Collaborating in the classroom
Tuswadi , Aichi, Japan | Sat, 09/13/2008 9:58 AM | Opinion
Prof. Miyuki Takahashi from Aichi University of Education in Japan recently visited a primary school in the city of Anjo to hold am in-service training in the classroom. She taught the children of grade five about dates of the month. She started off by greeting the students, playing them a song and asking the children to sing together.
After that introduction, she began to teach the main material while more than 20 primary school English teachers and graduate students looked on. It was fantastic to see the children learning English so enthusiastically even without their regular teacher.
This kind of classroom-based practicum, called lesson study (jugyou kenkyuu), is practiced in Japanese primary schools. Teachers cannot generally evaluate themselves while they are teaching. Other teachers need to evaluate them and give their colleagues supportive criticism, suggestions or advice. This is the core reason for this kind of in-situ training practiced by Japanese teachers throughout the country.
Lesson study aims to improve the quality of the learning process conducted by a group of teachers collaboratively and continuously, through planning, doing, observing, and reporting on results. Lesson study is an application of the principles of Total Quality Management, an approach to improving the process and results of teaching and learning by continuously evaluating based on accurate data.
Based on my observations while attending lesson studies in primary and high schools in Japan, the three stages of this good program are: firstly, teachers prepare the lesson plan (PLAN); secondly, one of the volunteer teachers teaches the lesson (DO) while other teachers observe; thirdly, after the lesson, the volunteer teacher and the observers discuss the result of the teaching-learning process, delivering feedback to the volunteer teacher (REFLECT).
In the planning step, teachers in the lesson study group collaborate to make sure the lesson plan is student-centered. It begins with analyzing the needs and identifying problems which may occur — basic competence, the teaching method, lack of learning facility, etc., — so real conditions are accounted for during the teaching process. Together the teachers discuss possible solutions. Conclusions from the analysis becomes a part of the lesson plan.
Two important activities take place during the next step. The teacher carries out the lesson plan the group has created while other lesson study group members observe.
The third step is important because any effort to improve the quality of the teaching and learning will depend on how carefully the observing teachers analyze the carrying out of the lesson plan. Reflection takes the form of discussion among the whole group led by the principle or a teacher. The discussion starts by the volunteer teacher giving her or his impressions on the lesson just given, including explaining difficulties or problems that arose.
Then all observers speak in turn to respond or offer suggestions to the volunteer. In their response, the observers rely on data they wrote down during the observation. The issues discussed in this step can be used by all the participating teachers to better their own teaching.
Lesson study, highly developed in Japanese schools, is a very good system to make lessons more open and attractive, encourage teachers to be more open-minded and supportive of their colleagues and thus make the schools themselves and their students more open and creative.
The writer is a high school English teacher at Sigaluh Banjarnegara 1 and a fellow at the Monbukagakusho Teacher Training Program at Aichi University of Education in Japan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org