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Developing a science of teaching through lesson study

John Elliott (Centre for Applied Research in Education, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)

International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies

ISSN: 2046-8253

Article publication date: 18 May 2012




The purpose of this paper is to explore the potential of lesson study for the development of a science of teaching cast in the form of John Dewey's “laboratory model” of learning to teach.


The early sections compare the “laboratory” with the “apprenticeship” and “rationalist” models of learning to teach, which emphasise the primacy of practice and theory respectively. The unity of theory and practice embodied in the “laboratory model” is outlined, linking the development of teachers’ theoretical understanding with the development of their practice. A distinction between pedagogy and teaching is drawn. The later sections examine the potential of lesson study to develop as a teachers’ based pedagogical science, particularly when informed by variation theory. The paper concludes by suggesting ways in which different theories of learning can be integrated into learning study, and points to ways in which particular studies can contribute to the systematic construction of pedagogical knowledge.


There can be no pedagogy without casting teaching as an experimental science, in which pedagogical theories are appropriated, tested and further developed as a source of pedagogical principles. Pedagogy therefore consists of a science of teaching in which teachers actively participate in knowledge construction. Lesson study when informed by an explicit learning theory, such as variation theory, provides a strong basis for the development of a practitioner‐based science of teaching.


The paper creates original links across disparate work in the field of teaching and learning.



Elliott, J. (2012), "Developing a science of teaching through lesson study", International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 108-125.



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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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