Lesson study: A tool for building teachers’ culture of reflective practice

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by Sally B. Gutierez
Researchers claim that personal reflection on one’s practice is one of the methods of capability building among teachers (Darling-Hammond & Richardson, 2009); Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, 2009; Reeves, 2010). Moreover, by blending reflective practice into continuing professional development, teachers develop self-knowledge and self-challenge on their professional learning journey (Leitch & Day, 2000; Klein, 2008; Ng & Tan, 2009). Based on these claims, effective professional development for teachers goes beyond enhancing their knowledge and skills to providing them with opportunities of self-reflection within a support group that establishes sustainability and collaboration. In education, a growing interest to move away from one-shot workshops has attracted education specialists to instigate a life-long learning community among in-service teachers. Teacher inquiry groups (Crockett, 2002), peer coaching, collaborative teacher consultation, teacher mentoring (Brownwell, Adams, Sindelar, Waldron & Vanhover, 2006), lesson study (Lieberman, 2009), and collaborative professional learning (Gutierez, 2015) are just few of the promising teacher professional development models at the present. According to Shriki and Movshovitz-Hadar (2011), through these professional development activities, teachers are able to acquire new knowledge and skills by participating in a learning community that focuses on teaching practices as learning objects. 
Reflective practice in education is said to scaffold critical thinking (Conway, 2001) and promote self-regulation (Singh, 2008; Boud, 2007) as the teaching process is believed to be a process that is open to examination and deliberation (Van Manen, 1995; Schön, 1983; Elliot, 2001) for significant improvement in the teachers’ instructional practices (Kemmis  & McTaggart 1988). Engaging in a reflective practice provides rigor in the shared repertoire of knowledge development through constructive sharing of opinions and feedbacks. Constant interaction draws collegial and critical examination of their actual teaching practices (Daniel, Auhl, & Hastings, 2013). In this method, feedback forms the basis of critical analysis which provides sustainable evaluation of existing practices (Han, 1995; Hatton & Smith, 1995). On-going feedback thus becomes a crucial component in a community of reflective practitioners in response to the changing paradigms of professional engagement. Through feedback, Loughran (2002) stressed the importance of establishing meaning to actual experiences so that these may be valued ‘in ways that minimize the possibility establishing a routine on a faulty teaching practice’ (pp. 34). In light of the foregoing literature, reflective practice brings implicit knowledge based on actual practice so that it can be recognized, questioned, and perfected (Parra, Gutierrez, & Aldana, 2015). Classroom practices serve as the objects of learning and not from the theoretical knowledge from formal education settings (Schön, 1983).
Lesson study captures the idea of enhanced learning and intellectual functioning when a group collaboratively work together which eventually leads to the development of personal expertise as a product of the constant interaction and deep reflection (Hadar & Brody, 2010). This means that constant interaction is vital to the optimum development of instructional practices. Moreover, the sustainable collaborative reflection to evaluate teaching routines not only examines the alignment of teaching practices to new and existing paradigms but builds a community of practice where teachers become more critical and constructive with each other (Achinstein, 2002; Grossman, Wineburg, & Woolworth, 2001; Little, 1990, 1999; Witziers, Sleegers, & Imants, 1999).
In a qualitative study which documented and categorized the reflective practices of three (3) groups of public elementary school science teachers from their year-long professional development through lesson study, findings reveal that there exist three types of reflection exemplified by the teachers across the stages of the lesson study process but these were hardly noticed during normal conversations. In-depth analyses of the transcripts show that the team mostly used descriptive reflection and this occurred mostly during the planning and goal setting stage (47.37%) and in the post-lesson reflection and discussion ([PRD], 41.78%]) between the teachers and the “knowledgeable others.” The presence of the knowledgeable others prompted the teachers to engage in a critical dialogue and make attempts to evaluate their lessons. In this study, critical reflection is considered as the highest form of reflective practice thus, as beginning reflective practitioners, teachers showed less skill on this method of reflection. However, the 26.24% attempts to use this reflection is indicative of teachers’ potential to become reflective practitioners among themselves which increases in the presence of the knowledgeable others in the planning and goal setting and PRD stages given a sustainable and enough opportunities.

Analyses show that the participatory, collegial, and collaborative nature of lesson study were the enabling factors in the open sharing of information and establishment of consensual and mutual understanding (Cooper, 2014) between and among the teachers and the knowledgeable others. This supports the claims of Healy (2009) who said that collective and reflective approaches to evaluate professional practice supports the development of understanding leading to a shared professional identity. This adapts the claim of Marcos, Sanchez, and Tillema (2011) that reflective practice among teachers helps them to deliberate and solve instructional problems critically. Findings also indicate that a professional development activity tailored to the direct experiences of teachers result to significant outcomes. 

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