You are on page 1of 14

This article was downloaded by: [125.167.36.

158]
On: 13 December 2012, At: 22:27
Publisher: Routledge
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered
office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher


Education
Publication details, including instructions for authors and
subscription information:
http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/capj20

Taking stock of Lesson Study as a


platform for teacher development in
Singapore
a

Christina Lim , Christine Lee , Eisuke Saito & Sharifa Syed


Haron

National Institute of Education, Singapore


Version of record first published: 12 Oct 2011.

To cite this article: Christina Lim, Christine Lee, Eisuke Saito & Sharifa Syed Haron (2011): Taking
stock of Lesson Study as a platform for teacher development in Singapore, Asia-Pacific Journal of
Teacher Education, 39:4, 353-365
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1359866X.2011.614683

PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLE


Full terms and conditions of use: http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-andconditions
This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any
substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,
systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.
The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation
that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any
instructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primary
sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings,
demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever caused arising directly or
indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education


Vol. 39, No. 4, November 2011, 353365

Taking stock of Lesson Study as a platform for teacher


development in Singapore
Christina Lim* , Christine Lee, Eisuke Saito and Sharifa Syed Haron
National Institute of Education, Singapore

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

(Received 29 July 2010; final version received 3 August 2011)


Since its introduction into Singapore schools in 2005, many schools are now
implementing Lesson Study in various forms adapted to their culture, needs and priorities. Why are schools interested in Lesson Study? How has Lesson Study provided
a platform for professional development of teachers? What aspects of Lesson Study
have schools adapted and changed, in light of problems and constraints in the local
school context? This paper shares the findings of a survey of schools that have participated in workshops on Lesson Study to find out how these schools have implemented
Lesson Study. The findings from the survey could provide teacher educators and school
staff developers and leaders deeper insights into the implementation process and the
kinds of support that schools and teachers would need in order to make Lesson Study a
sustainable process in their schools.
Keywords: constraints; implementation; Lesson Study; support; teacher professional
development

Introduction
Over the last two decades, Singapores education system has been inundated with reform
initiatives, the most recent being the Teach Less Learn More (TLLM) movement, which
expects teachers to adapt and develop curriculum materials. Such expectations, however,
would likely be beyond the capacity of most teachers (Gopinathan & Deng, 2006, p. 95),
pointing therefore to the vital importance of professional development of teachers in order
for effective change in instruction to take place. As Guskey (2002) pointed out, high quality professional development is a central component in nearly every modern proposal for
improving education (p. 381). Stigler and Hiebert (2009) emphasised the importance of
focusing on teaching, which involves becoming aware of the cultural routines that govern classroom life, questioning the assumptions that underlie these routines, and working
to improve the routines over time (p. xiii). They highlighted that Japanese teachers have
been able to make gradual and incremental improvements in their practice over time. This,
perhaps, could be due to their involvement in jugyou kenkyuu (Lesson Study), which Stigler
and Hiebert claim to be the linchpin of the improvement process (p. 111).
According to Lewis, Perry, and Hurd (2004), Lesson Study (LS) as it is carried out
in Japan is able to bring about seven key pathways to teacher professional development:
increased knowledge in subject matter, increased knowledge of instruction, increased
*Corresponding author. Email: christina.ratnam@nie.edu.sg
ISSN 1359-866X print/ISSN 1469-2945 online
2011 Australian Teacher Education Association
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1359866X.2011.614683
http://www.tandfonline.com

