Lesson Study: A Japanese Approach to Improving Mathematics Teaching and Learning

By Clea Fernandez; Makoto Yoshida | Go to book overview

markably, lesson study is not only a means of improving the skills and knowledge of teachers, but also a way to improve the knowledge base of the teaching profession. Japanese teachers are not only meeting in groups to improve teaching and learning, but writing books for other teachers in order to share what they have learned. Simple, obvious, and elegant, yet not at all like what teachers do in the United States.

It was Makoto Yoshida, who came to study with me at the University of Chicago, who first told me about lesson study, and who had the wisdom to keep talking about it. It soon became clear that this “lesson study” business warranted further investigation. When Makoto went back to Japan to study the innermost workings of lesson study groups at Tsuta Elementary School in Hiroshima, another of my graduate students (Clea Fernandez) and I started a lesson study group in Los Angeles, and began to explore how it might look in the United States.

Clea and Makoto have gone on to make major contributions to our understanding of lesson study, and this book clearly is one of the most important of these. Clea and Makoto tell the story of lesson study at Tsuta Elementary School in a way that is accurate and true to this Japanese practice, yet accessible and comprehensible to U. S. audiences. I can't think of two people better qualified to tell this story.

Their book is published at a time when, coincidentally, there is great interest in the United States in learning about lesson study. In fact, lesson study is in danger of becoming the latest fad in U. S. education circles, which could well spell its quick demise if we are not careful. Indeed, the history of education in the United States is filled with examples of fads that come and go quickly, never given a chance to really be evaluated or improved or integrated into the lasting fabric of the education landscape. Often, Americans adopt the superficial aspects of some educational idea and miss completely the substance that underlies the idea. A superficial implementation of lesson study is not likely to have any positive impact on the learning of teachers and students, and given our impatient political climate, a lack of immediate results may well lead to lesson study being declared a failure before it is even understood in any deep sense.

What we need to realize is that the devil (and God too) is in the details, which is what makes this book so important for the American audience. This is something the Japanese appear to understand, whether serving cookies or improving teaching. This book is a celebration and exposition of the details of lesson study in Japan. Many Americans who have heard that, in lesson study, teachers meet in groups to collaborate have rushed off to “do” lesson study without ever finding out what, exactly, these groups of Japanese teachers talk about in their meetings. This book presents the details of Japanese lesson study, and these details can take your breath away. We know, for example, that Japanese lesson study groups can spend hours

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