Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why Lesson Study Failed in Japan?

(Continued from "Lesson Study Is Not A Success Story of Japanese Education"

Thanks to the help from those who shared and tweeted the previous post, far more people than expected have read about Lesson Study.
I hope that they have understood that Japanese people cannot believe in Lesson Study as success story.

The Background of the Movement

Since it is obvious that it failed to work in Japan, some people may be wondering now why Lesson Study has been so advertised.
Its background in Japan is relatively clear.
To make a long story short, the Japanese education studies as a whole has been lacking in notable academic achievements. And the researchers as well as other school educators, whose raison d'etre is questioned these days, are consciously or unconsciously longing for some trophy to authorize themselves.
Thus the Lesson Study movement must be regarded by them as a good chance to achieve an international reputation.
(I wrote about this background more in "Pitfalls of Japanese Education Studies 1, 2, and 3)

I'm not sure why overseas educators are keen to play up Lesson Study despite all the news reports about the failed Japanese school education.
However, considering that the wrong educational reports are often applauded without any critical thinking, we may have good reason to suspect a similar background in their countries or on the global level.
At any rate, the Lesson Study movement reflects this kind of educators' mindset rather than students' learning.

Why Lesson Study failed to work in Japan?

Japanese educators’ mindset is one thing, and efficacy of Lesson Study is another to talk about. 
As I argued, Lesson Study is neutral and doesn't guarantee either success or failure by itself. With this in mind, I would like to discuss the reasons why Lesson Study failed to work in Japan.

1. Lesson Study is carried out just as ritual
Needless to say, it's nonsense to conduct Lesson Study just as ritualistic formality. However, there are a lot of such ritualistic events and activities in Japanese school education, some of which do more harm than good.
Therefore, I cannot deny the possibility that many of the Lesson Study sessions are held as one of those rituals.

2. Lesson Study is carried out very exclusively.
Lesson Study is characterized by joint collaboration by schoolteachers.
It may sound very open-minded, but actually it’s very exclusive because it is basically confined in the closed circle of school educators. 
Its initial concept, which is to share good practices and ideas, is certainly open-minded, but it seems that the Lesson Study experts limit the source of those good practices and ideas only to schoolteachers for some reasons, promoting some turf-minded attitude which, as a result, functions to shut out efforts and developments outside of schools.
In such a closed environment, it is no wonder that the Lesson Study sessions tend to be made just to satisfy the members inside.

3. Irrelevant ideals are shared by educators.
When teachers share the same educational ideal, Lesson Study will be influenced by it. 

For example, the present dominant ideal among Japanese schoolteachers is the Finnish-style education.
Therefore, it is likely that the performing teachers
 try to bring their teachings close to Finnish style in the sessions and that observing teachers applaud them.

However, students and parents don't wish for the education in which
 less than 20% of learners become able to solve fractional calculations. Thus Lesson Study cannot help but go irrelevant.

4. Successful Lesson Study needs competitive environment.
Frankly speaking, the long-standing popularity of jukus in Japan suggests that their staff training has been better than that of school education on the whole.
However, unfortunately the staff training as well as teaching methods of juku companies has been rarely reported, because Japanese education scholars have neglected them.

In the meantime, the professional development system is usually available in private companies, sports clubs, show business, and others. And Lesson Study, which is consisted of planning, observation, discussion, etc. is most likely to have many things in common with those systems in other working places. In fact, some Lesson Study experts argue that it is comparable to the renowned industrial methods such as PDCA, Kaizen, etc.

However, there is a fundamental difference which is very critical: while those industrial methods have been developed and carried out in strongly competitive environment, Lesson Study is practiced in school education which is a monopolistic state undertaking.

In this sense, it is relevant to consider that those methods including Lesson Study should work effectively only in some competitive environment.

The above are the likely causes I can think of for the failure of Japanese Lesson Study. I hope they activate the discussion on it.


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