ERG SES D 05, International Contexts in Education
Lesson Study is a structured, collaborative activity that combines practice and theory (da Ponte, 2017) with an inquiry-oriented approach to teachers’ professional development (Bjuland and Helgevold, 2018). The aim of Lesson Study is to support teachers’ exploration and implementation of effective teaching practices (Lewis, Perry, and Murata, 2006) through detailed examination of students’ learning in lessons. It is an organised cycle of several phases such as goal setting, curriculum analysis, lesson planning, teaching a lesson while being observed, and debriefing and reflecting in an open and collaborative setting. Lesson Study originated in Japan more than 140 years ago (e.g. Ronda, 2013), and has become popular with educators worldwide since its first introduction to the US context in 1999 (Elliott & Ling, 2011).
Elliot (2014) stresses that “as Lesson Study globalises beyond its original Japanese context it will shape up in different ways in order to meet the challenges and issues posed by using it as an instrument for changing the culture of teaching and learning in particular societal contexts”. This argument is supported by Perry and Lewis (2009), who have explored Lesson Study in American context, pointing out that the fact that Lesson Study comes from another country and culture may create additional challenges for successful Lesson Study in the US educational context. Furthermore, Brosnan (2014) in her research with Irish Mathematics teachers concludes that the introduction of Lesson Study in a particular context is not a straightforward event that makes an immediate impact on practice in the classroom. She also emphasizes one of the key factors why Lesson Study works out in Japan is the collaborative culture among teachers, while in traditional Western contexts teachers tend to be more isolated.
In Kazakhstan, Lesson Study was introduced in 2012 as part of an educational reform focusing on curriculum transformation and continuous professional development for teachers. According to the Pedagogical Dialogue journal (as cited in Khokhotva, 2018), in 2017, ninety percent of Kazakhstani teachers were aware of the Lesson Study approach. In 2016, Kazakhstan joined the World Association of Lesson Studies and embarked on developing a study programme on Lesson Study aiming at promoting it as a countrywide approach to in-service teachers’ professional development starting in 2019 (Khokhotva, 2018).
The current study aims to examine Lesson Study practices of teachers in one of Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools in Kazakhstan. Since NIS have been established as part of the educational reform to serve as the “test-bed for innovation” in Kazakhstan (Bridges, 2014), and they are starting to translate their practices in all spheres, including Lesson Study, into the mainstream schools around the country, it is important to explore how Lesson Study is practiced in NIS from the perspectives of NIS teachers participating in Lesson Study.
To achieve the purpose of the study, the following research questions were formulated. The central question of this study is “How does Lesson Study create opportunities for teacher professional learning in (the case study schools) in Kazakhstan?” Based on this question, there are four sub-questions, which will help to answer the central question:
SQ1: How do teachers understand Lesson Study?
SQ2: What are the external and internal factors influencing teacher engagement in Lesson Study?
SQ3: What challenges do teachers face in the process of Lesson Study implementation?
SQ4: How does participation in Lesson Study contribute to teacher learning?
The current study is an in-depth case study of the practices and perspectives of teachers participating in Lesson Study in a pilot school in Kazakhstan. The data collection methods included focus groups followed by interviews as well as document review. Focus group is a collectivist rather than an individualistic research method where “the researchers explore attitudes and perceptions, feelings and ideas about the research topic” with a group (Denscombe, 2003, p.168). The focus group discussion was used to reveal consensual views and generate rich responses from participants in collecting data about the teachers’ Lesson Study practices. Since Lesson Study is a model of teacher collaborative learning in a group, conducting focus group discussion with each Lesson Study group of teachers helped gain a holistic view of the teachers’ perspectives about Lesson Study. Overall, four focus group discussions with four different Lesson Study groups of teachers were conducted in this study. While the focus group discussion aimed to gain insight into the group perspectives, the interviews provided individual teachers’ views. Since each teacher in the Lesson Study group brings his/her individual approach/background to the group learning, it was important to have both collective and individual perspectives in this study. Individual interviews were used to supplement and triangulate data collected through focus group discussions. One-on-one interviews allowed the researcher to obtain detailed and trustworthy answers from the respondents since they are conducted individually with one participant at a time (Creswell, 2014). Overall, 16 teachers from 4 Lesson Study groups were interviewed. Document review involves examining and evaluating documents both in print and electronic format to generate meaning, gain greater understanding and advance the knowledge of human behaviour, events and actions from the past to the present (Bowen, 2009). Documents are a ready-made source of data, which include a range of written, visual and physical materials relevant to the study (Merriam, 1998, p.112). The documentation-analysis method was chosen to supplement the other research methods of focus groups and interviews. The relevant materials were identified based on individual interviews and focus group discussions with the participants in the present study. The reviewed materials included Lesson Study guidebook for teachers, lesson plans created as part of Lesson Study participation and other Lesson Study implementation documents.
The findings are expected to contribute to the research in the area of Lesson Study professional learning model for teachers within secondary education. The preliminary findings demonstrate that teachers perceive Lesson Study as a platform for collaboration with their colleagues through which they improve their teaching practice and student learning outcomes. However, there is a number of external and internal factors that influence their engagement in Lesson Study, among which are the socio-cultural characteristics of Kazakhstan, organisational aspects and teacher’s individual characteristics.
Bjuland, R., & Helgevold, N. (2018). Dialogic processes that enable student teachers' learning about pupil learning in mentoring conversations in a Lesson Study field practice. Teaching and Teacher Education, 70, 246-254. Bowen, G. A. (2009). Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), 27-40. Creswell, J.W. (2014). Educational research: Planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Boston, MA: Pearson. da Ponte, J. P. (2017). Lesson studies in initial mathematics teacher education. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 6(2), 169-181. Denscombe, M. (2003). The Good Research Guide: for small scale social research projects. Philadelphia: Open University Press. Elliott, J. (2014). Lesson study, learning theory, and the cultural script of teaching. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 3(3). Elliott, J., Ling, L. (2011) "Editorial", International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.1108/ijlls.2012.57901aaa.001 Khokhotva, O. (2018). Lesson Study in Kazakhstan: case study of benefits and barriers for teachers. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 7(4), 250-262. 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. Merriam, B. (1998). Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education: Revision and Expanded from Case Study Research in Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
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