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

354

C. Lim et al.

ability to observe students, stronger collegial networks, stronger connection of daily practice to long-term goals, stronger motivation and sense of efficacy, and improved quality of
available lesson plans (p. 19). Lesson Study is a translation of the Japanese words jugyou
(instruction and lessons) and kenkyuu (research or study). The term jugyou kenkyuu encompasses a range of activities known as a cycle of Lesson Study (Lewis, Perry, & Murata,
2006). In an LS cycle, teachers work collaboratively in a group to plan, discuss, observe
and refine research lessons. According to Lewis (2002), LS is a complex process, supported
by collaborative goal setting, careful data collection on student learning and protocols that
enable productive discussion of instructional and educational issues. These discussions
arise from having sufficient exposure to learn from one another, and help acquire the knowledge and skills required for effective teaching. This leads to the development of personal
qualities essential to becoming a reflective teacher who is committed to teach and teach
well, rather than merely survive.
Since its introduction to the English-speaking world, educators and researchers from
several countries have been writing about jugyou kenkyuu and its adaptation in their respective cultures from America (Fernandez, Cannon, & Chokshi, 2003; Perry & Lewis, 2009),
Hong Kong (Lee, 2008), Indonesia (Saito, Harun, Kuboki, & Sumar, 2008), Iran (Arani,
2006), Germany (Berg & Grammes, 2006), Vietnam (Saito & Tsukui, 2008) and Singapore
(Fang, Lee, & Haron, 2009), to name a few. Much of this literature focuses on specific cases
of LS cycles in bringing about classroom- or school-level change. Few studies have looked
at regional levels or trends of implementation of LS. Lewis et al. (2006) made a case for
research that develops a descriptive knowledge base to provide a fuller view of LS and to
uncover features that are constant or varying, and to identify adaptations that are relevant to
needs in the diverse settings in which LS is conducted. Only with such research can we go
beyond the surface features of LS, and identify the crux of how LS contributes to teacher
professional development and learning.
Interest in LS in Singapore has gained momentum since its introduction in 2005.
Between 2005 and 2010, 170 out of 354 (48%) schools in Singapore received some exposure to LS through introductory workshops. Many schools are now implementing LS in
various forms adapted to their culture, needs and priorities. Given the phenomenal spread
of LS over such a short period, the authors conducted a survey in January 2009 to understand how LS protocols were adapted to suit local school conditions and contexts and
the kinds of problems and constraints the schools faced in the implementation process. In
this paper, we attempt to address the following questions: (a) What are the conditions that
support the implementation of LS in Singaporean schools? (b) Which factors encourage
participation in and sustainability of LS?
Method
To gain a broad-sweep overview of the perceptions of school leaders and teachers about
LS, a survey method with mail-out questionnaires was chosen as the most appropriate
method, as it was the quickest means. While we understood that surveys have their limitations, we felt that it was the most economical way of getting the broad overview that
we wanted to uncover (Baumann & Bason, 2004). Indeed, one of the limitations of this
study was that the leaders and teachers who responded to the survey tended to be those
who were positive about LS. Our findings were therefore limited to the views of those who
responded (64 schools), and we would not know how those who chose not to respond to
the survey felt about LS. Despite this constraint, the questionnaire survey fulfilled its purpose of an exploratory instrument to investigate what the conditions were that supported

