International Panel: Bridging Policy and Practice
A Focus on Teacher Preparation

The Case of Japan: A Case of Lesson Study

Prepared by Toshikazu Ikeda and Yoshiaki Kuwahara

1. Lesson Study as Teacher Training

Lesson study plays an important role in teacher training. It is executed in three steps; discussion about a lesson plan, observation of an actual classroom teaching, and analytical discussion about the classroom teaching. Lesson study is treated as one of the tools to assess the classroom teaching of a pre-service teacher. In examinations to become a teacher, demonstration of classroom teaching is gradually posed to students. Lesson study is the most popular method for in-service education, especially in elementary school and junior high school.

Lesson study is classified into five styles (as shown in Table 1) by focusing on the following two points; scale of lesson study and by whom lesson study is organized. Lesson study of style 1 is called "Konai Kenkyukai" in Japanese. Teachers who work in the school have to attend a lesson study. Some teachers attend all three steps in the process of a lesson study as contributing members. Other teachers observe an actual classroom teaching, and attend an analytical discussion about the classroom teaching.

Table 1. Five styles of a Lesson Study in Japan

  Scale of L.S. By Whom
Style 1 In a school Principal & Teachers
Style 2 In a City/ Prefecture Teachers themselves
Style 3 In a City/ Prefecture Board of Education
Style 4 From all of the prefectures School attached to University
Style 5 In a Prefecture, From all of the prefectures Academic Society & Company

Lesson study of style 2 is called "Ku-ken" or "Shi-ken" in case of Tokyo or Yokohama in Japanese. Lesson study of style 3 is organized by the board of education that asks teachers to participate in it. Style 4 is organized by the schools attached to university, and style 5 is organized by Japan Society of Mathematical Education (JSME), Society of Elementary Mathematics Education (SEME), and so on. Teachers are not required to attend a lesson study of style 2 through style 5.

The aim of lesson study is to let the teacher become an able teacher, however the details of the aim depend on the previous styles. Table 2 shows the main aim of each style of lesson study and methods used to disseminate it.

Table 2. Main aims of lesson study and methods to disseminate

  Main Aims of L.S. Main Methods to disseminate
Style 1 to attain the school objectives Announcement
Style 2 to promote professional development Convey from older teachers to younger teachers
Style 3 to develop and spread new content and approaches Call for attendance at the beginning of semester
Style 4 to develop and spread new content and approaches Announcement Homepage
Style 5 to cultivate activity of lesson study Announcement, Journal, Homepage

When we consider "teacher, students, material" as three components of a lesson study, it is expected that teachers will increase the intersection between each of two components as shown in Figure 4 (Ikeda, Tsubota, Ohno and Hashimoto, 2002).

Concretely, teachers can learn the following two points by participating a lesson study. First is learning to see the material. Second is learning to see the students. Learning to see the material and learning to see the students are strongly connected. It is important for teachers to connect both of them and discover appropriate methods to meet both of challenges.

(1) Points related to seeing the material

  1. Can the teacher identify the essential mathematical points of the materials?
  2. Does the teacher's opening question deprive students of the opportunity to deeply consider the essential mathematical points?

(2) Points related to seeing the students

  1. Does the teacher recognize what the students do and do not understand?
  2. Do students understand the meaning of teacher's opening question?
  3. Does teacher ignore students' ideas for "selfish reasons"?
  4. Can the teacher accept and evaluate students' ideas appropriately?

(3) Points related to seeing both the material and the students

  1. Can the teacher develop the material by considering both the essential mathematical points and the students' interests?
  2. Can students make their own problems based on the original problem that the teacher presented at the beginning of the lesson? Further, are these problems concerned with essential mathematical points of the material?
  3. Can students discover the essential mathematical points through their cooperative discussion? Further, can the teacher represent their ideas about these essential points in a summary of the lesson?

2. A sample of Lesson Study

"Annual Lesson Study by the Board of Education in the case of Hiratsuka city, Kanagawa"

This sample illustrates Style 3 of Table 1.

Initial Statements

A. Who initiates the training?

School Curriculum & Guidance Office of Board of Education

B. Who or What is reached at what level?

In the city (District)

C. Who plans the program?

This program is implemented once a year, and the schools take turns holding the Lesson Study.

Date & Time: Board of Education decides.

Place: Board of Education nominates a school in the city.

The contents & program: Arranged by the Mathematics teachers who demonstrate the lesson.

The theme: The Mathematics section of the HJERC (Hiratsuka city Junior high school Education Research Committee) determines the theme.

