Key Components

Create a Research Theme

A research theme is a long-term goal that provides a common focus for the work of a Lesson Study group (Lewis & Hurd, 2011). It is a broad over-arching goal that can be changed each year or used over multiple years. The research theme defines what you feel students should have achieved by the time they leave your school. When developing a research theme, focus on the why rather than the what and the how.

This theme can be

  • devised as a campus or among multiple lesson study groups,
  • applied as an overarching goal applicable across grade levels and subject areas, and
  • situated in the affective domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

As a facilitator, the most important thing is to give teachers the opportunity to reflect on the knowledge, skills, and qualities they want students to leave with. For this task, allow teachers to first think independently, and then share and find commonalities within the group. The group will synthesize their ideas and then use mentor research themes, which may be provided as exemplars, to develop a single theme as a team. Protocols and examples are linked to this section to use when facilitating the development of a research theme.

Research Theme Quick Write templates: Facilitator and Teachers
Bridging the Gap template (fillable pdf form)
Research Theme examples



This step should be recorded in Section A of the Lesson Proposal Template according to the following guidelines from the Implementation Fidelity Tool.

Examine Data and Resources

Examining data and resources will help identify high-leverage student expectations that students historically or currently have difficulty learning. During this phase, teachers will look at data points and curriculum materials from at least four different sources, such as a review of

  • student data to locate difficult topics for students;
  • assessment data which can include STAAR (your students’ results compared to the state; examine subpopulations), benchmark assessments, universal screeners, placement tests, and other assessments;
  • TEKS and vertical alignment documents; and
  • curriculum materials (e.g., textbooks, district-designed documents, professional books, curriculum management systems).

It is important that teachers objectively evaluate the data to determine what is occurring with student achievement in their classroom. As a facilitator, it may be helpful to have some type of protocol to guide the process of analyzing data. A protocol supports thinking to avoid assumptions and preconceived notions about how students are progressing. The Data Dig Process tool is an example protocol to follow with the Lesson Study group. After reading over the Data Dig Process tool, watch the video, and take note of how the facilitator is guiding teachers through the process. In the video, the Kindergarten teachers are examining 

  • district mid-year benchmark data for Kindergarten; 
  • vertical, campus benchmark data for the writing student expectations; 
  • student work samples (not shown in the video); 
  • state assessment fourth-grade writing results for that campus; and 
  • curriculum and TEKS vertical alignment documents. 

Data Dig Process tool




This step should be recorded in Sections B and D of the Lesson Proposal Template according to the following guidelines from the Implementation Fidelity Tool.

Identify Student Expectations (SEs) from the TEKS for the Research Lesson

After the data dig is complete, teachers will select a student expectation to serve as the focus for research and planning. Guide the teachers in selecting a high-leverage standard. A high-leverage standard is not one piece of content. It is a skill that, when learned, will positively impact other standards. Click below for further guidance and review Step 1 of the Research Protocol

  •  Remember to examine when the SE will be taught in the scope and sequence to ensure that the timing of the lesson is appropriate. For example, all prerequisite skills have been covered. 
  • If the chosen SE falls outside the scope of sequence or timing, consider designing the research lesson to be (a) a review or reteach lesson, or (b) a preview lesson.



Research Protocol (Step 1)




TEKS Vertical Alignment

While identifying the SEs for the research lesson, teachers should consider what additional skills and knowledge students will be learning within the same unit, if any. These TEKS SEs will be grouped with the specific research lesson SEs as Current Unit TEKS. 

Vertical alignment involves identifying additional standards that students should have mastered prior to the current unit, either in the same course or previous courses, that will impact understanding of the research lesson SEs. It also involves identifying additional standards that students will be able to master in the same course or upcoming courses if they have successfully mastered the research lesson SEs. 

Current Unit TEKS should align with the Learning Objectives of the Unit Timeline, described in next module on Phase 2. 




This step should be recorded in Section B of the Lesson Proposal Template according to the following guidelines from the Implementation Fidelity Tool.

Develop Objectives and Goals for the Research Lesson

The purpose of developing the objectives and goals is to provide focus during the planning, teaching and observing, and reflecting and refining phases. When formulating objectives and goals be sure to

  • incorporate the identified SEs and Research Theme,
  • consider how the Research Theme is connected to the Research Lesson goals,
  • use key verbs from the SEs and Research Theme, and
  • ensure the Research Lesson objectives are measurable.

The objectives and goals should be designed to encompass both what content students will master and how they will approach their learning. Unit goals will encompass and be broader in scope than Research Lesson objectives. 

  •  An example of objectives and goals that align to a TEKS SE and to a Research Theme is provided below. 
  • Alternatively, groups may elect to separate unit goals from Research Lesson Objectives

A TXLS Facilitator revisits the Research Theme while developing goals for the Research Lesson

This step should be recorded in Section C of the Lesson Proposal Template according to the following guidelines from the Implementation Fidelity Tool.

Draft the Background and Rationale

It is important to provide information to educators and outside observers on students’ current knowledge and skills. This section allows teachers to provide background information about students and to explain the Lesson Study group’s rationale for selecting the focus standard(s).

To further justify the group’s decision for selecting the chosen student expectation(s), relevant quantitative data from the data dig is included in this section (e.g., only 50 percent of students are proficient in this skill), as well as justification from Step 1 of the Research Protocol

Take notes while the team is discussing the data dig and selecting the SE(s). These notes can be helpful when crafting the Background and Rationale.


Research Protocol (Step 1)




This step should be recorded in Section D of the Lesson Proposal Template according to the following guidelines from the Implementation Fidelity Tool.

Module Quiz: Phase 1

To take the assessment for this section, click this link.