Lesson Study in a Methods Course: Connecting Teacher Education to the Field

Jun. 01, 2012

Source: The Teacher Educator, 47(1), p. 67–89, 2012.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the author presents the results of a study utilizing the Japanese model of lesson study to create a practice-centered teacher education methods course.

The purpose of this study was to
(a) examine the learning outcomes emerging from semi-structured lesson study as a central task in a methods course and
(b) determine the factors that facilitate or inhibit the use of lesson study in a teacher education methods course.

What is Lesson Study?

The goal of lesson study is to develop effective pedagogical habits of teaching in the complex social settings of teachers’ classrooms.
Lesson study provides an opportunity for teachers to develop and utilize collaborative planning, peer observation, dialogue, re-teaching, and reflection to improve their teaching practice.

This study examines planting the emerging habits of lesson study early in teacher education. Two cases of lesson study are examined as the central task in an adolescent mathematics methods course for teachers in grades 7 through 12.
The 2009 methods course met for 2 hours weekly over a 15-week semester.

The participants were eight inservice teachers working on a master’s degree as required for state certification.
For the lesson study, two teams were created, each with four teacher candidates.

Lesson study development occurred through three guided and one or two unguided meetings over three stages:
(a) goal setting and planning;
(b) a two-lesson cycle of public teaching, debriefing, and revision; and
(c) final reflections and discussion of the process.

Data were collected through teacher candidate reflections, observer feedback, field notes, and lesson study write-ups that included records of team meetings. 

Summary and Conclusions

Utilizing lesson study in a methods course provided a rich structured format for teacher candidates to focus on the complexities that are a part of fine-tuning teaching practices in the classroom.
The article presents the outcomes and factors essential to productive outcomes.

First, the lesson study provided a specific objective, the lesson plan, for a group of teachers to discuss and to reach a consensus on for their joint plan.
This led to a presenting teacher shifting methods and adopting a peer’s suggestions for getting students to discuss a mathematics problem.

Collaboration also was developed by structuring course readings and goal setting discussions to move beyond a more stagnant and circular transmission of traditional practice.
Ensuring face-to-face planning time with guiding questions also arose as a fact affecting the level of success in collaboration and the sense of joint ownership of a lesson.

Second, lesson study demonstrated the value of critical observations from peers as well as from more experienced teachers and other educators.
The lesson study structure of multiple observers enabled observations that focused on topics such as the wording of teacher questioning.
The reflections of participants provided additional insights that individual observers simply cannot provide.


Third, the methods course lesson study pushed the use of reflection, evaluation, and revision into the practice of novice teachers.
Participants were able to debrief and discuss factors causing the problems.
In addition, the lesson study structure enabled a brief collaboration to adjust and improve the lesson to be taught again.
The lesson study experience gave secondary teachers, who often teach the same lesson more than once, the opportunity to see how revising a lesson can make effective differences.

The author argues that lesson study cultivates the habits of teacher collaboration, multiobserver lesson evaluation, and lesson revision.
For example, the reflections indicated that teachers found the practice of lesson study to be well worth repeating, and some indicated that it was more useful than other professional development practices that they had experienced as novice teachers.

The author concludes that this study provides teacher educators with examples of outcomes, a model for utilizing lesson study in a teacher education methods course, and issues to consider in planning lesson studies.

Updated: Jan. 20, 2014