and structures implemented by our research teams to create equitable learning environments include:

  • Using lots of turn and talks during a whole class discussion to ensure students have the opportunity to share and verbally process their ideas frequently (the 3rd grade discourse video below from this public lesson blog post is a great example of effective turn and talks)

  • Using instructional routines to encourage student sense-making and participation (here are some examples of routines from New Visions and Illustrative Mathematics).

  • Creating classroom norms or using group roles to promote student to student discussion and sense making

  • Participation quizzes to promote student collaboration during group work

  • Creating class or individual student goals for participation: several of our teams have goals for 100% class participation during lessons to ensure all voices are heard and valued (video from a 9th grade public lesson that achieved this goal is coming soon!)

  • Asking students to restate or build off of classmates ideas

  • Status interventions to highlight a particular student’s mathematical brilliance when it might go unnoticed by peers

3rd Grade whole class discussion with pair-shares to promote student-student interaction and verbal processing of the ideas being shared. The whole memorialization blog post can be found here.

When our research teams had a clear idea of their equity goals, they were ready to plan the details of the research lesson and anticipate what their focus students might say or do – and how the host teacher might respond in order to maximize student learning.

For educators looking to try lesson study in their own contexts, we found that:

  • Establishing an equitable classroom learning culture can be challenging and is often the result of upholding strong classroom norms/structures consistently over time

  • Research team members can implement a number of structures to create and support equitable learning environments throughout the planning process and share what they are learning with each other to accelerate instructional improvement together


Daisy Sharrock works at the Center for Research on Equity and Innovation at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education, and is part of a Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative-sponsored research team that is currently engaged in the following study: Leveraging the Power of Improvement Networks to Spread Lesson Study. Read more about their current study here. We are grateful to JFF, KnowledgeWorks’, and the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative and its funders for their support. Learn more at

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