Lesson Study in secondary education: Students' educational needs of sense-making of Mathematics and teacher professional development

Nellie Verhoef Per Coenders, and David Tall


It is widely acknowledged that changes in instructional practices resulting in improved student learning can lead to teacher professional development (Desimone, Porter, Garet, Yoon, & Birman, 2002; Ermeling, 2010; Penuel, Fishman, Yamaguchi, & Gallagher, 2007; Wallace, 2009). Recent research suggested that three characteristics of in-service programmes contribute to teacher professional development: (1) a focus on subject matter and student learning, (2) collaboration in a community with peers, and (3) active involvement in curriculum design (Desimone, 2009; Vescio, Ross, & Adams, 2008). Lesson Study has these three characteristics (Buczynski & Hansen, 2010; Gersten, Dirnino, Jayanthi, Kim, & Santoro, 2010; Levine & Marcus, 2010). Lesson Study has its origins in Japanese elementary education and has been in use for over 130 years (Lewis, 2002). Open classes, the origin of Lesson Study, were held to encourage the proposal of new teaching methods and teaching curricula, producing the first interactive Lesson Study groups initiated by the government (Kim, Ham, & Paine, 2011). The Japanese approach aimed at making sense of Mathematics in a way that not only improved students’ understanding, but also maintained longer-term success (Tall, 2008). No such system of a widespread histoiy of a changing process from individualised instruction to whole classroom instruction existed in either Europe or in US (Isoda, 2007). US researchers were less likely to focus on analysing and refining existing curriculum tasks than on designing new assignments (Lewis, Perry, Friedkin, & Baker, 2010). European teachers, on the other hand, focussed on preparing for exams and often worked in isolation in their own classrooms (Verhoef, Coenders, Van Smaalen, Pieters, & Tall, 2014; Verhoef, Coenders, van Smaalen, & Tall, 2013; Verhoef & Tall, 2011; Verhoef, van Smaalen, Coenders, & Tall, 2013).

In this chapter, we explore the effects of a five year programme of Lesson Study in Mathematics secondary education aimed at students’ needs in the sense-making of mathematics in the Netherlands. The focus was on the development of mathematical instructional knowledge and on Mathematics teacher professional development in the context of students’ educational needs. To reveal the processes that teachers go through, sense-making of Mathematics will addressed. As it turns out, organisational issues related to Lesson Study were complicated, and we will therefore also pay attention to these.

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