‘Lesson study’ catches on in Chicago

“Lesson study” — a Japanese technique for honing teaching — is being tried in Chicago schools, notes the Hechinger Report.

Math teacher Michael Hock  teaches about the distributive property as 30 teachers observe. 

After a lesson is taught and students dismissed, teachers analyze what happened. They’re like scientists looking back at their experiment, figuring out what went right, what went wrong.“You can see [it] everywhere in Japan,” says (Toshiakira) Fujii. “In Tokyo in the case it’s Wednesday. Wednesday [we] usually finish at lunch time. Then one class stays, and the other classes dismiss. And then every teacher comes to that one class and observes. Even the school nurse and school counselor also join to watch the lesson—that’s our traditional way.”

One teacher asks why Hock didn’t ask students to draw a model of the equation. Another says,  “I didn’t see much evidence that they felt challenged.” adds another, citing his extensive notes.

The teachers discuss whether it was more successful to use concrete examples or abstract ones and whether the illustration Hock used helped students understand the concept being taught.

Hock says he loves the constructive feedback, but it requires a thick skin.

About Joanne


  1. In Soviet Union, there was a practice of “open lessons”, which were observed by other teachers, admins etc. All teachers were doing open lessons once in a while, but the Teacher-methodologists were to do them most often. A teacher-methodologist was an experienced teacher in a subject charged with the development of most efficient ways to deliver the material, so such open lessons would often work as demos for younger teachers.

    My school did lesson study in math and biology for two years. Did not work well because of absence of “free ” prep time…

  2. Tom Linehan says:

    The last statement in the article “it requires a thick skin.” is telling. I am reminded of a book “First Break All the Rules” by Gallup. Gallup found that the best teachers viewed criticism different.y that the rest. The best teachers saw questioning as the product of an active mind. The rest saw questioning as a challenge to their professionalism.

  3. Roger Sweeny says:

    This would be helpful in a lot of cases. However, ….

    Often, when another teacher tells you “what works,” she is actually telling you “what works for me” or “what I think should work.”

    There is a deep problem here. If our goal is long-lasting subject matter knowledge, we know almost nothing about “what works” because we know almost nothing about what students retain after the class is over. And any student will tell you that they forget much of what has been taught soon after the test has been taken.

    (To the extent that “what works” means “what works to keep the students from disrupting” or “what works to keep students ‘on task'” or “what works to get them good marks on the test,” that criticism doesn’t apply.)