Last updated: July 19, 2019
Topic: EducationTeaching
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IntroductionBeing in the teaching profession for more than ten years now, I valuecontinued professional development as an utmost priority in my schedule.  I believe that one will never arrive to asaturation point in learning – for learning is a lifelong process. Having beenemployed in an institution active in several fields of specialization includingteacher education, I am fortunate to be frequently chosen as among theparticipant of seminar-workshops and conferences where I get to upgrade myconceptual (in my field of expertise) and pedagogical content knowledge.  Recently, sponsored by a national governmentagency in the country in collaboration with select Teaching EducationInstitution (TEI), I became part of a group of trainers trained by experts bothlocal and foreign tasked to cascade our learning and take aways to our regionwho will in turn pass it forward to their respective divisions and schools bothin the elementary and secondary level. With the various content and pedagogy techniques I have learned andshared to others, I am deeply impressed and convinced that lesson study – assimple as it is – is indeed an effective tool for professional development notonly because I grow with it but I grow with others.Lesson Study has been described as a “teaching improvement process”that has origins in Japanese elementary education in 1872 (UP NISMED, 2017).

   As Richardon said, quoted by Chassel &Melville (2009, p735) “The Japanese say that lesson study develops the eyes tosee children.”. What an inspiring and promising statement!  Being able to put one’s foot in anothersomeone’s shoe is challenging.  Having atool to do so, is exciting!  This paperaims to relay a little background on the principles and features involved in lessonstudy, look into some evidences and reports with regards the practice of thistechnique and some personal views of the author based on accessible literature. Lesson Study Features            Lesson study is anapproach that is site-based, practice-oriented, focused on student learning,collaboration-based and research based – characteristic of an effective professionaldevelopment program identified in various prior research.  It places teachers at the center ofprofessional activity with their interests and desire to better understandstudent learning based on their own teaching experience (Murata, 2016, p2). As a process, Lesson Study involves teachers collaborating, normallyin groups of three, to progress cycles of iterative practice development.

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Suchcycles typically involve the following steps: 1) a discussion of studentlearning goals and the identification of a teaching strategy that might meetthese; 2) planning an actual classroom lesson (called a ‘research lesson’) thatemploys this strategy; 3) observing how the lesson works in practice; and 4)discussing and embedding revisions to enable improvement (Brown, 2014).  Simply put, it is a plan-do-seeapproach.  So where is “developing eyesto see children” incorporated? During the observation of the lessonimplementation, while “teacher implementer” teach the lesson, “teacherobserver” pay particular attention to “case pupils” how they respond to thelesson, what were their attitudes and performance in every portion of thelesson.  During the reflection amongteachers involved in the lesson study group, sharing of insights would focus onthe responses of the case pupil as an assessment of the effectivity of theresearch lesson.The idea for lesson study is simple: teachers organically cometogether with a shared question/idea/goal regarding their student’s learning,plan a lesson to make student learning visible, and examine and discuss whatthey observe.  This is iterative, cyclicaland interactive.

  Through multipleiteration of the process, teachers acquire opportunities to assess theteaching-learning condition.  The cyclemay start in any step of the process with research lesson as the centrepiece ofthe study process. Interactive teaching which requires teachers to know howstudents typically think and express their understanding leads to teachersweaving together various ideas to facilitate learning effectively.Furthermore, Murata (2011) suggested that lesson study canproduce much more than mere lesson plans.

 They suggested three specific areas that develop and interact throughthe lesson study process to support teacher learning namely: teachers’knowledge, commitment and community and learning resources.  Teacher’s different type of knowledge(content, curricula, student learning) come together and interact with oneanother during lesson study as compared to traditional professional developmentwhere each type are learned separately. Ideally, a teacher then integrates these types of knowledge and makecontent accessible to their students.  Lessonstudy brings teachers together to share goals, discuss ideas and workcollaboratively creating a meaningful community with sense of belongingnesswhich can strengthen teacher’s commitment to the profession and optimizemotivation to continually improve in their practice.  Obviously, material development andimprovement is central in this process where learning resource are refined andway better in content and context since it is an output of collaborativeminds.  After all, two head are betterthan one.

