Introduction

Being in the teaching profession for more than ten years now, I value
continued professional development as an utmost priority in my schedule.  I believe that one will never arrive to a
saturation point in learning – for learning is a lifelong process. Having been
employed in an institution active in several fields of specialization including
teacher education, I am fortunate to be frequently chosen as among the
participant of seminar-workshops and conferences where I get to upgrade my
conceptual (in my field of expertise) and pedagogical content knowledge.  Recently, sponsored by a national government
agency in the country in collaboration with select Teaching Education
Institution (TEI), I became part of a group of trainers trained by experts both
local and foreign tasked to cascade our learning and take aways to our region
who will in turn pass it forward to their respective divisions and schools both
in the elementary and secondary level. 
With the various content and pedagogy techniques I have learned and
shared to others, I am deeply impressed and convinced that lesson study – as
simple as it is – is indeed an effective tool for professional development not
only 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 to
see children.”. What an inspiring and promising statement!  Being able to put one’s foot in another
someone’s shoe is challenging.  Having a
tool to do so, is exciting!  This paper
aims to relay a little background on the principles and features involved in lesson
study, look into some evidences and reports with regards the practice of this
technique and some personal views of the author based on accessible literature.

 

Lesson Study Features

            Lesson study is an
approach that is site-based, practice-oriented, focused on student learning,
collaboration-based and research based – characteristic of an effective professional
development program identified in various prior research.  It places teachers at the center of
professional activity with their interests and desire to better understand
student learning based on their own teaching experience (Murata, 2016, p2).

 

As a process, Lesson Study involves teachers collaborating, normally
in groups of three, to progress cycles of iterative practice development. Such
cycles typically involve the following steps: 1) a discussion of student
learning goals and the identification of a teaching strategy that might meet
these; 2) planning an actual classroom lesson (called a ‘research lesson’) that
employs 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-see
approach.  So where is “developing eyes
to see children” incorporated? During the observation of the lesson
implementation, while “teacher implementer” teach the lesson, “teacher
observer” pay particular attention to “case pupils” how they respond to the
lesson, what were their attitudes and performance in every portion of the
lesson.  During the reflection among
teachers involved in the lesson study group, sharing of insights would focus on
the responses of the case pupil as an assessment of the effectivity of the
research lesson.

The idea for lesson study is simple: teachers organically come
together with a shared question/idea/goal regarding their student’s learning,
plan a lesson to make student learning visible, and examine and discuss what
they observe.  This is iterative, cyclical
and interactive.  Through multiple
iteration of the process, teachers acquire opportunities to assess the
teaching-learning condition.  The cycle
may start in any step of the process with research lesson as the centrepiece of
the study process. Interactive teaching which requires teachers to know how
students typically think and express their understanding leads to teachers
weaving together various ideas to facilitate learning effectively.

Furthermore, Murata et.al (2011) suggested that lesson study can
produce much more than mere lesson plans. 
They suggested three specific areas that develop and interact through
the 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 one
another during lesson study as compared to traditional professional development
where each type are learned separately. 
Ideally, a teacher then integrates these types of knowledge and make
content accessible to their students.  Lesson
study brings teachers together to share goals, discuss ideas and work
collaboratively creating a meaningful community with sense of belongingness
which can strengthen teacher’s commitment to the profession and optimize
motivation to continually improve in their practice.  Obviously, material development and
improvement is central in this process where learning resource are refined and
way better in content and context since it is an output of collaborative
minds.  After all, two head are better
than one.  What more is a team of three
or more doing iterative planning, reflection and refinement.

Lesson Study Implementation and Impact

Recently, lesson study has attracted attention even internationally
as an effective means of teacher’s professional development – an avenue where
teachers work collaboratively and reflectively with colleagues on improving
their classroom teaching (Oshima, et.al, 2006, p43).  This model has cited several evidences of its
benefit both in teaching and learning such as teacher professional development
through communities of inquiry in Australia (Doig & Grove, 2011, p77);
developing a science of teaching in UK (Elliot, 2012, p108); new perspective in
pedagogy for teacher and increased participation in learning activities for
student 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-service
teachers ability to provide feedback in Taiwan (Akerson, et.al, 2015);
professional growth in adaptive teaching competence in Netherlands (Schipper,
et.al, 2017, p289); improved pedagogical competence and optimal student
motivation in Indonesia (Aimah, Ifadah & Bhrati, 2017). 

In the Philippines, Elipane (2017) conducted a phenomenological
approach research for three years through seminar-workshops in Luzon, Visayas
and Mindanao for 479 participants including teachers, instructors and
administrators.  Two-emerging issues were
extracted: the need for development of reform-oriented habits of mind and ramifications
on institutional affordance.  Current
condition now on the country’s effort on lesson study could indicate that the
issues were addressed but only by some groups and/or institutions. UP-NISMED,
one of the country’s leading reformist on teaching pedagogies had widely
campaigned for the access of lesson study as a professional development tool
and was able to create an organization, Philippine Association of Lesson and
Learning Studies, Inc (PALS) in December 2016. 
They even launched a website (Lesson Study Philippines) as an avenue for
public access to sample research lesson, lesson study stories and impact of the
teaching-learning approach in the profession.

