According to Clea Fernandez and Makoto Yoshida in their book Lesson Study: A Japanese Approach to Improving Mathematics Teaching and Learning, “Lesson study is a direct translation for the Japanese term jugyokenkyu, which is composed of two words: jugyo, which means lesson, and kenkyu, which means study or research. As denoted by this term, lesson study consists of the study or examination of the teaching process.” (Fernandez & Yoshida, 2004)
Professional Development with Dignity and a Focus on Process
While participating in a lesson study with other teachers this year, I found the professional development process to be collaborative and inspiring. Here is the process we went through to put lesson study into practice:
- Teachers determine an overreaching goal and research question that they want to explore.
- Teachers then collaboratively create a lesson that connects to the goal and research question. Anticipated student responses should be noted. Deciding upon an overreaching goal and research question serves as a focal point to continually refer back to throughout the entire process.
- Then, one of the teachers of the group teaches the lesson while the other teachers observe according to an agreed-upon, collaborative observation protocol.
- The teachers then meet again for a debriefing session, the lesson is revised, and the entire process is repeated for each teacher. The debriefing period is important in that major issues of the lesson may be reflected upon.
Further, the revision of the lesson is vital in determining what ultimately occurs during each trial.
In general, teachers collaborate on the planning, observing, debriefing, revision, and professional support of the lesson. Another vital aspect of the process is that every voice is valued, respected, and integrated.
One of the greatest advantages of collaborative lesson study is that teachers rely heavily upon the feedback and input of fellow teachers, as well as their pupils. Such a variety of input allows for a richer professional development process. Another advantage of collaborative lesson study is that it creates a space and legitimacy for an ongoing, inclusive process for teacher professionalism. Furthermore, a lesson study focuses on student success rather than teacher performance. The student-centered approach results in more of an emphasis on retention, achievement, and aptitude of the pupil, rather than the perfection of a teacher’s delivery. When I was teaching in a regular brick and mortar classroom, my principal’s evaluations quoted heavily from what I, as the teacher, said during instruction. While studying the lesson study process, however, I found myself more focused on retaining what my pupils were saying to one another, using that information to better understand their learning, and therefore tailoring my teaching accordingly. This point is also emphasized by Fernandez and Yoshida: “...through doing lesson study, teachers can learn a great deal about how children tend to understand and approach the content they study in school.” (Fernandez & Yoshida, 2004)
Useful Link: Tools for Conducting Lesson Study is a helpful webpage that includes an entire page of useful resources pertaining to the lesson study process.