  What more is a team of threeor more doing iterative planning, reflection and refinement.Lesson Study Implementation and ImpactRecently, lesson study has attracted attention even internationallyas an effective means of teacher’s professional development – an avenue whereteachers work collaboratively and reflectively with colleagues on improvingtheir classroom teaching (Oshima,, 2006, p43).  This model has cited several evidences of itsbenefit both in teaching and learning such as teacher professional developmentthrough communities of inquiry in Australia (Doig & Grove, 2011, p77);developing a science of teaching in UK (Elliot, 2012, p108); new perspective inpedagogy for teacher and increased participation in learning activities forstudent in Malaysia (Matanluk, Johari & Matanluk, 2013, p245);collaborative work among in-service teachers and student intern in Thailand(Kanauan & Inprasitha, 2013, p28); developed elementary pre-serviceteachers ability to provide feedback in Taiwan (Akerson,, 2015);professional growth in adaptive teaching competence in Netherlands (Schipper,, 2017, p289); improved pedagogical competence and optimal studentmotivation in Indonesia (Aimah, Ifadah & Bhrati, 2017).  In the Philippines, Elipane (2017) conducted a phenomenologicalapproach research for three years through seminar-workshops in Luzon, Visayasand Mindanao for 479 participants including teachers, instructors andadministrators.

  Two-emerging issues wereextracted: the need for development of reform-oriented habits of mind and ramificationson institutional affordance.  Currentcondition now on the country’s effort on lesson study could indicate that theissues were addressed but only by some groups and/or institutions. UP-NISMED,one of the country’s leading reformist on teaching pedagogies had widelycampaigned for the access of lesson study as a professional development tooland was able to create an organization, Philippine Association of Lesson andLearning Studies, Inc (PALS) in December 2016. They even launched a website (Lesson Study Philippines) as an avenue forpublic access to sample research lesson, lesson study stories and impact of theteaching-learning approach in the profession. Lesson Study Proposed ModelsMost of the reports of experiences of lesson study were on theelementary and secondary classroom.

  Probably because of several issues that makes it easy to manage in thislevel of schooling such as similarities of time scheduling among classes,teachers handling several subjects and year levels (making it less difficult tocollaborate) and mindset of both students and teachers that they need to learnand teach much in school (because most of their waking hours is inschool).  Cerbin and Kopp (2006, p250) of University of Wisconsin Systemcreated a lesson study model for college teachers.  In developing the model, necessary changeswere made to adapt to the context and purpose of higher education whileretaining essential features of the Japanese model.

  The model was able to generate results almostsimilar to the results of elementary and secondary classrooms drawing from theexperiences of their College Lesson Study Project (CLSP).  This work culminates in at least two tangibleproducts: (a) a detailed, usable lesson plan, and (b) an in-depth study of thelesson that investigates teaching and learning interactions, explaining howstudents responded to instruction, and how instruction might be furthermodified based on the evidence collected. The steps involved in the process includes: (1) formulating learninggoals; (2) designing the research lesson; (3) designing the study; (4) teachingand observing the research lesson; (5) analyzing the evidence; (6) repeatingthe process; (7) documenting the lesson study. This model may similar to the plan-observe-reflect cyclic process of theJapanese Lesson Study (JLS) model but it has differences such as in the focus(JLS is more school-wide while CLSP is course/topic/goal focused), and inrepeating the process (in JLS research lesson turnover is from one to anotherwithin a grading period while in CLSP, turnover is in the next term or nextschool year due to limited classes).

 Despite the long-term period consumed for the cycle to complete, theactual practice of such pedagogy appeals to the instructors for the followingreasons: teachers control the process and adapt it to their work; affords anopportunity for teachers to examine collectively teaching and learning issues;and Lesson Study is low risk since change is single lesson, not entire course.  Personally, I believe this model has greatpotential for success in achieving its goal because the steps involved are workable,time-friendly, and teacher-friendly.  Iwould probably share and scaffold this tool to friends in the academe handlinghigher education classes.  However, I thinkthis model would be a bit difficult in the Philippine setting especially forinstitutions where teachers are required not only to do instructional task butresearch, extension activities and community service.  With the upgrading demands of productivity fromcollege instructors in universities it is usually difficult for them to sparetime to professionally equip themselves with PCK.

