Japanese lesson study (LS) is a professional development (PD) approach in which teachers collaboratively plan a lesson, observe it being taught and then discuss what they have learned. LS's popularity as an approach to teacher PD in the UK is growing, and it is used in both special and mainstream settings. This study explores whether LS is perceived and operationalized in the same way across special and mainstream settings.
This study arose as a result of collaboration between UCL Institute of Education academics (principle investigators) and three special school leaders using LS in their own schools (practitioner co-investigators), who together formed the research team. The team first explored the literature base for LS in special education. They then investigated special and mainstream schools using LS for teacher PD. Research tools included semi-structured interviews and an online survey. Participants were obtained through opportunistic sampling via the networks of schools available to the researchers.
There were several key differences between LS in special and mainstream settings. Special teachers felt LS had a more positive impact on subject knowledge than mainstream teachers, and this impact extended to support staff. Special teachers were more likely to carry out multiple research cycles than mainstream colleagues and to quickly build LS into the existing timetable. Mainstream teachers focused on individual pupils in LS to seek learning about pedagogy more generally, whereas general learning about pedagogy was seen as a secondary benefit to special teachers.
One of the limitations of the research is that participants are more positively inclined toward LS than the general population of their school, since those not interested in LS would be unlikely to take the time to engage with the research. It will be important to conduct more research into the use of LS in mainstream schools, as this study is one of very few exploring LS in this special context.
The ease with which special schools can align LS to current practice due to greater flexibility of timetables and larger staff teams seems to result in a greater appreciation and “valuing” of the process in mainstream schools, where teachers seemed to feel their senior leadership teams had gone to extra lengths to enable LS to happen. LS seems to offer a framework within which senior leaders can prioritize such learning experiences for teachers, leading to positive benefits for pupils, teachers and the school, and is therefore a process worth considering both for special and mainstream school leaders.
The literature review found a limited number of studies of LS in a special educational needs and disability (SEND) context, all of which took place in the UK and focused on the impact of teacher participation in LS on teacher practice and pupil learning. All three studies show a positive impact and suggest that LS might have wider applications for both special schools and mainstream schools supporting SEND pupils. There has been no exploration of the different ways in which mainstream and special school teachers and pupils might experience or construct LS in their own contexts.
Seleznyov, S., Roberts, A., Walker, R., Watson, S. and Hogan, M. (2020), "Is there anything special about lesson study in special schools?", International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJLLS-12-2019-0084Download as .RIS
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