Academic journal article The Mathematics Enthusiast

Teacher Learning in Lesson Study

Academic journal article The Mathematics Enthusiast

Teacher Learning in Lesson Study

Article excerpt


This article documents teacher learning through participation in lesson study, a form of professional development that originated in Japan and is currently practiced widely in the US. Specifically, the paper shows how teachers in three different lesson study teams 1) expanded their mathematical content knowledge, 2) grew more skillful at eliciting and analyzing student thinking, 3) became more curious about mathematics and about student thinking, 4) emphasized students' autonomous problem-solving, and 5) increasingly used multiple representations for solving mathematics problems. These outcomes were common across three lesson study teams, despite significant differences among the teams' composition, leadership, and content foci.

Keywords: Professional development; Teacher learning; Mathematics education; Lesson study; Mathematics instruction

In this article we report on some outcomes of lesson study as part of a professional development effort to improve mathematics teaching and learning in a large, exurban, diverse elementary and middle school district. In lesson study, a group of teachers identifies a problem from practice on which they would like to make progress in their teaching. Over an extended period of time-several months to a year-the teachers study the topic as well as students' perceptions of it, and plan a lesson to address this topic. They bring in other professionals as needed during this process. One member of the group then teaches the lesson while the others observe and record student actions and reactions during the lesson. The group reflects afterwards on the design and teaching of the lesson, its outcomes for student learning, and implications for student learning more generally. The cycle repeats, building teachers' mathematical content knowledge and their shared views of pedagogy simultaneously and over time (Lewis, 2002a; Lewis, Perry & Murata, 2006; Stigler & Hiebert, 1999).

This article documents4 the experience of three school-based lesson study teams of teachers in their efforts to address the development of teachers' mathematical content knowledge, pedagogical skill, and leadership capacity through a combination of professional development activities, with an emphasis on the learning that occurs through the lesson study process. The "Noether" Project,5 an NSF-funded Math and Science Partnership program, involves 60 teachers from 16 schools (with teams varying in size from four to fourteen, and some teams drawing teachers from multiple sites] who study mathematics and pedagogy in multiple formats. Each year, teachers participate in an intensive two-week summer institute, academic year monthly seminars, self-facilitated monthly collaboration time, and lesson study. All teams meet for ten full days of lesson study during the academic year. The program began with 45 participating teachers and subsequently expanded to include 60. The district is a high needs district with 89% of students eligible for free and reduced lunch. 88% of students are Hispanic, with large numbers of English learners (51%), primarily Spanish-speaking, and many parents have limited academic backgrounds. In each middle school at most one or two teachers have a math credential that qualifies them to teach algebra or single subject mathematics.

The theory of action in the Noether Project is that teachers who participate in lesson study will become increasingly knowledgeable in mathematics and more skillful in teaching mathematics, and this expanded teacher learning will lead to improved student learning. This logic of expected improvement follows recent research (Dudley, 2012) indicating that schools where lesson study is conducted show higher levels of student learning in mathematics relative to comparable schools. By "expanded teacher learning," we mean teachers' increased content knowledge, confidence in mathematical skills and abilities to help children learn mathematics, and a growing expertise in teaching mathematics. …

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