 

Lesson Study Proposed Models

Most of the reports of experiences of lesson study were on the
elementary and secondary classroom.  
Probably because of several issues that makes it easy to manage in this
level of schooling such as similarities of time scheduling among classes,
teachers handling several subjects and year levels (making it less difficult to
collaborate) and mindset of both students and teachers that they need to learn
and teach much in school (because most of their waking hours is in
school). 

Cerbin and Kopp (2006, p250) of University of Wisconsin System
created a lesson study model for college teachers.  In developing the model, necessary changes
were made to adapt to the context and purpose of higher education while
retaining essential features of the Japanese model.  The model was able to generate results almost
similar to the results of elementary and secondary classrooms drawing from the
experiences of their College Lesson Study Project (CLSP).  This work culminates in at least two tangible
products: (a) a detailed, usable lesson plan, and (b) an in-depth study of the
lesson that investigates teaching and learning interactions, explaining how
students responded to instruction, and how instruction might be further
modified based on the evidence collected. 
The steps involved in the process includes: (1) formulating learning
goals; (2) designing the research lesson; (3) designing the study; (4) teaching
and observing the research lesson; (5) analyzing the evidence; (6) repeating
the process; (7) documenting the lesson study. 
This model may similar to the plan-observe-reflect cyclic process of the
Japanese 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 in
repeating the process (in JLS research lesson turnover is from one to another
within a grading period while in CLSP, turnover is in the next term or next
school year due to limited classes). 
Despite the long-term period consumed for the cycle to complete, the
actual practice of such pedagogy appeals to the instructors for the following
reasons: teachers control the process and adapt it to their work; affords an
opportunity 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 great
potential for success in achieving its goal because the steps involved are workable,
time-friendly, and teacher-friendly.  I
would probably share and scaffold this tool to friends in the academe handling
higher education classes.  However, I think
this model would be a bit difficult in the Philippine setting especially for
institutions where teachers are required not only to do instructional task but
research, extension activities and community service.  With the upgrading demands of productivity from
college instructors in universities it is usually difficult for them to spare
time to professionally equip themselves with PCK.  Hence, several issues are raised by students questioning
the pedagogical technique of their professors, claiming that their teachers
lack the art of teaching.  Sadly, this
leaves to be the major cause of students’ failing the subject, dropping from
class, giving up school or worst taking their own life.  Nonetheless, I see the value of higher
education teachers to undergo PCK training and avail by any means, measures to
acquire skills for them to effectively enhance the teaching-learning practice.

            Another model using
lesson study as a vehicle for teachers’ professional training special for
remote islands has been proposed paying attention to geographical location,
culture and any shortcomings of both human resources and infrastructure owned
by schools.   An R & D project in
Indonesia was organized to develop such appropriate model of professional
training for remote areas.  A
hypothetical model was crafted by implementing integrative thematic-based
lesson study and testing on math teachers in an island in the country.  Results has yet to be reported (Fauziyah
& Uchtiawati, 2017, p 114).  I find
this interesting to use lesson study as a tool for specific groups of teachers
or conditions.  This is quite challenging
but the impact would be national because proposals can be sent to government
and policies crafted for such marginalized group.

 

Lesson Study and other Pedagogy

            Lesson study having
attracted international attention was also tested as a combination with other
tool for teaching and learning.  Juhler
and Halan (2016, p12) reported that contrary to earlier praxis, student
teachers in the study through the use of Lesson Study in combination with
Content Representation (CoRe) managed to put a good deal of work into thinking
about and defining learning aims of subject-matter for their lessons. 

Microteaching lesson studies has been a favourite for a couple of
studies resulting to positive outcome and hitting the desired target for the
practice.  Bahcivan (2017, p591) reported
that microteaching lesson study practice positively contributed to pre-service
teachers’ 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 lesson
study in Science Teaching Method Course has positive impact on preservice
teachers’ belief in a way that their beliefs significantly changed toward more
student-centered.  Furthermore, Xu and
Martinovic (2016, p85) found that Microteaching Lesson study in method courses
provides teacher candidates a great opportunity to learn how to teach with technology
with its significances lie in the opportunity of practice, collaborative
reflection, instant feedback, and learning from each other.

A study (Chizhik, et.al, 2017, p28) examined how a lesson-study
approach to student-teaching supervision, Shared Mentoring Instructional
Learning Environments (SMILE), affects teacher candidates’ achievement on the
edTPA, a performance-based assessment of teachers in a large public university
in southwest United States.  Results
showed that a lesson-study approach to supervision affects teacher candidates’ instructional
development and development of pedagogy.

Lesson study was also used to explain and verify the practical
theory of teaching for the Problem Solving Approach in an elementary school.  In one and a half years of implementation of
the project, teachers gained confidence in their instruction method.  (Isoda, 2010, p27).