  Hence, several issues are raised by students questioningthe pedagogical technique of their professors, claiming that their teacherslack the art of teaching.  Sadly, thisleaves to be the major cause of students’ failing the subject, dropping fromclass, giving up school or worst taking their own life.  Nonetheless, I see the value of highereducation teachers to undergo PCK training and avail by any means, measures toacquire skills for them to effectively enhance the teaching-learning practice.            Another model usinglesson study as a vehicle for teachers’ professional training special forremote islands has been proposed paying attention to geographical location,culture and any shortcomings of both human resources and infrastructure ownedby schools.   An R & D project inIndonesia was organized to develop such appropriate model of professionaltraining for remote areas.  Ahypothetical model was crafted by implementing integrative thematic-basedlesson study and testing on math teachers in an island in the country.

  Results has yet to be reported (Fauziyah& Uchtiawati, 2017, p 114).  I findthis interesting to use lesson study as a tool for specific groups of teachersor conditions.  This is quite challengingbut the impact would be national because proposals can be sent to governmentand policies crafted for such marginalized group. Lesson Study and other Pedagogy            Lesson study havingattracted international attention was also tested as a combination with othertool for teaching and learning.  Juhlerand Halan (2016, p12) reported that contrary to earlier praxis, studentteachers in the study through the use of Lesson Study in combination withContent Representation (CoRe) managed to put a good deal of work into thinkingabout and defining learning aims of subject-matter for their lessons.  Microteaching lesson studies has been a favourite for a couple ofstudies resulting to positive outcome and hitting the desired target for thepractice.  Bahcivan (2017, p591) reportedthat microteaching lesson study practice positively contributed to pre-serviceteachers’ development of subject-matter knowledge, knowledge of learners,knowledge of representations and pedagogical content knowledge.

  Findings of another study (Yakar & Turut,2017, p36) supported the notion that application of microteaching with lessonstudy in Science Teaching Method Course has positive impact on preserviceteachers’ belief in a way that their beliefs significantly changed toward morestudent-centered.  Furthermore, Xu andMartinovic (2016, p85) found that Microteaching Lesson study in method coursesprovides teacher candidates a great opportunity to learn how to teach with technologywith its significances lie in the opportunity of practice, collaborativereflection, instant feedback, and learning from each other.A study (Chizhik,, 2017, p28) examined how a lesson-studyapproach to student-teaching supervision, Shared Mentoring InstructionalLearning Environments (SMILE), affects teacher candidates’ achievement on theedTPA, a performance-based assessment of teachers in a large public universityin southwest United States.  Resultsshowed that a lesson-study approach to supervision affects teacher candidates’ instructionaldevelopment and development of pedagogy.Lesson study was also used to explain and verify the practicaltheory of teaching for the Problem Solving Approach in an elementary school.

  In one and a half years of implementation ofthe project, teachers gained confidence in their instruction method.  (Isoda, 2010, p27).An interesting study (De Vries, Prenger & Poortman, 2017, p17) donein Netherlands provided in-depth insight into the process and outcomes of across-school team of teachers which they call Professional Learning Network(PLN),  working on the same goal byexploring the potential of Lesson Study for Dutch context. All (14 Englishlanguage teachers) report learning experiences, mostly in the domain of theknowledge and belief about students and student thinking and about didactics andit has often raised teachers’ awareness about teaching in general.CoRe, microteaching, SMILE, Problem Solving Approach, and PLN arejust some examples of strategies employed with Lesson Study as a tool to assessthe teaching-learning process.  Resultswere positive and indicates that Lesson Study can be an effective vehicle toarrive to desired target.

  Nonetheless,if I may coin this word, Lesson Study is “inter-pedagogical”, can be used andcoupled with other techniques to further promote PCK understanding. Lesson Study Drawbacks            Based on experienceand observation of teachers doing Lesson Study, I have noted some drawbacks whichI categorized as issues on repeatability, sustainability, human factor, misconceptionand time.  Results similar to theseissues from various research conducted were collated and reported.              I have observedthat developed research lesson which was a product of at least two cycles of LessonStudy when now used by another teacher (not part of the original Lesson Studyteam) inside a classroom would have variation on the quality of the lessonpresented.  Unfortunately, no datasupports my assumption that this issue has made a difference on theteaching-learning process.

