Lesson Study in Japan
Japan has a long-established practice of Lesson Study as a teacher professional development method (Fernandez & Yoshida, 2004; Murata, 2011; Yoshida, 1999), having been practiced since the 19th century. The government once again initiated the use of Lesson Study after the 1960s due of disappointing mathematics scores. The ‘classical’ Lesson Study cycle is illustrated in Figure 3.1 (Fernandez & Yoshida, 2004).
The first step for teachers working together to achieve instructional improvement is to formulate goals for student learning and long-term development. The second is to collaboratively plan a lesson designed to bring these goals to life. In the third step the planned lesson is delivered in a classroom, with one team member teaching and others gathering evidence on student learning and development; the teachers in the team reflect on and discuss the evidence gathered during the lesson, using it to improve the lesson and instruction; and, if desired, the fourth step involves teaching, observing, and improving the lesson again in one or more additional classrooms. In the last step, the team reflects on the whole lesson study cycle process and their work together. All of the ideas and learning results will be gathered and consolidated. During Lesson Study, teachers work collaboratively and reflect on the teaching process and on student learning (Takahashi & Yoshida, 2004). In Japan, Lesson Study is conducted at all
40 Jari.se Kaskens and Sui Lin Goei
Figure 3.1 The ‘classical’ Lesson Study cycle (Fernandez & Yoshida, 2004).
levels of the educational system, serving various purposes, but the shared purpose of any Lesson Study effort is to enable teachers to improve instruction (Fernandez & Yoshida, 2004).
Lesson Study outside Japan
In Japan, Lesson Study’s potential has long ago been demonstrated; the country has a strong record of student achievement and the use of Lesson Study is widespread as the most common form of teacher professional development (Fernandez & Yoshida, 2004). The trigger for using the Lesson Study approach outside of Japan was the disappointing result of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS, 1999). Researchers such as Stigler and Hiebert realised that teaching had to be improved (Stigler & Hiebrt, 1999). At that time, the United States had no system for improving teachers’ teaching approaches. Lesson Study was considered as a potential strategy for enhancing teacher professional development, thus Lesson Study was implemented.
Lesson Study has also been incorporated in different societies and widely used in many countries including Singapore, Thailand, Australia, the United Kingdom, China, Sweden, and many more. In the past few' years, Lesson Study has become more widely known in the Netherlands (Goei, Verhoef, Coenders, De Vries, & Van Vugt, 2015; Schipper, Goei, de Vries. & van Veen, 2017). The fact that Lesson Study originates from another country and culture may create additional challenges for successful Lesson Study implementation in other countries with their own educational contexts, as different cultures have special ways of teaching. For example, whole-class teaching, group work, or some situations in which the class recites instructions given by the teacher. Another example of cultural differences in education is that, in England, teachers must work within government guidelines that are highly controlled. The consequence comes in the teachers’ responses to these pressures, where they focused valuable resources on preparing for the required tests (Dudley, 2012). In Australia, there is also less room for teachers to experiment because of the strict examination requirements (Doig & Groves, 2011). In the United States, the impact of Lesson Study is different in contrast to that in Japan, perhaps because American teachers contend that teaching is a personal and private activity (Hiebert, Gallimore, & Stigler, 2002). That may be the reason that American teachers are not capable of developing a professional body of knowledge by engaging in Lesson Study.
Different countries and different cultures result in wide variations of Lesson Study with respect to lesson study goals, norms, scheduling, and other dimensions (Lewis, Perry, & Murata, 2006). Lesson Study has a place in the repertoire of teacher learning approaches in every country, and there is an increase in research showing that its use can improve teaching, learning, and pupil learning outcomes in a range of school contexts. Inquiry on the implementation of Lesson Study shows positive results regarding changes in professional knowledge, improved instruction, and student learning outcomes (Cheng & Lo, 2013; Fernandez, 2002). However, these results must be viewed in the context of the differences in educational cultures between countries. These differences could have an impact on the implementation of Lesson Study. For that reason, this case study is focused on the implementation of the Lesson Study approach in the educational context of the Netherlands.