Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Using the Lesson Study Approach to Plan for Student Learning

Academic journal article Middle School Journal

Using the Lesson Study Approach to Plan for Student Learning

Article excerpt

The Lesson Study approach is a method of professional development that encourages teachers to reflect on their teaching practice through a cyclical process of collaborative lesson planning, lesson observation, and examination of student learning. This results-oriented professional development model is an ideal vehicle for improving instructional practice in middle schools. Characteristically, middle schools are (a) learning communities where teachers and students engage in active learning, (b) places with high expectations for every member of the community, and (c) organizational structures that support meaningful relationships (National Middle School Association, 2003). Middle school teachers have to know their students well - who they are and how they learn best - and use this information when planning instruction and assessing student performance (Jackson & Davis, 2000). Most teacher planning focuses primarily on teacher actions rather than on student results (Ornstein, 1997) . The Lesson Study approach, however, can provide an opportunity for middle school teachers to work together to strengthen the link between instructional planning and student learning.

What is lesson study?

Lesson Study is a "comprehensive and well-articulated process for examining practice" (Fernandez, Cannon, & Chokshi, 2003, p. 171). The Lesson Study approach is the way Japanese teachers have studied their practice for decades. Educators from the United States who studied the reasons for Japan's high scores in mathematics concluded that Japan's success could be the result of their professional development model. These educators discovered that Japanese teachers had developed a way to examine student achievement using a method that Makoto Yoshida (1999) translated as "lesson study." Stigler and Hiebert (1999) introduced Lesson Study to teachers in North America in their book about international methods of instruction. Lesson Study is now one of the fastest-growing approaches to professional development in the United States (Lewis, Perry, Hurd, & O'Connell, 2006).

Theoretical perspectives

Underpinning the Lesson Study approach is Situated Learning Theory (Lave & Wenger, 1991), which advances the premise that learning is situated in the specific activity and is embedded within a particular context and culture. Lave and Wenger posited that learning is a social process in which individuals co-construct knowledge rather than transmit knowledge from one individual to the next. In the case of Lesson Study, the learning occurs as teachers exchange ideas and collaborate on lessons for their actual classrooms. Situated learning is a model of learning that transpires in a community of practice (Lave & Wenger) .

As teachers engage in the process of Lesson Study, they are collectively examining practice; they are functioning as communities of practice. "Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly" (Wenger, n.d.). The members of the community develop a shared practice, a repertoire of shared experiences and understandings. The Lesson Study approach helps teachers to form communities of practice around planning and teaching. In these communities, teachers construct, organize, share, and refine their knowledge of the lesson. Notably, the focus of Lesson Study remains the collaborative intellectual process rather than the output of isolated products such as a collection of model lessons (Chokshi & Fernandez, 2004). This intellectual engagement is a hallmark of communities of practice, which "provide an avenue for teachers with common interests to interact with other professionals with similar interests to solve problems and improve practices" (Angelle, 2008, p. 56).

Developing and nurturing communities of practice require a number of conditions including the legitimatization of participation and provision of support (Wenger, 1998). …

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