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

By Clea Fernandez; Makoto Yoshida | Go to book overview

15
Conclusion

In this concluding chapter we reflect about what Japanese lesson study can teach us here in the United States. We begin, however, by focusing on two related issues that need to be addressed first. First, we discuss why Japanese teachers engage in lesson study—why do they see it as a powerful and worthwhile activity? Second, we try to disentangle what is powerful about lesson study per se from what Japanese teachers do to make lesson study the rich activity that we have described in previous chapters.


WHAT DO TEACHERS STAND TO GAIN
FROM ENGAGING IN LESSON STUDY?

Lesson study provides teachers with an opportunity to discuss the content that they are called on to teach and in so doing teachers can refine their understanding of this content. As illustrated by the work of the Tsuta teachers, there are many content-related issues for teachers to consider and come to understand more deeply, even when they are working on a study lesson that centers on a topic as basic as first-grade subtraction with regrouping. Certainly, in the course of working on their subtraction lesson, the lower grade teachers had many thought-provoking, and no doubt enriching, conversations about what it means to regroup and how this type of subtraction relates to addition, to subtraction without regrouping, and to place value.

In addition, through doing lesson study teachers can learn a great deal about how children tend to understand and approach the content that they study in school. According to one Hiroshima principal, “One of the purposes of conducting lesson study is to help teachers to recognize how interesting it is to find out how students think and learn new things. This feeling of enjoyment cannot be achieved easily in everyday teaching because teachers lack the time to think about student thinking in any detail. ”1 The work of the Tsuta lower grade teachers illustrates this quite vividly. These teachers devoted an extraordinary amount of time to discussing how chil-

____________________
1
Interview, 11/27/93, with Mr. Harada, the principal of Itsukaichi Minami Elementary School in Hiroshima, Japan.

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