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What is Lesson Study?

"If teachers improve their content knowledge and practice through lesson study, then it follows that their students will have greater opportunities to increase their understanding and improve their performance.  For teachers, lesson study provides a dynamic means of sharing new content and teaching approaches." (Research for Better Schools, 2002)


Lesson Study is a model of professional development that originated in Japan.  In this professional development process, teachers systematically examine their practice, with the goal of becoming more effective.  This examination centers on teachers working collaboratively on a small number of "study lessons."  Working on these study lessons involves planning, teaching, observing, and critiquing the lessons.  To provide focus and direction to this work, the teachers select an overarching goal and related research question that they want to explore.  This research question guides their work on all the study lessons.


While working on a lesson study, teachers jointly draw up a detailed plan for the lesson.  One of the teachers uses the plan to teach the lesson in a real classroom (as other group members observe the lesson).  Teachers document the lessons using observation notes, student work, videotapes, and/or audiotapes.  The group then comes together to discuss their observations of the lesson.  The group revises the lesson and another teacher implements it in a second classroom, while group members again look on.  The group comes together again to discuss the observed instruction.  Finally, the teachers report what their study lessons have taught them, particularly with respect to their research question.


The lesson study goes beyond the teaching of a specific lesson and the teachers are studying more than just a particular topic.  Lesson studies are about looking at the whole approach to teaching a content standard area.  It focuses on the process as much as the product.


Lesson study is designed to pull together knowledge and pedagogy in a way that guarantees the learning gets to the student level.  It provides teachers a collaborative approach to solving problems with difficult lessons or methodologies.


While lesson study is relatively new to the United States, the number of districts and teachers using lesson study is growing.