Ling, L.M. (2014), "Revealing the critical aspects of lesson and learning studies", International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Vol. 3 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLLS-04-2014-0008Download as .RIS
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Revealing the critical aspects of lesson and learning studies
Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Volume 3, Issue 2
While we recognize that there are a wide range of activities that can be called Lesson Studies, in the last issue of IJLLS, John Elliott (2014) also commented on “the sheer range and scope of activities that can be depicted as Learning Studies, suggesting that they may consist of a variety of sub-disciplines rather than a single discipline as such” (p. 2). The World Association of Lesson Studies (WALS) provides a platform for the researchers and practitioners of Lesson and Learning Study to come together and learn from each other’s similarities and differences. As the official journal of WALS, IJLLS facilitates this professional discourse.
In this issue, Cheung and Wong contribute to this discourse by presenting a systematic review on the effects of Lesson and Learning Studies on teachers and students. They reviewed Lesson and Learning Studies conducted from 2000 to 2010 to unravel the benefits of these studies on teachers and students. From 74 peer-reviewed journal papers which investigated the effects of Lesson Study or Learning Study, nine studies which passed the inclusion criteria and screening tests were finally selected for an in-depth analysis. It was found that the nine studies, irrespective of being Lesson or Learning Studies, provided evidence that Lesson and Learning Studies worked in practice to improve student learning outcomes. Although this review was a pilot study with a small sample size, it provided preliminary positive evidence about Lesson and Learning Study being a powerful tool to help teachers examine their practices and enhance student learning. IJLLS welcomes more review papers to shed light on the present state of development of Lesson and Learning Studies, and more comparative studies that compare and contrast Lesson and Learning Studies from different theoretical perspectives.
Cheung and Wong point out that although there were a large number of Lesson and Learning Studies conducted, the effectiveness of these studies was still not conclusive. Most studies conducted in different countries were published in their native languages and thus became inaccessible to foreigners. We would like to encourage teachers to participate in our discourse and make their work known in IJLLS. In this issue, we have a poster from Reeve, reporting how pupils used ICT devices to support and enhance their learning at Aylsham High School. Presenting a poster is one way that teachers can participate in and contribute to the discourse. We hope that teachers can publish their Lesson or Learning studies, or parts of the studies focusing on certain critical aspects in the form of posters. We welcome posters describing practices that have been trialled in actual classrooms, with an analysis of the relationships between the teaching acts and student learning outcomes. These posters would form a repository of summaries of insights from research lessons in the long run.
In “Hybrid Lesson Study: extending Lesson Study on-line”, Nickerson, Fredenberg, and Druken report an approach of Lesson Study that helped to resolve the time constraint faced by US teachers for planning and observation. Within a Lesson Study context, they developed a “hybrid Lesson Study environment, which combined face-to-face collaboration with a password-protected website” to support and extend collaboration among mathematics teachers at 26 school sites across two school districts. The goals were first, to traverse geographical distance and break the isolated nature of US teachers’ work culture; and second, to extend time through permitting collaboration beyond the funded project. It was found that a significant percentage of teachers used the website for accessing resources, while a smaller number of teachers used the web site to discuss pedagogy and students’ mathematical thinking. This study illustrates one adaption of Lesson Study, and we would expect more and more adaptions involving different forms, formats and scopes of implementation of Lesson and Learning Study according to local contexts. However, in order to preserve the integrity of Lesson and Learning Studies, we have to know the critical aspects of Lesson and Learning Studies. IJLLS welcomes articles that highlight different critical aspects of Lesson and Learning Studies.
