Japanese lesson study (LS) is a professional development approach in which teachers collaboratively plan a lesson, observe it being taught and then discuss what they have learnt. LS’s global spread is increasing but studies have identified several challenges to its implementation: the lack of structures and systems to accommodate LS (especially time); the focus on demonstrating short-term impact; a lack of teacher research skills; a dearth of access to quality learning and research material; the absence of available koshis; and accountability pressures. The purpose of this paper is to examine the “translation” of Japanese LS through a case study of one English secondary school.
This study is a case study of a single school which has been using LS as an approach to professional development for five years. A documentary analysis of the school’s LS Handbook sought to understand the school’s approach to LS as articulated by senior leadership. Six observations of the schools LS processes were then carried out including planning, research lessons and post-lesson discussions. Finally, one senior leader who had led LS implementation and five teachers who had been working in the school during the implementation stage were interviewed. The findings are analysed against Seleznyov’s (2018) seven critical components of Japanese LS.
Several key deviations from Japanese LS are identified including: a lack of whole school theme studied over time; little kyozai kenkyu and no written lesson planning; teachers deviating from the role of observers in research lessons; no facilitator and little use of discussion protocols; no koshi; and struggles to ensure mobilisation of knowledge between LS groups. Several of these represent gaps between the school’s LS policy and practices. The findings show that LS practices have become diluted over time and that giving teachers choices seems to have led to teachers not adhering to important aspects of the LS policy.
One of the limitations of the research is its focus on the perceptions of a small group of teachers who were likely to be more passionate about LS than others, and perhaps a deeper understanding of the challenges to implementation might be enabled by interviewing a wider range of engaged teachers, especially those who are perceived as “resisting” full engagement. Further research might also explore whether the implementation challenges faced by this school are replicated in other English schools and in other countries using LS as an approach to professional development.
Several implications for English school leaders seeking to implement LS are discussed, including the need to articulate the rationale for the protocols that shape LS, especially for staff new to the school and to check that important protocols are adhered to over time.
Whilst several studies of LS in the UK have explored its impact on teachers and pupils, and the challenges and successes of introducing LS into a UK context, this study provides a different perspective. It explores the challenges of using LS over time as a consistent approach to professional development in a school and seeks to understand how both resistance and dilution can affect its impact on practice.
Seleznyov, S. (2019), "Lesson study: exploring implementation challenges in England", International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 179-192. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLLS-08-2019-0059Download as .RIS
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