Japanese Lesson Study

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Japan’s Lesson Study – CBS News Video

Catherine Lewis, distinguished research fellow of education at Mills College, speaks about how Japanese teachers learn by working with others.


Collinson, V., & Ono, Y. (2001). The professional development of teachers in the United States and Japan. European Journal of Teacher Education, 24(2), 223-248. doi:10.1080/02619760120095615

Abstract: Teachers in the USA and Japan have engaged in formal and informal pro- fessional development for many decades. However, professional development as a eld of study is a relatively recent phenomenon, with most policy changes and research occurring since the mid-1980s. This article presents an overview of professional development in the USA and Japan and examines similarities and differences in the two countries. Faced with increasingly diverse and rapidly changing societies, both countries recognize flaws in their current systems and both want to reform teacher education by finding ways of revitalizing professional development. As these two countries work toward similar goals and expectations for improvement, each has something to offer the other.

Keywords: professional development, Japanese professional development, American professional development, practitioner research, Japanese Lesson Study

Fernandez, C. (2002). Learning from Japanese approaches to professional development: The case of lesson study. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(5), 393-405. doi:10.1177/002248702237394

Abstract: This article first describes the Japanese professional development practice of lesson study and its articulation within the Japanese educational system. Next, insights gained from an empirical study that explored the feasibility of lesson study in a U.S. setting are discussed. More specifically, challenges to lesson study practice are highlighted, with particular attention paid to the difficulties faced by American teachers in trying to adopt the research focus that is inherent in lesson study. The article concludes with reflections about what the study of lesson study can teach us about efforts to improve teaching, which, like lesson study, center on having teachers examine their practice or that of others.

Keywords: professional development, Japanese Lesson Study, Japanese professional development, practitioner research

Ilieva, V. (2011). Actively seeking change: Mathematics lesson study for the diverse U.S. Schools. Teacher Education and Practice, 24(1), 74-95.

Ilieva makes the case for using lesson study as a means for collaboration and authentic professional development in United States schools.   However, one difference between implementation in the United States and implementation in Japan is the cultural diversity of United States schools.  In order to address the “student sensitive” needs of creating lessons that are appropriate and sensitive to a “linguistically and culturally diverse group” (p. 75),, the author makes the case for the inclusion of a diversity consultant into lesson study groups to play the role of the knowledgeable other commonly found in Japanese Lesson Study. Further research is needed to examine the importance of “experience and level of involvement” (p.91) of the diversity consultant, as well as looking at the effects of lesson study and a diversity specialist as knowledgeable other on student achievement.

Keywords: Japanese Lesson Study, student-sensitive teaching, culturally diverse teaching

Inoue, N. (2010). Zen and the art of neriage: Facilitating consensus building in mathematics inquiry lessons through lesson study. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 14(1), 5-23. doi:10.1007/s10857-010-9150-z

Abstract: One danger of integrating inquiry-based problem-solving activities into mathematics lessons is that different strategies could be accepted without in-depth discussions on the cogency and efficiency of the strategies. To overcome this issue, Japanese teachers typically go through a series of lesson-study-based teacher learning sessions and learn how to help students build consensus on the best mathematical strategy and think deeply about problem solving (neriage in Japanese). Assuming that this can also be an effective model in other cultural contexts, a video-based lesson study was conducted for a group of US teachers to effectively incorporate consensus building discussions in their mathematical inquiry lessons. Through the lesson study, the teachers learned to release control of class discussions to their students and help them discuss and examine different strategies. This article concludes with various aspects that the teachers learned for effectively implementing neriage in their lessons.

Keywords: Neriage, Lesson study, Consensus building, Mathematical inquiry lesson, Proportional reasoning

Lewis, C., Perry, R., & Murata, A. (2006). How should research contribute to instructional improvement? The case of lesson study. Educational Researcher, 35(3), 3-14. doi:10.3102/0013189X035003003

Abstract: Lesson study, a Japanese form of professional development that centers on collaborative study of live classroom lessons, has spread rapidly in the United States since 1999. Drawing on examples of Japanese and U.S. lesson study, we propose that three types of research are needed if lesson study is to avoid the fate of so many other once- promising reforms that were discarded before being fully understood or well implemented. The proposed research includes development of a descriptive knowledge base; explication of the innovation’s mechanism; and iterative cycles of improvement research. We identify six changes in the structure and norms of educational research that would enhance the field’s capacity to study emerging innovations such as lesson study. These changes include rethinking the routes from educational research to educational improvement and recognizing a “local proof route”; building research methods and norms that will better enable us to learn from innovation practitioners; and increasing our capacity to learn across cultural boundaries.

