International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies

ISSN: 2046-8253

Article publication date: 4 November 2011

Issue publication date: 4 November 2011



Elliott, J. and Mun Ling, L. (2012), "Editorial", International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Vol. 1 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijlls.2012.57901aaa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1

We proudly welcome readers to this first issue of the International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies (IJLLS). The journal will be published three times a year by Emerald Group Publishing in conjunction with the World Association of Lesson Studies (WALS). The association was founded in 2006 in the wake of increasing international interest in the Japanese and Chinese traditions of lesson study, and the infusion of Marton and Booth’s (1997) variation theory as a pedagogical tool into the practice of lesson study in Hong Kong. Variation theory explicitly focuses the teachers’ attention on the quality of the students’ experience of the “object of learning” in a context of radical curriculum reform aimed at improving the quality of learning for all students in schools. Hence, in the Hong Kong context lesson study took the form of learning study as Lo Mun Ling and Ference Marton depict in this issue. The launching of this journal marks another important milestone as it enables a much deeper conversation between the research groups engaging in different forms of lesson study, learning study and action research in different countries and contexts to take place.

Lesson study has been characterised as “a system for building and sharing practitioner knowledge that involves teachers in learning from colleagues as they research, plan, teach, observe, and discuss a classroom lesson” (Lewis et al., 2009, p. 142). As a system for building knowledge it has been described by Sarkar Arani (2006, p. 44-9) as a procedurally tight, methodical and disciplined process. Viewed in these terms it constitutes a form of research whose key procedural features are, with some variations, as follows:

  • It is carried out by a group of teachers (three to eight members).

  • It focuses on the collaborative development of a lesson defined in terms of a topic rather than a unit of time.

  • It proceeds through cycles of planning, teaching, and evidence-based discussion.

  • In each cycle a collaboratively planned lesson is normally taught by a different teacher, while the other teachers collect observational data, which is then discussed in a post lesson conference as a basis for moving into the next cycle of planning a revised lesson, teaching and discussion. In addition, particularly in the context of a learning study, the students themselves may be interviewed and pre and post tests administered as part of the data gathering process.

  • The teacher group may be facilitated by an expert specialising in the curriculum area concerned.

Within a lesson study teaching is viewed as a form of hypothesis testing. The taught lesson is not simply an object of study/research. Teaching a lesson is an integral part of a cumulative research process in which practical hypotheses developed from discussions of data are systematically tested in action. Hence, lesson studies make frequent reference to the research lesson. They constitute a form of action research that involves experimental teaching, the purpose of which is the production of warranted lesson plans, i.e. lesson plans that demonstrably support a high quality teaching and learning process.

Lo Mun Ling and Ference Marton make a distinction in their paper between lesson studies that draw on explicit theories from those that draw on implicit theories embedded in teachers’ professional culture, and refer to the former as “learning studies”. In their article they provide two examples of how variation theory can constitute a source of guiding principles for pedagogical design; namely, in relation both to an appreciative understanding of Cantonese opera as an art form and to deepening understanding of the electrochemical series. Vincent Anak Andrew’s article shows how a group of secondary school teachers in Brunei, assisted by an academic facilitator, used variation theory as a source of pedagogical principles in a learning study aimed at improving the teaching of cash budget in accounting. Ko Po Yuk’s article examines the potential of variation theory to support lesson study in the context of pre-service teacher education. She describes and evaluates the experience of a group of student teachers on a six-month long programme, which aspires to give each member of the group an opportunity to experience collaborative dialogue about each others’ teaching through iterative cycles of planning, teaching (in a partner school) and research.

