Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Collaborating about What? an Instructor's Look at Preservice Lesson Study

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Collaborating about What? an Instructor's Look at Preservice Lesson Study

Article excerpt

Over the last twenty years, collaborative practices in teacher education and professional development have received a great deal of (mostly positive) attention from researchers (e.g., Hawley & Valli, 1999; Little, 1999; Lord, 1994; McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001). More recently, lesson study, a common form of teacher learning in Japan, has been explored as a promising practice in part because it promotes collaboration. In lesson study, teachers work together to plan a detailed lesson designed to embody a particular educational goal or vision. While one teacher teaches the lesson, the others in the group gather data on students. These data are used to analyze the lesson with the goal of uncovering fundamental issues in teaching (Lewis, 2002).

In their book, The Teaching Gap, Stigler and Hiebert (1999) suggested that lesson study could improve teaching because the practice is collaborative and situated in the classroom. In their work and elsewhere, collaboration in lesson study is assumed to be difficult to achieve, but to cause learning. Chokshi and Fernandez (2004, p. 521) wrote that "the collaborative nature of lesson study allows U.S. teachers to 'fill in the blanks' for one and another" in terms of content knowledge. Because collaboration has been assumed to lead to good outcomes, there has been little discussion in lesson study literature about the ways that collaboration can hinder learning and educational change (e.g., Chokshi & Fernandez, 2004; Fernandez, Cannon & Chokshi, 2003; Hiebert & Stigler, 2000). In addition, many discussions of collaboration in the literature on teacher learning have tended to portray the primary problem for teacher educators as one of increasing opportunities for or improving the practice of collaboration (e.g., Ball & Cohen, 1999; Grossman, Wineburg & Woolworth, 2001; Lord, 1994; McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001). When Grossman and colleagues (2001) described the challenges involved in moving a group of teachers from a pseudo-community, where few genuine opinions were shared and little learning went on, to a community where teachers truthfully engaged with each other, they make it possible for other teacher educators to think about how they might build stronger collaborations; however, this work does not help others to see ways in which genuine collaborations can hinder learning or disguise non-learning.

Self studies of lesson study have been even less likely to examine the ways in which genuine collaboration can pose problems (e.g., Pickard, 2005; Pothen & Murata, 2006; Sam, White & Mon, 2005). In their comparison of lesson studies in two different countries, Sam, White and Mon (2005, p. 139) noted that the major problems faced as lesson study leaders were time constraints and differences in teachers' level of commitment to the process, writing that "'voluntary' versus 'instructed' [approaches to lesson study] affected the success or failure of the research outcome." The implication is that voluntary collaboration will lead to successful lesson study outcomes. Walker (2007) discussed the barriers to successful collaboration in lesson studies she led in Hong Kong, including tensions involving class, language use, and lack of confidence among the teacher participants. This sort of analysis can help other teacher educators pinpoint possible reasons for discomfort among their own participants, but it does not illuminate the challenges posed by collaborations where members feel welcome, productive, and successful. The purpose of the present study is to contribute to this line of work by looking closely at a collaboration in which the participants and the lesson study leader felt members genuinely and equitably participated in the design, teaching and analysis of a lesson. The goal of this article is not to examine ways that the collaboration fell short, but to consider the challenges that lie ahead for teacher educators after collaboration is achieved. …

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