American school systems learn from Japan

A type of teacher professional development that has existed in Japan for a century is recently becoming more popular in the United States, reports Chicago’s WBEZ. The so-called “lesson study” technique, which involves teachers watching one colleague teaching a model lesson and debriefing afterwards, has worked its way into Chicago schools and was included in Florida’s winning Race to the Top grant application. 

WBEZ took a look at a lesson study in progress on Chicago’s northwest side, describing the scene:

A provisional classroom has been set up. A white board sits at the front of the room, and 20 eighth graders are seated at library tables. Math teacher Michael Hock is giving a lesson about the distributive property.

Scattered throughout the room are some 30 other teachers. They aren’t wearing lab coats—but they might as well be. They clutch clipboards and carefully monitor kids’ reactions to the teacher’s explanations, peering over students’ shoulders as they write answers.

Visiting that day was a professor of math education in Japan, Toshiakira Fujii, who explained how common lesson study was in his country. “You can see [it] everywhere in Japan,” Fujii said. “In Tokyo in the case it’s Wednesday. Wednesday [we] usually finish at lunch time. Then one class stays, and the other classes dismiss. And then every teacher comes to that one class and observes. Even the school nurse and school counselor also join to watch the lesson—that’s our traditional way.”

Fujii added that teachers view these lessons as a way to prove their abilities to colleagues

Tags: Japan Asia