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education

355

the implementation of LS, and what the factors were that encouraged participation in and
sustainability of LS in these schools.
Three survey questionnaires were sent to the schools. The first questionnaire addressed
the school leadership, that is, either the principal or the vice-principal. The questions were
aimed at investigating school leaders objectives for involving the school in LS and their
evaluation as to whether these objectives have been met through the implementation of LS.
We also wanted to find out the genesis of LS in the schools, and if the school leaders would
continue implementing LS in their schools.
The second questionnaire was addressed to the key person in the school who oversaw
the implementation of LS. This person could be the vice-principal or a head of department
or a school staff developer or a teacher. Through this questionnaire, we aimed at collecting
as comprehensive a picture of the way LS is implemented in the school as possible. We
also aimed at finding out the factors that may have enabled or inhibited the implementation
of LS in the school.
The third questionnaire was sent to the teachers who were involved in LS in their
schools. The aim of this questionnaire was to ascertain the teachers perceptions of the
different aspects of LS, i.e., the planning meetings, the observation in the research lessons,
the post-research lesson discussions, and the involvement of an external resource person.
We also wanted to find out what support teachers would like to facilitate the implementation
of LS.
A cover letter to the principals of the schools indicated that the identity of the respondents to the survey would be held in strict confidence. Ethical approval for this study was
not sought due to the absence of an Ethics Committee process. The following steps were
undertaken to ensure due consideration of the ethical process: all institutional information
was de-identified; all teacher responses were anonymous; schools and teachers were given
the choice to respond to the survey questionnaire their submission of the questionnaire
was taken as indication of their informed consent to participate in the research.
Sample
The sample was selected from a database on attendance at workshops organised by the
National Institute of Education. A total of 109 schools were surveyed comprising 53 primary schools, 50 secondary schools and 6 junior colleges. Sixty-four schools responded
and they came from 30 primary schools (57%), 32 secondary schools (64%) and 2 junior
colleges (33%), giving an overall response rate of 59%. Of the 30 primary schools who
responded, 28 (93%) implemented LS and 28 out of 32 secondary schools (88%) did
likewise after receiving training.
Findings
Implementation of LS in schools
Table 1 shows that of the 56 schools that implemented LS, 28 (50%) were in their second
year of implementation. Twenty-nine schools (52%) indicated that they would definitely
continue implementing LS in 2010 and beyond. The intention to continue the implementation of LS reflects somewhat a conviction of school leaders that LS would bring about
changes in teacher learning and teachers capacity to respond to reform initiatives that have
implications for their classroom practices to bring about better student learning.
Table 2 shows that in 22 schools (39%) LS was initiated by school leaders such as
principals and vice-principals. This is an important observation as the school leader is
critical in providing supporting conditions for LS to take root in a school and flourish.

356

C. Lim et al.

Table 1. Length of LS implementation in schools and plans to continue with LS in 2010 and beyond.

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

No. of years LS has been


implemented in the school

Number of schools (n = 56)


Primary schools

Secondary schools

Total

8 (29%)
13 (46%)
4 (14%)
2 (7%)
1 (4%)

7 (25%)
15 (54%)
4 (14%)
2 (7%)
0 (0%)

15 (27%)
28 (50%)
8 (14%)
4 (7%)
1 (2%)

11 (39%)
14 (50%)
3 (10%)
0
0

18 (64 %)
9 (32%)
1 (4%)
0
0

29 (52%)
23 (41%)
4 (7%)
0
0

1 year
2 years
3 years
4 years
5 years
Plans to continue implementing
LS in 2010 and beyond
Definitely yes
Probably yes
Maybe
Perhaps not
Definitely not
Table 2.

Who initiated LS in the school.


Number of schools (n = 56)

LS was initiated by:


Cluster superintendent
Ministry of Education & North Zone Forum
Cluster principals
Teachers
School staff developer
Head of department
Principal/vice-principal (past & present)

Primary schools

Secondary schools

Total

2 (7%)
1 (4%)
2 (7%)
1 (4%)
4 (14%)
5 (18%)
13 (46%)

0 (0%)
2 (7%)
1 (4%)
2 (7%)
6 (21%)
8 (29%)
9 (32%)

2 (4%)
3 (5%)
3 (5%)
3 (5%)
10 (18%)
13 (23%)
22 (39%)

Table 3. School leaders perception of the extent to which LS met their objectives for
implementing LS.
Objective
To help teachers in designing
curriculum
To increase collegiality among
teachers
To support school-based
curriculum innovation & other
Ministry of Education
initiatives
To enhance teachers subject
matter knowledge &
pedagogical knowledge
To focus on students learning &
outcome

No extent Neutral To some extent To a great extent Total


0

24

25

50

20

24

51

26

24

52

17

35

53

12

41

53

When asked what their objectives were for involving their schools in LS, and to what
extent these objectives have been met through the implementation of LS, the results in
Table 3 showed that uppermost on the minds of school leaders is the focus on students
learning and outcomes. Forty-one principals and vice-principals (77% of responses) felt
that involvement in LS met the objective of focusing on student learning and outcomes to a

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education

357

Table 4. Key personnels perception of the crucial support mechanisms and challenges in the
implementation of LS.