Lo Mun Ling and Ference Marton are open to the possibility that theories other than variation theory may also yield useful principles for pedagogical design. In this respect readers may be interested in Yudong Yang and Thomas E. Ricks’s article, which attempts to make explicit the analytic principles employed by the traditional Chinese Teaching Research Group as a basis for lesson study, in the hope that they will help teachers to improve their lesson analysis skills. Also Peter Dudley, in his article on the development of lesson study in England, provides an example of a school where a group of teachers involved their students in using Mercer’s typology of group talk, as part of a mathematics lesson designed to improve learning through collaborative group work. The IJLLS welcomes the submission of learning studies that are explicitly informed by theories of teaching and learning other than variation theory. In addition it welcomes accounts of evidence-based studies of teaching and learning that do not conform to the procedural requirements of lesson study, as outlined above, as long as they depict communities of practice (educational practitioners, academic facilitators and other partners, such as students) collaboratively constructing pedagogical knowledge together. As editors we also hope to publish original conceptual work in the field of lesson and learning study and pedagogy more generally.

This journal is an outcome of the internationalisation of lesson study. One of the key drivers of this process lies in the policy contexts of education today. Policy is increasingly driven by international comparisons of the performance of educational institutions and the desire of policy makers to understand the factors that give some countries competitive advantage. As Peter Dudley points out, the transfer of the Japanese lesson study tradition into the USA came in the wake of the TIMSS 1999 Mathematics and Science Survey with the publication of Stigler and Hebert’s The Teaching Gap, which attributed the quality of mathematics teaching in Japan to the widespread and regular use of lesson study. This transfer stimulated the growth of a considerable “US-based literature in English” during the first few years of this century, which in turn Peter Dudley suggests influenced the search in England for “an effective practice transfer methodology” to support the widespread implementation of a process of “Assessment for learning” (AfL) in the school system. The editors of this journal would like to publish more “transference and implementation studies” along the lines of Peter Dudley’s article in this issue.

Peter Dudley describes his role with a major research project setup to investigate “ways in which practice in assessment for learning (AfL) could be developed, captured and transferred between teachers and across schools […]”, in relation to which he set up a pilot study to explore whether lesson study would work in England as a “practice transfer methodology” for AfL. He concluded, on the basis of networked “research lessons” carried out by groups of teachers across 14 schools, that it would work in schools where there was already a “culture of collaborative inquiry” supported and sustained by school leaders. The evidence for this conclusion is depicted in Peter Dudley’s paper in some detail; before he goes on to describe how he attempted to incorporate lesson study into the National Literacy and Numeracy strategies for primary schools through his involvement with them. Interestingly he identifies a major implementation problem in the policy context of English schools to reside in “a culture that has not made practice public as a matter of course”, which inhibits teachers from publishing their lesson studies and being able to access “a growing data base of lesson studies to inform their own development work in school”.

One of the main aims of the IJLLS is to stimulate the growth of a data base of lesson studies across the curriculum in relation to topics that teachers persistently find pedagogically challenging and difficult to handle. Yanping Fang, Christine K.E. Lee and Yudong Yang share the design features, principles and methods of a digital hypermedia video case they developed using research lessons from a lesson study in Singapore. The video case is developed with the aims to support continued inquiry for teachers and to address rising issues of sustainability and depth of implementation when lesson studies spread rapidly.

Another aim of the IJLLS is to publish distillations of universal insights based on analyses of clusters of lesson studies that focus on the same topic, perhaps across different school systems and societal cultures. In future issues we hope to publish discussions of issues raised in response to particular articles. We invite readers to submit an issue stimulated by an article in this number that we might consider for publication as a basis for further discussion. E-mail it to us at: Lessonstudies@uea.ac.uk

John Elliott, Lo Mun Ling


Lewis, C., Perry, R. and Friedkin, S. (2009), “Lesson study as action research”, in Noffke, S. and Somekh, B. (Eds), The Sage International Handbook of Educational Action Research, Sage, London

Marton, F. and Booth, S. (1997), Learning and Awareness, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ

Sarkar Arani, M.R. (2006), “Transnational learning: the integration of Jugyou kenkyuu into Iranian Teacher Training”, in Matoba, M., Crawford, K.A. and Sarkar Arani, M.R. (Eds), Lesson Study: International Perspective on Policy and Practice, Educational Science Publishing House, Beijing, pp. 37–75