Lesson study, Collaborative Lesson Research or something else?
There are many ways of operationalising Lesson Study – even in Japan. Perhaps the model that is most prevalent in Japan is that practised within a single school. This sits within an annual research theme, with teachers seeking to answer the questions they have in relation to this theme in the research lessons that are part of their Lesson Study cycles. However, there are many different variations of such Lesson Study that connect individuals and communities of teachers within and across schools. For example, in addition to the within-school model Lesson studies may be (i) organised by subject associations, (ii) as part of a university-led research group exploring potential curriculum innovation, (iii) as an annual open house Lesson Study in which a school shares their within school learning more widely (iv) as demonstration lessons, with many teachers attending, to disseminate certain ways of teaching more widely at a prefecture or even national level, and so on.
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 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:
· is collaborative: teachers and other educators come together to consider their professional knowledge;
· involves collaborative observation 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.
Further to these features CLR also 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.
There is one other feature of our lesson study work that is often important: that of there being some outside (to the group) expertise in addition to the wealth of knowledge that members of the group bring to their activities. Ideally this ‘knowledgeable other’ has both knowledge of CLR as well as knowledge of the subject area/ focus of the group. This is very helpful in stimulating thinking in the group – especially thinking about how to keep the momentum of the group moving forward. This is particularly important as a group works to become more firmly established.