  Probablyeducational studies can also include this variable as a quality control orchecking of the research lesson developed. A long-term study (2006-2012) conducted in 22 pilot schools involving 44study lesson teams in Indonesia showed that in the minutes of the documentationof the collaboration and implementation of the lesson by pre-service teacherand in-service teachers there exist a difference in activities used by someteacher, i.e., usage of blackboard, because they did not know its significantrole in teaching the subject (Thinwiangthong & Inprasitha, 2014, p1940). Sustainabilityis another major issue in this approach.

 It is obvious that one research lesson developed or two or more lessonstudy cycle participated would automatically ensure professional developmentamong teachers. Some of the studies mentioned in this article are long termwhile others only a couple of cycles and lessons.  There is however, no established data on howlong or how often must a teacher be exposed to this approach to optimizeprofessional development.  This can be anotheraspect for consideration in educational research.

Another issueI have observed is human factor during the entire process (reflection,planning, doing).  The individualcapacities, capabilities and attitude of student-teachers, teacher-mentor, pre-or in-service teachers involved in the process.  Oftentimes student-teachers are intimidated byteacher-mentor leading to not maximized performance of student-teachers.  Other times, variation in the prior knowledgeof teachers involved in the team creates a barrier on coming up with commontask or meeting on the same ground as observed by Chassel and Melville (2009,p752-753) labelling it as “inter-personal tensions” among group members.

Tensionsexperienced by teacher candidates with their associate teachers in relation tothe assignment during practicum.  A study(Bahvican, 2017, p593) reported using lesson study during microteaching ofpre-service teacher and found lesson study to positively contribute toprofessional development but participant’s deficiencies in subject-matterknowledge limited the effects of the practice. More so, another issue which I considered a human factor is anotherobservation of the study conducted by Chassels and Melville (2009, p753) that anumber of teacher candidates did not embrace the dialogical and collaborativeprocess of lesson study and argued for efficiency and the delegation ofactivities over the shared journey of authentic collaboration.It is sad to note that even though lesson study has been implementedalmost internationally even to far-flung areas, misconception on the featuresof lesson study is evident and imminent. One time, I attended a training of educators (elementary & highschool teachers here in Manila) organized and sponsored by a national agency ofthe government (name withheld intentionally), I was shocked when after the”teacher implementer” had presented the research lesson on its second cycle,fellow teachers and administrators began critiquing the strategy of the”teacher implementer” as if she was demonstrating to them her expertise and isbeing rated professionally for her performance. A clear evidence of misconception on the aim of lesson study.

 Imminent because we learned that the trainerfor this set of teacher was with them during the event and she did nothing tocorrect the misconception.  Maybe becauseshe had misconception too in the first place. Fortunately, another group of Lesson Study enthusiasts shared theirexperiences and clarified some issue and misconceptions.

            Lastly, the undyingissue in all teachers’ efforts in teaching-learning process, time. Chassels andMelville (2009, p751) reported that teacher candidates identified time as asignificant challenge to the lesson study process.  With the task on collaboration with and beingmentored by their associate teacher added on the list for their practicum,lesson study will be added to a long list of extra work that teachers arealready faced with. Conclusion             Having built the premises on thefeatures of lesson study, its impacts on the teaching-learning process, modelscrafted using lesson study, connection with other strategies established andeven the minor setbacks, I still posit that lesson study indeed is a bettertool for professional development.  Forall the potential mishaps, limitation, disadvantages, weakness of thisprofessional development process, I still find this worth investing on.

  Being a collective ownership, it allows ateacher to grow more from seeing the eyes of their students and from hearingthe insights of colleagues.  More so, thistechnique is also supported by several theories of learning, making it moreprobable option that learning could take place for both teacher and student.  Cognitivism, during the planning stage oflesson study; constructivism during the implementing stage; and connectivismduring the reflection stage.  Teaching isa highly complex occupation where teachers need to adapt to a great deal ofvariety in conditions and options and to adopt to current upgrades inherent todemands of society.

  Knowledge is ofvarious forms and differs from one individual to another.  Teachers have the responsibility by any meansto provide full range of content, context and skills for our students in adigital age.  However, as Bates (2015)said “teaching is a mix of art and science”. There is no one best way to teach that will fit all circumstances.  We have to adapt, adopt, innovative and keepupdated.

  We have to find our niche.  It may be the road less travelled.  We have work to do.