Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

A Practical Guide to Translating Lesson Study for a U.S. Setting

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

A Practical Guide to Translating Lesson Study for a U.S. Setting

Article excerpt

The authors describe a process for creating deep and grounded reflection about the complex activities of teaching that can then be shared and discussed with other members of the profession.

LESSON study (jugyoukenkyuu) is a Japanese professional development process that enables teachers to systematically examine their practice in order to become more effective instructors. In recent years, researchers have argued that lesson study is a promising approach for improving teaching in the U.S., and, as a result, today we can document a widespread growth of lesson study efforts in American schools.1 However, since there are limited descriptions of how to actually translate the basics of lesson study for a U.S. context, we wrote this article to provide U.S. educators with concrete ideas for structuring, organizing, and implementing lesson study in their schools.2


Before we share our recommendations, we would like to outline the main features of lesson study that we refer to throughout this article.3

Lesson study can bring together teachers from one school or from various schools. Teachers begin the lesson study process by identifying an overarching goal that they would all like to achieve with their students. Then, by working collaboratively on a small number of "study lessons," the teachers examine how to tailor their teaching in ways that will help achieve the group's selected goal.

Working on these study lessons involves several steps, the first of which is for the teachers to jointly plan a lesson and draw up a detailed lesson plan for it. The next step is for one of the teachers in the group to teach the lesson in a classroom while the others observe. Next, group members come together to discuss their observations of the lesson and to reflect on what it taught them about the goal they set out to explore. Often, the group will choose to revise the lesson plan and have another group member reteach the lesson in another classroom, while the group members again observe. A debriefing meeting in which observations and insights are discussed once again follows this public demonstration lesson.

At the end of this process, the teachers produce a record of their lesson study work by writing a reflective report. A group may also periodically hold an open house, where teachers can share their lesson study work with other teachers and with other school staffs by teaching study lessons and discussing them with the invited guests.

As you read our suggestions for successfully implementing and learning from lesson study, please keep in mind that the advice we provide here is meant to be more suggestive than prescriptive. We do not believe that there can be a "one-size-fits-all" approach for integrating lesson study into the U.S. educational landscape. Instead, we encourage creative experimentation with lesson study that allows teachers to engage in high- quality learning experiences. With that first piece of advice in mind, here are our suggestions for conducting lesson study.


1. Select an overarching goal to focus and direct lesson study work. A key step in setting up your lesson study group is to choose a specific goal you want to explore through your work on the lessons. This goal will focus and direct your work by providing you with a research question for your group to answer. For example, if you select as your group's goal "to develop students who are critical thinkers," you can plan all your lessons with an eye to answering the question: "How does one create and teach lessons that encourage students to think critically?"

A lesson study group might select an overarching goal the way that many Japanese teachers do. They begin by identifying the gaps that they see between the kinds of children they want to nurture and the kinds of students that are actually growing up in their school. …

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