D. Who funds the training?

Funding is usually not required, but if necessary, the training is funded by the nominated school.

E. Who participates?

Representatives of the mathematics teachers in the city

F. Are the participants paid or supported?


G. What is the typical length of the program?

It takes about 2 months.

H. What is the depth / breadth of coverage topics?

It depends on the theme that is determined by the Mathematics Department of HJERC. The theme is strongly concerned with new approaches of the National Curriculum.

I. Who guides and advises?

Teachers' Consultant, Subject Guidance Teacher of Mathematics and the Principal of the nominated school guide.

J. Is any contact maintained between organizers/resource persons and participants after the program?

As the school in which the Lesson Study is held alternates, the contact is maintained.

Focus, Reason, Research Base (if it exists)

A. Legal place of this program
There is no particular research base, but Japanese public school teachers have a duty to participate in teacher training programs according to the Article 19 of the Law for Special Regulations Concerning Educational Public Service Personnel.

B. What are the reasons for the choice of this sample
In Japan, almost all Boards of Education lead or guide the annual Lesson Study, which is the typical in-service teachers training in Japan.

C. History
This type of Lesson Study was introduced in 1960s.

Process of Planning and Implementation

A. The Structure of the annual Lesson Study in Hiratsuka

B. Planning (Collaborative Work)

(a). The decision of the research theme

The annual Lesson Study is built around a particular theme. The Mathematics Department of the HJERC, whose members are composed of the chief mathematics teachers in each junior high school, fixes a research theme for the year. The theme is fixed according to new approaches and content that are emphasized in the National Curriculum.

<Example of the theme>
2000 "Team Teaching Method"
2001 "Content of Mathematics as elective subjects."
2002 "The Teaching Method and 'Hyoka' of Mathematics"

(b). The Planning of the Lesson

The mathematics teachers in the nominated school cooperate with each other to make the Lesson Plan.

1. After determining a demonstration teacher, the mathematics content, unit, and so on, are determined by the teachers.

2. Discussion about a tentative lesson plan developed by the demonstrate teacher.

3. Trial lesson by other teachers according to the tentative lesson plan.

4. Improvement of the lesson plan by exchanging ideas among mathematics teachers.

5. The lesson plan is completed and presented to the Board of Education.

(c). The typical contents of annual Lesson Study

On a weekday afternoon, the participants gather at the nominated school.

1. Observation of the classroom teaching

2. Lesson debriefing and discussion

(1). Greeting (the principal of the nominated school)

(2). Opinion exchange about the classroom teaching

(3). Opinion exchange about the theme

(4). Guidance by the supervisors


A. Merits of Lesson Study

  1. Lesson study appears to help teachers improve their teaching, deepen their mathematics insight, overcome the problem that was focused in the lesson, and understand the contents of the National Curriculum.
  2. Teachers also have the opportunity to learn about the effective approaches and contents that are executed in other prefectures or schools.
  3. Teachers have the opportunity to experience the atmosphere at other schools.

B. Advantages for teachers
There no economical profit or increased qualification for teachers, but teachers have a legal obligation to participate.

C. Advantages for students
Students can get a chance to understand mathematics more easily and deeply in a class because of a teaching improvement made by their mathematics teacher.

D. Advantages for policy

  1. It is possible for policy makers to disseminate the essential point of the National Curriculum.
  2. The supervisor can learn about the present situation at each school, potential problems that can be addressed, assess teachersŐ motivation to apply the ideas learned in the Lesson Study in their own class.

3. General Conclusion

Many teachers think that it is important and interesting to attend a lesson study. Actually, many teachers attend the lesson study. However, teachers who attend an analytical discussion tend to discuss only the advantages and disadvantages of the actual lesson. It is necessary for teachers to discuss the issues that are useful in future lessons. For example, it is expected that teachers should discuss the following questions: "Are there any alternative teaching methods for this topic?" "If you have a chance to teach the same topic next time, how do you want to treat it?" "What are the points learned in this lesson that will be useful in a future lesson?" and so on. If the previous questions were discussed in an analytical discussion after the classroom teaching, it might become possible for teachers to reconsider a lesson plan based on the discussion. When we consider in-service education, it is important for teachers to reflect on actual classroom teaching and reconsider a lesson plan for their own training.


Ikeda Toshikazu, TSubota Kozo, Ohno Hiromu, Hashimoto Yoshihiko (2002): Analyzing the Lesson Study of Mathematics in Japan and the United State, Journal of Japan Society of Mathematical Education, 84(2), pp. 26-34.

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