For Japanese educators, Lesson Study is like air, felt everywhere because it is implemented in everyday school activities. (Fujii, 2014, p. 68)
The above quote from Professor Fujii, of Tokyo Gakugei University, has become increasingly used in writing and discussion about the place of lesson study in the lives of teachers in Japan. It illustrates how Lesson Study is a fundamental part of their professional lives: it is an important part of what it means to be a teacher. Lesson Study provides an important part of professional learning throughout their careers. This places the learning of both students and teachers firmly central to ‘teacher work’. It’s not good enough to ensure student learning as a teacher: we also need to consider our own learning throughout our career. I presume that not many of us would argue against such a statement, but why are Lesson studies, or more specifically Collaborative Lesson Research (CLR) the way of achieving this? And how can we adopt and adapt the Japanese model of Lesson Study to work in a different socio-cultural setting in distant countries?
In working to adopt and adapt Lesson Study in schools in Chicago, USA, Akihiko Takahashi, in response to Lesson Study being used as a term to describe many different models of (non-Japanese) Lesson studies in other countries has coined the term Collaborative Lesson Research (CLR) to distinguish this as being closer to the Japanese model than some, and as a way of capturing the importance of collaboration, lessons and (teacher) research as being essential ingredients. As the term CLR itself implies it is. More specifically CLR:
is collaborative: teachers and other educators come together to consider their professional knowledge;
involves collaborative observation in a lesson in a classroom;
has research as central: there is a question about professional practice about teaching in classrooms that the CLR group seeks to answer;
requires joint engagement by the group, prior to the lesson, to consider the proposal for the lesson and to consider what the teacher will do and their students’ likely resulting responses;
post-lesson discussion in which there is collaborative reflection on what happened.
If you wish to adopt and adapt CLR to your own particular situation you will need to think carefully about how you can achieve this. One issue that we have found as a potential obstacle in western school systems is that of time. How can we fit what is a time intensive activity like CLR into our already crowded working lives? There is no easy answer to this question, but one thing is certain, if you can align CLR as an activity that will potentially solve an already issue of concern this will be beneficial. For example, if your school is seeking to improve teaching of problem solving, a programme of CLR can provide a good way of all teachers working on doing so in a most effective way.
The rest of this toolkit provides much advice about how to aim to establish CLR with high quality. In this part of the toolkit Adopting Collaborative Lesson Research We set out some high level ideas before looking in more detail practical issues of implementation in Participating in Collaborative Lesson Research.
This section of the toolkit has the following tools:
Overview of Lesson Study
Lesson study as CLR
CLR as PD
Before you start
Roles and responsibilities