Article

How Should Research Contribute to Instructional Improvement? The Case of Lesson Study

Educational Researcher (Impact Factor: 2.93). 01/2006; 35(3):3-14. DOI: 10.3102/0013189X035003003

ABSTRACT Lesson study, a Japanese form of professional development that centers on collaborative study of live classroom lessons, has spread rapidly in the United States since 1999. Drawing on examples of Japanese and U.S. lesson study, we propose that three types of research are needed if lesson study is to avoid the fate of so many other once-promising reforms that were discarded before being fully understood or well implemented. The proposed research includes development of a descriptive knowledge base; explication of the innovation’s mechanism; and iterative cycles of improvement research. We identify six changes in the structure and norms of educational research that would enhance the field’s capacity to study emerging innovations such as lesson study. These changes include rethinking the routes from educational research to educational improvement and recognizing a “local proof route”; building research methods and norms that will better enable us to learn from innovation practitioners; and increasing our capacity to learn across cultural boundaries.

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    ABSTRACT: Purpose – Over the last 15 years, Japanese lesson study has attracted growing interest as an alternative to conventional teacher professional development. Despite its popularity and results, the descriptive knowledge base of authentic lesson study in Japan is still limited to a few cases from elementary math and science teachers. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the expansion of the lesson study descriptive knowledge base by offering a first-hand account of two American educators' experience with lesson study at the secondary level while working as licensed teachers in a Japanese school. Design/methodology/approach – Using an autoethnographic case study methodology, the authors document their personal experience working through a complete lesson study cycle with a ninth grade English course in Japan, systematically reconstructed from field texts and deliberate co-construction techniques. Findings – The paper describes significant cognitive and socio-cultural adjustments that were required to participate in the process, and highlights essential skills and mindsets for lesson study: fashioning a coherent lesson storyline, articulating and testing working hypotheses, relying on evidence to guide planning and reflection, embracing collective ownership of improvement, and persisting with problems over time. Originality/value – This first-hand account provides a distinctive inside look at lesson study from an American perspective and offers a rare description of Japan-based lesson study at the secondary level. The detailed records and insights contribute to researchers and practitioners emerging understanding of prerequisite skills for lesson study.
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