Keywords: lesson study, practitioner research, Japanese lesson study

Lewis, C. (2000). Lesson study: The core of Japanese professional development. Invited Address to the Special Interest Group on Research in Mathematics Education American Educational Research Association Meetings, New Orleans April 28, 2000 Session 47.09

This address describes the author’s experiences with lesson study in Japan.  The author makes an argument for its transferability to the United States context particularly in a mathematics setting.

Keywords: lesson study, professional development, Japanese professional development

Lewis, C. (2002). Does lesson study have a future in the United States? Journal of the Nagoya University Department of Education, 1, 1-23.

The author describes obstacles to implementing Japanese Lesson Study in the United States context and makes the argument that adaptations to this system may allow its success in reforming United States School.

Keywords: lesson study, professional development, Japanese professional development

Lewis, C., & Tsuchida, I. (1998). A lesson is like a swiftly flowing river: How research lessons improve Japanese Education. American Educator, 22(4), 12–17; 50–52.

The authors make the claim that lesson study improve Japanese Education in a variety of ways, including improving classroom practice, spreading new approaches to teaching content, connecting the practice occurring in the classroom to broader objectives, working through conflicting methods and ideas, builds demand for high quality educational programs, helps shape national policy in Japan and honors the role of teacher.

Keywords: lesson study, professional development, practitioner research, Japanese professional development

Makinae, N. (2010). The origin of lesson study in Japan. Japan Society of Mathematical Education.

Abstract: This study aims to clarify the history and issues in the origin of lesson study in Japan. In 1872, a new school system was started by the Meiji government. In that period, the object lesson was introduced in the normal school [teacher training college] as an updated teaching method for the new elementary schools. The object lesson method is based on Pestalozzian theory, according to which teaching should start from observation of objects that helps students recognize the concepts through their intuition. This method introduced a significant change in teaching. The normal school undertook on the responsibility of spreading the new teaching method through training teachers and also editing and publishing instruction manuals and textbooks. In the process, the criticism lesson was introduced as a teacher training method. In this method, the normal school students presented a lesson to the class and other students observed and discussed about it. For observation and discussion, four points of criticism were used: matter, method, teacher, and children. These are also useful for today’s lesson study. The object lesson was spread along with the criticism lesson to the whole country through normal school products such as instruction manuals, new textbooks and the teachers who graduate. This form of lesson study shows us its origin and its principles. Later, the criticism lesson expanded its role from pre-service teacher training to in-service professional development. This describes how lesson study originated in Japan.

Keywords: lesson study, object lesson, normal school, criticism lesson

Morris, A. K., & Hiebert, J. (2011). Creating shared instructional products: An alternative approach to improving teaching. Educational Researcher, 40(1), 5-14. doi:10.3102/0013189X10393501

Abstract: To solve two enduring problems in education—unacceptably large variation in learning opportunities for students across classrooms and little continuing improvement in the quality of instruction—the authors propose a system that centers on the creation of shared instructional products that guide classroom teaching. By examining systems outside and inside education that build useful knowledge products for improving the performance of their members, the authors induce three features that support a work culture for creat- ing such products: All members of the system share the same prob- lems for which the products offer solutions; improvements to existing products are usually small and are assessed with just enough data; and the products are jointly constructed and continuously improved with contributions from everyone in the system.

Keywords: descriptive knowledge base, professional development, lesson study

Sato, N. (1993). Teaching and learning in Japanese elementary schools: A context for understanding. Peabody Journal of Education, 68(4), 111-153. doi:10.1080/01619569309538746

In order to foster a deeper, more authentic understanding of U.S.-Japan comparisons of teacher education, the classroom, school, community, and societal contexts of U.S. and Japanese schooling must be explored. This article begins to establish a common base of understanding by offering a few observations regarding Japanese elementary school practices. The evidence is derived from a 2-year ethnographic study that chronicled the dialy lives of students and teachers from 1987 to 1989 (Sato, 1991). The major goal of the study was a systematic examination and sensitive portrayal classroom practices in Japan in order to elucidate educational processes which promote equity in classroom learning. The teacher work situation and classroom culture, rather than equity issues, will be examined in this article in order to set the stage for increasingly meaningful and fruitful information sharing between countries. Future research may be strengthened as conceptual and contextual clarity are enhanced.

Keywords: U.S. educational system, Japan educational system, educational equity, lesson study


Stigler, J.W., & Hiebert, J. (1999).  The teaching gap:  Best ideas from the world’s teachers for improving education in the classroom.. New York, NY: The Free Press