“Lesson Study”: Teacher Training in Japan
By Jennifer Winters, Assistant Director
At our staff-development day during spring quarter, Masaharu Kage spoke to us about “lesson study,” a technique for teacher training in Japanese elementary schools. Kage is an associate professor of psychology at Keio University and is currently a visiting associate professor at Stanford.
The unique characteristic of lesson study is collaboration with colleagues in order to reflect on a lesson and to gain perspective for future lessons. The entire purpose of lesson study is to help teachers develop “eyes” to see students and their relationships within an educational environment. This careful observation of students and their work enables teachers to formulate goals for student learning and long-term development.
Kage provided material from the work of an American colleague, Catherine Lewis, who is currently at Mills College in the school of education. Lewis’s Lesson Study: A Handbook for Teacher-Led Improvement of Instruction includes the following excerpt from The Teaching Gap by James Stigler and James Hiebert:
Improving something as complex and culturally embedded as teaching requires the efforts of all the players, including students, parents and politicians. But teachers must be the primary driving force behind change. They are best positioned to understand the problems that students face and to generate possible solutions.
Kage’s interesting and informative lecture supported and strengthened some of our own practices here at Bing. Even though our children are much younger than those discussed by Kage, the same techniques of colleague collaboration are applicable.
At Bing, for instance, we engage the children in “project work” and in so doing we listen to and observe what the children know about a particular topic. It is important to note that our project work provides the structure for but is not a prescription for learning experiences.
We see project work as a way to support and engage the children in meaningful learning experiences. Teachers construct curriculum through all areas of the classroom environment, document what and how we are learning, and meet regularly to discuss the project’s progression.
The exchanges among teachers always provide multiple perspectives and observations, similar to the disciplined collaboration in lesson study. Both lesson study and project work share similar goals of collaboration among teachers and developing in children a disposition for learning that will last a lifetime.