The most brilliant educational visions are just splotches of ink on paper until a teacher somewhere brings them to life in a classroom. Lesson study recognizes the central importance and difficulty of teaching—of actually bringing to life standards, frameworks, and “best practices” in the classroom. Lesson study is classroom research. Teachers build and refine ideas about “best practice” through careful, collaborative study of actual instruction. As teachers work together, they build a habit of learning from each other. A Florida middle school teacher said of Lesson Study “It’s changed how we approach our daily lives. We’re more confident sharing–previously I wouldn’t have admitted that I did a lesson that was a flop. There used to be barrier or feeling like you’re stealing if you share lessons. That barrier is gone now.”
Lynn Liptak and her colleagues at Paterson School #2 in New Jersey summed up the differences:
One-size-fits-all professional development rarely meets the needs of all teachers within a school or district. Lesson Study differs from more traditional teacher professional development in three main ways:
Lesson Study allows a school to build coherent instruction, bringing to life its vision of student learning across grade levels. It allows teachers to enjoy the satisfactions of classroom research and to influence education broadly through their research lessons, while keeping their feet firmly planted in the realities of classroom life.