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Theory and Practice of Lesson Study in Mathematics

Rongjin Huang, Akihiko Takahashi, and Joao Pedro da Ponte, editors
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Advances in Mathematics Education
[Reviewed by
Jane Sulser
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Lesson study, an educational collaborative professional development model, originated in Asia and has gained global popularity in recent years. Lesson study’s structure is teacher-led and cyclic, beginning with these basic steps: (a) identify a difficult, yet necessary, mathematics concept students should learn, (b) collaboratively plan a model lesson, (c) observe the model lesson being taught, (d) engage in debriefing meetings and use reflections from observations to refine the lesson, and (e) repeat the cycle using the refined lesson. 
Theory and Practice of Lesson Study in Mathematics: An International Perspective is a monograph in the series Advances in Mathematics Education. The book’s aim is to synthesize and extend current research efforts on lesson study theorization, adaptation, and conceptualization. The editors, Rongjin Huang, Akihiko Takahashi, and João Pedro de Ponte, have compiled research articles written by 92 contributors from 21 countries that provide a truly global perspective about lesson study. This book is organized into 38 chapters, which are divided into six sections or parts. Each specific part is meant to advance understanding and address different challenges regarding lesson study protocol adaptations in diverse cultures.
Part I, Theoretical Perspectives of Lesson Study, contains seven chapters. Chapters in this section provide an introduction defining lesson study, numerous theoretical perspectives for researching lesson study, and globally implemented lesson study practices. Additionally, several theoretical frameworks are proposed as structures to enhance lesson study practices.
Part II, Historical and Cultural Perspectives in Japan and China, includes four chapters. This section reviews the literature on lesson study from historical and cultural perspectives in China and Japan and presents the subtle differences between the countries’ approaches. A comparative study focused on Japanese and Chinese lesson study history, theory, and practice are presented.  Research concerning textbook revisions and curriculum reforms in each country, and what others can learn from the restructuring, are discussed.
Part III, Adaptation Lesson Study in Selected Educational Systems, encompasses eight chapters.  This section focuses on lesson study adaptations developed by several educational systems.  Multiple research accounts demonstrate and explain the extent to which variations have resulted in attempts to meet different systems’ domain-specific needs and limitations. 
Part IV, Mathematics Teacher Preparation and Lesson Study, covered within six chapters, present ways lesson study practice can prepare future mathematics teachers in teacher education programs. Specifically, authors emphasize a need for student teachers to focus on designing good tasks, making observations for the lesson study cycle, and paying attention to student learning rather than being concerned with their own teaching performance. Discourse also includes teacher educators’ influence on student teachers to accomplish these goals.
Part V, Studies on Key Aspects of Lesson Study, contains seven chapters. All chapters in this section include studies on lesson study key aspects such as incorporating learning trajectories along with variation pedagogy to help shift attention to student learning, having knowledgeable others help with teacher “buy-in” for lesson studies, observing strengths and weaknesses with teaching research specialists, designing and adapting tasks in lesson plans, repeating lesson enactments followed by reflection on teacher learning, and deepening horizon knowledge.  
Part VI, Commentary, connects two chapters, which present commentary from a western and an Asian perspective. Each perspective brings together the research in this book and reflects on what can be learned from the international collaborative effort.
The research designs in Theory and Practice of Lesson Study in Mathematics: An International Perspective vary, among the six sections, to distinctly align with their purposes. Multiple research and data collection methods were utilized in the studies presented throughout each chapter. Part one provides several theoretical perspectives for researching lesson study. These include theoretical models for explaining lesson study’s impact on teacher and student outcomes, lesson study’s structure analyzed holistically, deliberate practice analysis, didactical situations, in theory, Interconnected Model of Professional Growth, and an empirically validated framework for Teaching for Robust Understanding. Part two reviews research on historical and cultural perspectives from lesson study in China and Japan. A comparative study between Japanese and Chinese lesson study history, theory, and practice are presented. Part three research recounts how lesson study adaptations in selected educational systems have impacted teaching and learning in those systems. The theoretical frameworks applied through the adaptations varied across the studies reported. Part four critically analyzes approaches teacher education programs have taken when incorporating lesson study into their programs. Several action research projects on lesson studies in schools and teacher education programs are discussed. Part five presents research on key aspects that are critical to lesson study success. Chapters in this section provide case studies that were conducted focusing on a particular key aspect. Data collected for the studies included lesson plans, photographs, video clips, interviews, and surveys. Qualitative analysis was then conducted through interview and survey answer examinations, observations of teaching and learning through video clips and photographs, and reflective questioning asked of and by teachers. Results from data analyses are presented at each chapter’s end.   
The authors in this volume provide a glimpse into lesson study professional development and implications for classroom teaching. Not only are readers introduced to theories behind lesson study and lesson study history, but research is also presented about how student learning can be affected when emphasis is placed on studying teaching methods to improve teaching practice.  Through case studies presented, educators can gain insight about how other countries made adaptations to the lesson study design that best fit their education system needs. The chapters in this book provide a thorough starting point for educators who are considering lesson study as a professional development tool.
I recommend this book for educators who are new to lesson study professional development and would like to learn more. The book was revised, peer-reviewed, and externally reviewed over a two year period which, in my opinion, confirms the research’s validity. Teachers, administrators, and education policy-makers are provided with theories guiding lesson study, background information, ideas for adaptations, teacher preparation techniques, and key aspects utilized through lesson study. Case studies from the United States, England, South Africa, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland, and Sweden provide discernment into modifications each country made to the lesson study model, especially in regard to cultural differences. This book, while not inclusive of all content disciplines, is quite comprehensive and provides a springboard for mathematics educators wishing to learn more about lesson study and ways to implement it into their own schools.     


Jane Sulser is a retired elementary educator 30 years.  She is currently an adjunct instructor at Samford University and a doctoral student at The University of Alabama.