Features of the UK Lesson Study model that are in common with Japanese Lesson Study

We briefly set out here the essential features that the UK Lesson Study model shares with its Japanese parent (see Table 5.1) and go on to describe some of the key features that are distinctive to the UK approach (see Figure 5.1). We will explain the origins of these features and what they have added to the pre-existing Lesson Study processes and outcomes for pupils and teachers alike.

Distinctive elements of the UK Lesson Study model

The following features of the UK Lesson Study model have evolved as variants of or additions to the Japanese model:

a. Use of a Lesson Study group protocol to promote reciprocal vulnerability

b. Case-pupils

c. Research lesson planning tool

d. The cycle of three research lessons

e. Post-research lesson pupil interviews

f. Post-lesson discussion protocol

The contribution of Lesson Study 101 Table 5.1 Elements of Japanese Lesson Study and UK Lesson Study


Japanese Lesson Study

UK Lesson Study

Collaborative identification of a goal for improvement in pupil learning by a Lesson Study group.

Always. It may spring from the teachers themselves or be influenced by whole school improvement priorities or a goal within the school board (local) or prefecture (sub-regional) area.

Always - and in common with Japan, the goal may arise from a class- or school-driven need or may be part of a locally- or nationally- driven priority.

Joint research into what the existing knowledge base suggests about the identified issues concerning the goal.

Sometimes. In some cases a teacher - particularly a teacher with specific expertise - may plan a model lesson alone. But where whole school improvement is being researched and developed, there is collaborative planning.


Involvement of an external expert "knowledgeable other’ to facilitate and bring expert knowledge to bear upon the group's Lesson Study enquiry.

Sometimes. On occasions a ‘knowledgeable other' may provide a demonstration lesson and/or join a Lesson Study group in order to advise and co-enquire within it.

Sometimes. And for the same reasons. In England this was a role often adopted by ‘leading teachers’ between 2008 and 2010, which can now be fulfilled by specialist leaders in education (non-school based senior teachers).

Joint research lesson planning.



Joint observation of the research lesson(s)



Post-research lesson discussion.

Always. This can be highly discursive and problem-solving in approach, but it can also be formal to the point of ceremonial - especially when it is a public research lesson. This latter approach is subject to growing criticism in Japan as the evidence grows for teacher learning through joint discussion.

Always. This is highly discursive and collaborative (see below).


102 В. Norwich, Р. Dudley, and A. Ylonen

Table 5.1 (Continued)


Japanese Lesson Study

UK Lesson Study

Further refinement in subsequent research lessons.



Sharing and reporting of what has been learned.

Always. This may take the form of a public demonstration lesson (see above) or it may be a formal lesson, open house or a contribution to a school Lesson Study report.

Always. Sometimes through an open house research lesson or master class public demonstration lesson, a presentation to colleagues or a written case study.

The Lesson Study process used in this programme of development and research

Figure 5.1 The Lesson Study process used in this programme of development and research.

a. Lesson Study group protocol

These protocols are designed to help engender trust between teachers in Lesson Study groups to create the conditions for teachers to learn from each other: to feel safe, to expose reciprocal vulnerabilities or uncertainties, and to create 'equality as learner’ status between group members. The use of these protocols also allows people with different roles or status in the school to work together as equals in a lesson study setting.

b. Case-Pupils

Case-pupils—usually two or three—are chosen by the Lesson Study group as a tracking or reference sample of leaners. If the focus of the Lesson Study enquiry is on how to help a specific group of learners to learn more effectively in an area of underachievement, then the tracking group will comprise three case-pupils drawn from this group. However, if the focus of the Lesson Study is on how to teach something more effectively to the whole class, then each case-pupil may represent a strong, weak, or typical learner for the class in this curriculum area.

c. Research lesson planning tool

This planning tool (template) requires the Lesson Study group to carefully imagine the learning of each case-pupil at each stage of the lesson that is being planned or analysed. This is used as a reference during the research lesson observation, enabling the predicted and observed learning behaviours of case-pupils to be compared. This comparison becomes the starting point for the post-research lesson discussions to conjecture about what is going on and what is needed.

d. The cycle of three research lessons

While many Japanese Lesson Study cycles focus on joint observation of a public open house lesson to demonstrate a technique to a group of observers, the UK Lesson Study approach is more concerned with the creation of new knowledge about practice in an area where teachers are seeking to improve. Findings of successive studies (Dudley, 2011; Dudley 2012; Dudley 2015b) suggest that in a cycle of three research lessons, different kinds of knowledge emerge from each. The first research lesson enables teachers to discover new features of their pupils’ learning which they had not previously been aware of, or misconceptions that they had formed about some of their pupils’ learning (Dudley, 2013). Teachers can use this knowledge to pitch their instruction more accurately in the planning of the next research lesson, but typically only broad hypotheses can be formed from the first research lesson. The second research lesson usually enables the Lesson Study group to refine and sharpen these hypotheses, which can be tested more deeply and rigorously in the third research lesson, allowing claims of new knowledge about practice to be made with greater strength, evidence and validity.

e. The post-research lesson pupil interview

The importance of understanding the perspectives of pupils was appreciated when the UK Lesson Study model was first developing. This was connected with the engineering of opportunities for them to have authentic agency in these processes (Rudduck & Flutter, 2004; Pedder & McIntyre, 2006). In the UK Lesson Study model, members of the Lesson Study group interview pupils immediately after each research lesson. This is not to assess the extent to which they have learned what was intended in the research lesson, but rather to seek their views on how the lesson could be improved. This often elicits ideas for improvement or insights into pupil learning that teachers would never have imagined themselves. Some schools in England have begun not only to seek these views systematically as part of the Lesson Study process, but also to provide opportunities for the pupils who are interviewed to contribute directly to the planning of the subsequent

research lessons.

f. The post-research lesson protocol (template)

This protocol has evolved in order to distinguish between the nature of the post-observation feedback discussions as part of performance management or during school inspections, on the one hand, and the need to piece together a complex, multi-perspective jig-saw picture of the observed case-pupils’ learning, on the other. The post-research lesson protocol therefore seeks to avoid judgmental discussions about a teacher’s performance in the lesson. Instead, it focuses on analysing the group members’ observations of the learning behaviours without immediate reference to the teacher. Teaching is of course discussed, but incidentally, as it relates to the pupils’ learning, because the lesson remains the property and responsibility of the Lesson Study group and not of any one member. This enables teachers to draw on each others’ observations, interpretations, half-formed ideas and insights, and ultimately to access each other’s tacit knowledge, which for most teachers generally remains unknowable by conscious thought. The result makes teacher learning in Lesson Study a powerful and unique experience (Dudley, 2013).

Detailed and practical examples of each of these elements can be found in Dudley (2011).

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