Idaho Regional Mathematics Center, Region 2

students engaged in a lesson

Lesson Study Resources

What is Lesson Study?

The practice of lesson study originated in Japan. Widely viewed as the foremost professional development program, lesson study is credited with dramatic success in improving classroom practices for the Japanese elementary school system (Fernandez, et al., 2001; Lewis, 2000; Lewis & Tsuchida, 1998; Shimahara, 1999; Stigler & Hiebert, 1999; Takahashi, 2000; Yoshida, 1999).

A particularly noticeable accomplishment in the past 20 years of lesson study has been the transformation from teacher-directed instruction to student-centered instruction in mathematics and science (Lewis & Tsuchida, 1998; Takahashi, 2000; Yoshida, 1999). The success of lesson study can be found in two primary aspects: improvements in teacher practice and the promotion of collaboration among teachers

First, lesson study embodies many features that researchers have noted are effective in changing teacher practice, such as using concrete practical materials to focus on meaningful problems, taking explicit account of the contexts of teaching and the experiences of teachers, and providing on-site teacher support within a collegial network. It also avoids many features noted as shortcomings of typical professional development, e.g., that it is short-term, fragmented, and externally administered (Firestone, 1996; Huberman & Gusky, 1994; Little, 1993; Miller & Lord, 1994; Pennel & Firestone, 1996).

Second, lesson study promotes and maintains collaborative work among teachers while giving them systematic intervention and support.

During lesson study, teachers collaborate to: 1) formulate long-term goals for student learning and development; 2) plan and conduct lessons based on research and observation in order to apply these long-terms goals to actual classroom practices for particular academic contents; 3) carefully observe the level of students’ learning, their engagement, and their behaviors during the lesson; and 4) hold debriefing sessions with their collaborative groups to discuss and revise the lesson accordingly (Lewis, 2002b).

One of the key components in these collaborative efforts is “the research lesson,” in which, typically, a group of instructors prepares a single lesson, which is then observed in the classroom by the lesson study group and other practitioners, and afterwards analyzed during the group’s debriefing session. Through the research lesson, teachers become more observant and attentive to the process by which lessons unfold in their class, and they gather data from the actual teaching based on the lesson plan that the lesson study group has prepared. The research lesson is followed by the debriefing session, in which teachers review the data together in order to: 1) make sense of educational ideas within their practice; 2) challenge their individual and shared perspectives about teaching and learning; 3) learn to see their practice from the student’s perspective; and 4) enjoy collaborative support among colleagues (Takahashi & Yoshida, 2004).

from with permission from The McDougal Family Foundation

Make it Happen!

Are you ready to choose the topics of your professional learning, interested in being given the time to collaboratively plan lessons with colleagues based on topics that you have seen your students struggling with and/or thirsting for the opportunity to observe classroom lessons together with other teachers?  Many teachers across our region are doing just that through their participation in our lesson study groups, and all teachers are welcome to join!

Workshop learning is powerful, but most effective when the topic relevant to what teachers need and followed up with in-class support.  As CCSSM author Phil Daro says, “the real learning for teachers happens over the shoulder of the students, and shoulder to shoulder with colleagues”.  Lesson study allows these most important components of teacher learning to be fused into rich and deep cycles where the topic is decided upon by teachers who teach similar grade levels.  

Our lesson study groups are between 3 and 6 teachers who decide on a topic they want to research (i.e. fractions on a number line, questioning strategies, supporting perseverance, …), co-planning lessons together, observing how students respond to those lessons, and discussing what was learned from the research, planning, teaching and observing.  This intense process revolutionizes the way we view professional development, allowing teachers to be the decision-makers and providing the support and facilitation needed to be certain the learning is powerful and relevant.  We invite all of our Region II teachers to join a lesson study group, and engage in what will likely be the most powerful professional development you have yet to experience.

For more information regarding lesson study, email Ryan Dent at and join or form a group today. 

Dividing Decimals- Shared Understandings

students in Dividing Decimals lesson study

Factoring Quadratics- Shared Understandings

students in Factoring Quadratics lesson study

Fraction Concepts- Shared Understandings

students in Fraction Concepts lesson study

Rational Exponents- Shared Understandings

students in Rational Exponents lesson study

Exponential Functions- Shared Understandings

teachers reviewing Exponential Functions lesson study

Subtracting Negative Integers- Shared Understandings

student work from Subtracting Negative Integers lesson study

Cusisenaire Rods- Shared Understandings

students in Cuisenaire Rods lesson study

 Graphing Stories- Shared Understandings

graph overplayed with playground slide