Thursday, October 17, 2019

Professor Christine Lee Keynotes First National Convention on Lesson Study

Lesson Study, according to Dr. Christine Lee, is about opening the lesson to fellow teachers and to school administrators and, in so doing, allowing “extra eyes” to see how children experience the curriculum. What Lesson Study does is “keep the students at the heart of a professional development activity.” Thus starts the keynote address of Dr. Lee during the First Philippine Association of Lesson and Learning Studies (PALS) on 11-12 April 2019 at UP NISMED. The theme of the convention is, Lesson Study: Collaboratively Improving Practice One Lesson at a time.


Dr. Lee addresses the audience during the first PALS convention on 11-12 April 2019 held at UP NISMED.
Dr. Lee’s keynote address which is titled Going beyond the Surface Features of Lesson Study: The Experience of Singapore, narrates how the growth of Lesson Study in Singapore followed a global trend in adopting Lesson Study as a form of teacher-led professional development activity. Citing a school-based implementation of Lesson Study in Singapore, she underscores the need to go beyond the surface features of Lesson Study and focus instead on issues of quality.

Teachers are at the heart of educational reforms, says Dr. Lee. For this reason, Singapore’s government, as well as many other governments that adopted Lesson Study, invests heavily in the professional development of teachers. In Singapore, in particular, it is a widely held belief that “no education system can be better than the quality of its educators.” She adds that Singapore’s economy is made even more vibrant by a strong educational system in which teachers are well-trained and highly motivated.

What sets Lesson Study apart from other typical PD programs? 

Dr. Lee sees in Lesson Study an opportunity for teachers to “develop a common understanding of what good teaching practice entails.” Because Lesson Study is teacher-led, through it, they can be “actively involved in the process of instructional change and curriculum development.” Dr. Lee recognizes that an important part of the challenges she encountered when she started doing Lesson Study involves dearth of reference materials written in English. When finally she had the chance to observe classes in Japan, all the writings on the board and the conversations made are in Japanese. She gives credit to Catherine Lewis, her mentor at Teachers’ College, Columbia University, for inspiring her to bring Lesson Study from the United States to Singapore. It helps that she had with her Lewis’ Lesson Study Handbook published in 2002. What serves as impetus for the growth of Lesson Study in Singapore Schools? Dr. Lee mentions that Lesson Study is one of a few platforms used in Singapore for developing Professional Learning Communities that aspires for “leveling up teacher professionalism in a quick and effective way.” With this in mind and with the emergence of different models of Lesson Study in Japan, the U.S., Hong Kong, and other places, Singapore has come up with Lesson Study models of its own that revolve around a shared vision – models that involved entire schools.

The need to look beyond the surface features of Lesson Study 

An important highlight in Dr. Lee’s keynote is her characterization of potential sources of dilution of Lesson study. One potential source, she says, is teachers’ giving too much emphasis on the planning of the research lesson “forgetting to situate it as part of a series of lessons in a unit of work.” Other sources, she says, include inadequate attention given to studying relevant curriculum materials and literature related to the topic, the struggle to identify a research theme and carry out the research, inadequate use of evidence during observation, and lack of teacher content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. Dr. Lee concludes by challenging the audience to look beyond the surface features of Lesson Study and to give more premium to depth than breadth. In essence, it is a challenge to “embrace the substance and spirit of Lesson Study” seen through the lens of teachers gaining knowledge about how students learn, developing new understanding of content and pedagogy, and reflecting on their work and their learning.


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