What better ways of exposing the critical aspects of Lesson Study than through detailed descriptions of the first-hand experience of the process from the perspectives of those who are new to this culture? Ermeling and Graff-Ermeling provide a very interesting first-hand account of two American educators’ experience with Lesson Study while working as licensed teachers in a Japanese school. Experiencing variation in the two teaching cultures enabled them to discern aspects that might have been taken for granted by Japanese educators who have grown up in the culture of Japanese Lesson Study. In their paper, while contributing to the descriptive knowledge base of Lesson Study examples by describing in detail an English Lesson Study that they participated in, they also articulate a number of critical skills and reveal some of the cognitive and sociocultural adjustments that were required to participate in Lesson Study. Although we have published many papers about Lesson and Learning Studies, there have been few written from the perspectives of participant teachers. Papers written by teachers and researchers analysing their own learning experiences would make valuable contributions to the literature.
Norwich, Dudley and Ylonen’s paper focuses on the assessment aspect of Lesson and Learning Study. The authors make a strong and coherent argument for the value of using Lesson Study to assess/identify pupils’ learning difficulties, and propose an approach called “Lesson Study for Assessment”, which they see as “a dynamic kind of assessment that is undertaken in a teaching context”. The paper arises from a research and development project entitled “Raising levels of achievement through lesson development for pupils with moderate learning difficulties (MLD) project” in the UK. The paper is aimed at explaining how it is possible to switch the relationship between teaching and assessing in the Lesson Study process, so that changes in teaching can be used to improve understanding of the needs of pupils. The authors argue the case for refocusing Lesson Study so that the primary aim becomes improved understanding of learner needs rather than the improvement of teaching. Perhaps this paper will stimulate some discussion and debate among researchers of Lesson and Learning Studies. Readers are invited to submit a critique of a paper (500 words minimum and 1,500 words maximum), which the editors may decide to publish with a response from the author(s).
While Norwich, Dudley and Ylonen’s paper highlights assessment as a critical aspect of Lesson Study, the assessment aspect is also a critical aspect of Learning Study. Another important finding of the MLD project was how Lesson Study processes enabled teachers to see their pupils in new ways, raising awareness of pupils’ needs and classroom factors, while challenging preconceptions about pupil capabilities. These findings also resonate with the findings of many Learning Studies informed by Variation Theory (e.g. Lo et al., 2005).
Interestingly, as a result of different cultures, contexts and constraints of practices, as well as pedagogical beliefs, Lesson and Learning Studies take on different forms and characteristics when conducted in different countries. In fact, they are referred to by different names, for example, “jugyokenkyuu” as practiced in Japan, “Lesson Study” as practiced in US, as practiced in Hong Kong, and “Learning Study” in Sweden. Thus, perhaps it would be more appropriate to refer to Japanese Lesson Study (JLS), UK Lesson Study (UKLS), US Lesson Study (USLS), Hong Kong Learning Study (HKLS), Swedish Learning Study (SWLS) as they all have different characteristics. In reporting Lesson or Learning Studies, because of the constraint of space, certain aspects are usually highlighted while others left in the background. For example, papers on Learning Study usually focus on the object of learning, critical features, patterns of variation and the relationship between how the object of learning was handled and student learning outcomes, while other aspects like teaching strategies, classroom environment, etc. are left in the background. On the other hand, in reporting Lesson Study, teacher collaboration, teaching strategies and classroom environments usually come to the foreground, while content analysis and how the critical features were identified are left in the background. However, the power of Lesson and Learning Studies lies in the fact that the studies are carried out in the context of real practice. It is highly likely that a successful research lesson leading to effective learning represents a fusion of all the critical aspects of effective teaching and learning as an integral whole. It is difficult to imagine an effective lesson without due consideration of content, or due consideration of effective teaching strategies and classroom environment that will bring about the desired learning. Considering this, do Lesson Study and Learning Study actually have more in common in terms of critical aspects than their perceived differences? Would the practice of Lesson and Learning Study converge or diverge?
Lo Mun Ling
Elliott, J. (2014), “Editorial. Learning Study and its various forms”, International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Vol. 3 No. 1, pp. 2-10
Lo, M.L., Pong, W.Y. and Ko, P.Y. (2005), “Making use of learning study to cater for individual differences”, in Lo, M.L. Pong, W.Y. and Chik, P.P.M. (Eds), For Each and Everyone, Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong, pp. 27-40