Lesson Study in the San Mateo-Foster City School District

Paper delivered at AERA Conference, New Orleans, 2002.


Lesson study is a widespread form of professional development in Japan that has recently emerged in a number of U.S. sites. This paper describes a collaboration between researchers and practitioners at one U.S. lesson study site. The collaboration had simultaneous goals of building lesson study in one school district; documenting the implementation process, supports and challenges; and using this information to contribute constructively to the local and national lesson study reform effort. Data on the program (observations, interviews and written reflections) show that the lesson study goals, activities, and resources changed over time as teachers tried lesson study, and as knowledge about lesson study grew in the district and nationwide. Data also suggest that teachers’ lesson study activities helped them to develop the kinds of instructional and subject matter knowledge that are goals of teacher professional development. Four implications for educational research are drawn, including the need for research methods that contribute in a timely fashion to innovations in progress; the need for cross-case theory building on lesson study; the danger of assessing the effectiveness of lesson study without recognition of the variety of local adaptations; and the low value held in many educational research circles for the types of lesson study research requested by practitioners and needed to support successful adaptation (e.g., research on experiential learning methods, practical¬†guidelines and know-how related to lesson study, translation of more diverse models from Japan, etc.). Our findings point up the potential value of lesson study for practitioners willing to take the risks associated with an emerging innovation, and the importance of opportunities for practitioners to find ways to enhance their lesson study knowledge and practice over time.


San Mateo, Foster City, case study