Lesson Study as a teacher professional development method to foster differentiation in an inclusive setting in the Netherlands

Tirza Bosnia and Sui Lin Goei

Introduction

This chapter explores how a team of Dutch Language teachers designed and implemented differentiated instruction in their lesson planning and delivery via the teacher professional development approach known as Lesson Study. To do so, we have elaborated on their discourse while participating in their Lesson Study meetings during which their overall aim was to design differentiated lessons that cater to the needs of their students.

Over the past decades, teachers have been given increasing responsibility to provide education that suits all students, including students with disabilities. This development has influenced educational practices throughout the world. Schools have had to shift from a standard instructional approach that is generally beneficial for average to above average students to the implementation of differentiated instruction, tailored to the needs of each individual student (Bruggink, Meijer, Goei, & Koot, 2014: Glaser, 1981; Tomlinson, 2014; Tomlinson, Brighton, Hertberg, Callahan, Moon, Brimijoin, & Reynolds, 2003; Ysseldyke, 2005).

The introduction of inclusive education policies in the Netherlands has made differentiated instruction important (Bruggink, Goei, & Koot, 2013; Smeets, Ledoux, Regtvoort, Felix, & Lous, 2015). The policy trend favouring inclusive education has also resulted in a broadening of the definition of special educational needs (SEN), greatly affecting prevalence estimates (Banks & McCoy, 2011). Across Europe, the rates of diagnosed or certified SEN students in mainstream education vary widely, as do the diagnostic criteria and the definitions of SEN. Recent estimates place the number of children with special educational needs at 15 million (European Commission, 2012). Education research tends to use the terms ‘special needs’ or ‘SEN’: however, there is debate about the usefulness of the term, which can be considered value-laden and deficit-based. Other critics feel it divides children into ‘normal’ and ‘less than normal’, resting upon notions of abnormality (Booth, 1998). In this chapter, we use the term ‘educational support needs’ or ‘additional educational needs’ to describe the need of some students for more or additional support to meet the educational goals that have been set for them (Bruggink et al., 2014).

Because of this trend towards more inclusive education in EU member states and the increasing number of students with additional educational needs in the classroom, teachers are increasingly confronted with issues to which they are not able—or feel they do not have the skills—to respond adequately; as a result, they feel incompetent and doubt their self-efficacy. Ultimately, if teachers are not coached or assisted in further developing their didactic and pedagogical repertoire, this can lead to stress, burnout, and attrition (De Neve, Devos, & Tuytens, 2015; Goei & Kleijnen, 2009). The lack of differentiation for students in the classroom or adaptive teaching (Blok, 2004) is a complicated and urgent problem in primary and secondary education (Bosker, 2005; Inspectorate of Education 2011, 2013). Effective professional development in this context calls for a workplace-related approach, because learning to teach adaptively is strongly situational and contextual (Corno, 2008). Accordingly, there is a growing demand for teacher professional development that is adapted to daily teaching practise, specific subject matter, and student learning (Van Veen, Zwart, Meirink, & Verloop, 2010), especially in secondary education. One relatively new and promising approach in this respect (cf. Dieleman, 2011; Van Veen et al., 2010) is called Lesson Study. Lesson Study refers to the collective design, observation, and analysis of classroom lessons by a group of teachers (Lewis, Perry, & Murata, 2006). Collaboration constitutes the cornerstone of Lesson Study; it alleviates the isolation of teaching and allows teachers to share their experiences and knowledge with others (Jacobs, Yoshida, Stigler, & Fernandez, 1997; Stigler & Hiebert, 1999). Lesson study is a professional development method that is seen to be beneficial for teachers’ development (Dudley, 2013).

We will first describe Lesson Study at the beginning of the chapter, moving forward to a modified approach to the methodology of Lesson Study that was specifically designed by Sui Lin Goei for the framework of inclusive educational settings in the Netherlands (Goei, 2013). Then, the concept and theory of differentiated instruction is sketched, followed by a narration of the case study—based on discourse analysis of the recorded Lesson Study meetings—which describes the development of a Lesson Study team of Dutch Language teachers participating in a modified Lesson Study approach, as implemented in a preparatory vocational secondary school in the northwestern part of the Netherlands. Finally, the contribution of Lesson Study to the process of collaboratively designing differentiated instruction is described. Ideas for further research are then suggested.

 
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