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Facilitating curriculum reforms through lesson study

Catherine Lewis (School of Education, Mills College, Oakland, California, USA)
Akihiko Takahashi (School of Education, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA)

International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies

ISSN: 2046-8253

Article publication date: 14 October 2013




The purpose of this paper is to briefly describe the role of lesson study in implementation of national curriculum reforms in Japan, identifying key features that may be of interest to policy-makers in other countries.


Literature review, observation, and artefact collection were used to study the role of lesson study in educational reform in Japan.


One key characteristic of implementation of national curricular reforms in Japan is that lesson study allows primary and secondary schools, universities, district and prefectural offices, and subject-matter associations to collaborate in implementation. Some key features of the lesson study-supported system of implementation of curricular reform in Japan includes: the ability of school-based lesson study groups to leverage regional and national subject-matter expertise; school learning routines that enable systematic study, refinement, and dissemination of practice (e.g. kyouzai kenkyuu, public research lessons, grade-level collaboration); and policy structures that support implementation (e.g. grants for designated research schools, a period to try out new standards before they are required by law).

Research limitations/implications

While some features of lesson study transfer readily from Japan to other countries (such as the usefulness of curriculum study, live lessons, and interchange with more experienced teachers), comprehensive systems for using lesson study to support curricular reform are yet to develop outside Japan. This paper identifies the policy, cultural, and infrastructural elements of the Japanese system that allow lesson study to effectively support implementation of new curriculum.


Successful implementation of curricular reform at the classroom level is a persistent difficulty in many countries. Japan's system illustrates how the strengths of teacher leadership and research-based content can be joined to support curriculum implementation, through interlocking systems of lesson study.



This work was supported by the Institute for Education Sciences, US Department of Education, under Grant Nos. R305A110491, R305A110500 and R308A960003 and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0207259. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute for Education Sciences or the National Science Foundation.


Lewis, C. and Takahashi, A. (2013), "Facilitating curriculum reforms through lesson study", International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Vol. 2 No. 3, pp. 207-217.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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