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"Lesson Study" as Professional Culture in Japanese Schools: An Historical Perspective on Elementary Classroom Practices

This research examines "lesson study" as a traditional model of creating professional knowledge in schools. "Lesson study," typically defined as teachers'classroom based collaborative research, has a long history in Japan as a shared professional culture with potential for enhancing learning, enriching classroom activities and transforming the school environment. A case study method based on historical data is the primary approach used in this research. Detailed description and analysis of lessons are provided, individual lesson plans are examined and exchanges of views between teachers are discussed. The findings are intended to help clarify the cultural and historical role of lesson based research in Japanese schools, and also the significant influence that lesson study has exerted on developing a culture of shared professionalism in Japan.

Keywords: lesson study, elementary school, teaching, professional culture, Meiji era, Taishō era, Shōwa era, Japan
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This article was published originally in Japan Review, 2010, 22: 171-200.
Child Research Net would like to thank, Mohammad Reza Sarkar Arani, Keisuke Fukuya, James P. Lassegard and the International Research Center for Japanese Studies for permitting reproduction of this article on the CRN website.


Mohammad Reza Sarkar Arani is Associate Professor of elementary education in the School of Education at Teikyo University. He was a visiting Professor at Kobe University and Postdoctoral Fellow in Nagoya University, where he completed his PhD. His area of expertise includes the culture of education and teachers’ professional development in theory and practice. He has written extensively on teaching and learning in elementary and higher education and published papers in various national and international journals in Japanese, English and Persian.

Keisuke Fukaya is Associate Professor of childhood education at Chūbu Univeristy. He obtained his doctoral degree in Methods of Education at Nagoya University. He was principal of Ritsumeikan Elementary School in Kyoto. His areas of expertise include teaching methods, child learning and development, and how children can use dictionary from first grade (jishobiki gakushu). 

James P. Lassegard is Professor of English language education at Hosei University. He holds an MA from the University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in Educational Sociology from Nagoya University. His primary research interests include comparative Japanese education, education for international understanding, and the internationalization of higher education.

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