An interesting study (De Vries, Prenger & Poortman, 2017, p17) done
in Netherlands provided in-depth insight into the process and outcomes of a
cross-school team of teachers which they call Professional Learning Network
(PLN),  working on the same goal by
exploring the potential of Lesson Study for Dutch context. All (14 English
language teachers) report learning experiences, mostly in the domain of the
knowledge and belief about students and student thinking and about didactics and
it has often raised teachers’ awareness about teaching in general.

CoRe, microteaching, SMILE, Problem Solving Approach, and PLN are
just some examples of strategies employed with Lesson Study as a tool to assess
the teaching-learning process.  Results
were positive and indicates that Lesson Study can be an effective vehicle to
arrive to desired target.  Nonetheless,
if I may coin this word, Lesson Study is “inter-pedagogical”, can be used and
coupled with other techniques to further promote PCK understanding.

 

Lesson Study Drawbacks

            Based on experience
and observation of teachers doing Lesson Study, I have noted some drawbacks which
I categorized as issues on repeatability, sustainability, human factor, misconception
and time.  Results similar to these
issues from various research conducted were collated and reported.  

            I have observed
that developed research lesson which was a product of at least two cycles of Lesson
Study when now used by another teacher (not part of the original Lesson Study
team) inside a classroom would have variation on the quality of the lesson
presented.  Unfortunately, no data
supports my assumption that this issue has made a difference on the
teaching-learning process.  Probably
educational studies can also include this variable as a quality control or
checking of the research lesson developed. 
A long-term study (2006-2012) conducted in 22 pilot schools involving 44
study lesson teams in Indonesia showed that in the minutes of the documentation
of the collaboration and implementation of the lesson by pre-service teacher
and in-service teachers there exist a difference in activities used by some
teacher, i.e., usage of blackboard, because they did not know its significant
role in teaching the subject (Thinwiangthong & Inprasitha, 2014, p1940).

Sustainability
is another major issue in this approach. 
It is obvious that one research lesson developed or two or more lesson
study cycle participated would automatically ensure professional development
among teachers. Some of the studies mentioned in this article are long term
while others only a couple of cycles and lessons.  There is however, no established data on how
long or how often must a teacher be exposed to this approach to optimize
professional development.  This can be another
aspect for consideration in educational research.

Another issue
I have observed is human factor during the entire process (reflection,
planning, doing).  The individual
capacities, capabilities and attitude of student-teachers, teacher-mentor, pre-
or in-service teachers involved in the process.  Oftentimes student-teachers are intimidated by
teacher-mentor leading to not maximized performance of student-teachers.  Other times, variation in the prior knowledge
of teachers involved in the team creates a barrier on coming up with common
task or meeting on the same ground as observed by Chassel and Melville (2009,
p752-753) labelling it as “inter-personal tensions” among group members. Tensions
experienced by teacher candidates with their associate teachers in relation to
the assignment during practicum.  A study
(Bahvican, 2017, p593) reported using lesson study during microteaching of
pre-service teacher and found lesson study to positively contribute to
professional development but participant’s deficiencies in subject-matter
knowledge limited the effects of the practice. 
More so, another issue which I considered a human factor is another
observation of the study conducted by Chassels and Melville (2009, p753) that a
number of teacher candidates did not embrace the dialogical and collaborative
process of lesson study and argued for efficiency and the delegation of
activities over the shared journey of authentic collaboration.

It is sad to note that even though lesson study has been implemented
almost internationally even to far-flung areas, misconception on the features
of lesson study is evident and imminent. 
One time, I attended a training of educators (elementary & high
school teachers here in Manila) organized and sponsored by a national agency of
the 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 is
being rated professionally for her performance. 
A clear evidence of misconception on the aim of lesson study.  Imminent because we learned that the trainer
for this set of teacher was with them during the event and she did nothing to
correct the misconception.  Maybe because
she had misconception too in the first place. 
Fortunately, another group of Lesson Study enthusiasts shared their
experiences and clarified some issue and misconceptions.

            Lastly, the undying
issue in all teachers’ efforts in teaching-learning process, time. Chassels and
Melville (2009, p751) reported that teacher candidates identified time as a
significant challenge to the lesson study process.  With the task on collaboration with and being
mentored 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 are
already faced with.

 

Conclusion

            Having built the premises on the
features of lesson study, its impacts on the teaching-learning process, models
crafted using lesson study, connection with other strategies established and
even the minor setbacks, I still posit that lesson study indeed is a better
tool for professional development.  For
all the potential mishaps, limitation, disadvantages, weakness of this
professional development process, I still find this worth investing on.  Being a collective ownership, it allows a
teacher to grow more from seeing the eyes of their students and from hearing
the insights of colleagues.  More so, this
technique is also supported by several theories of learning, making it more
probable option that learning could take place for both teacher and student.  Cognitivism, during the planning stage of
lesson study; constructivism during the implementing stage; and connectivism
during the reflection stage.  Teaching is
a highly complex occupation where teachers need to adapt to a great deal of
variety in conditions and options and to adopt to current upgrades inherent to
demands of society.  Knowledge is of
various forms and differs from one individual to another.  Teachers have the responsibility by any means
to provide full range of content, context and skills for our students in a
digital 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 keep
updated.  We have to find our niche.  It may be the road less travelled.  We have work to do.