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

Support mechanisms
Protected time to carry out the LS processes
Advocator among the staff
Grassroots interest among staff
Resource links
Other (e.g. sharing by teachers and other schools,
training of LS facilitators)
Having relief teachers
Reduced workload
Challenges
Scheduling the research lessons
Difficulties in getting external resource
Difficulty in scheduling meetings
Others

Primary

Secondary

Total

16
15
9
9
6

23
18
11
7
8

39
33
20
16
14

5
4

8
4

13
8

13
10
10
5

12
11
8
4

25
21
18
9

great extent. Many of the school leaders surveyed also felt that involvement in LS met the
objective of enhancing teachers subject matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge.
In the second questionnaire, the key person in the school who oversaw the implementation of LS was asked to indicate the factors which may have enabled or inhibited the
implementation of LS in their schools. As seen in Table 4, having teachers time protected for Lesson Study meetings and worked into the timetable was reported as the most
important mechanism that supported the implementation of LS. Having an enthusiastic
advocator among the teachers was also considered important. One school elaborated on
this by explaining that when three teachers presented a paper on their LS cycle at the 2008
World Association for Lesson Study conference, this heightened interest among the rest of
the staff in the school.
Table 4 also shows the main problems schools face in implementing LS. While they felt
that it was a great support to have protected time to carry out LS, school staff still found it
difficult to schedule in the research lesson and planning meetings. Part of the problem with
scheduling research lessons is due to the fact that teachers teaching the same subject at the
same level tend to have their lessons scheduled simultaneously. Teachers in the research
team would then have to find substitutes for their classes in order for them to observe in
the research lesson. The schools also have difficulty in getting the help of external resource
persons. Under the category of Others, schools included the following factors:

initial scepticism among teachers;


building up resources for the research lesson;
entire cycle is time-consuming and intense;
fighting for time with other initiatives that the school is also implementing;
teachers holding other responsibilities are overstretched;
teams not strong in content, pedagogy and facilitation may lead to a case of blind
leading the blind.

Adaptation of LS
Table 5 shows that most of the schools have about 20% of their teachers engaged in LS.
This is because the majority of schools are in the second year of implementation. It is,
however, heartening to note that eight schools have involved 100% of their teachers in LS.

358
Table 5.

C. Lim et al.
Percentage of staff involved in LS.
Number of schools (n = 50)

% of staff involved

Primary schools

Secondary schools

Total

12 (52%)
2 (9%)
2 (9%)
2 (9%)
1 (4%)
4 (17%)

9 (33%)
9 (33%)
3 (11%)
2 (7%)
0 (0%)
4 (15%)

21 (42%)
11 (22%)
5 (10%)
4 (8%)
1 (2%)
8 (16%)

20% & below


21%40%
41%70%
71%90%
91%99%
100%

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

Table 6.

Number of planning meetings.

No. of planning meetings


conducted by LS teams
14 meetings
58 meetings
915 meetings
>15 meetings
Total no. of teams

Number of LS teams (n = 260)


Primary schools

Secondary schools

Total

101 (69%)
41 (28%)
3 (2%)
1 (1%)
146

24 (21%)
61 (53%)
23 (20%)
6 (5%)
114

125 (48%)
102 (39%)
26 (10%)
7 (3%)
260

More of the primary school LS teams conducted four or fewer planning meetings
whereas the secondary schools experimented with more meetings (Table 6). A plausible
reason is that secondary teachers are subject specialists who are willing to invest time in
subject-based LS teams, unlike primary teachers, who are generalists with different subject
area interests.
In an LS cycle, there may be cases where a research lesson (RL) is refined based on
the post-RL discussion, and delivered to another class within the same level, perhaps by
another teacher from the research team. This would then be considered a second RL, or
RL2. Table 7 shows that the primary school teams tended to stop at two research lessons
within a cycle while the secondary school teams tended to go on to more than two RLs,
with one school even going onto eight RLs in a cycle.
Table 8 shows that only 47 (31.9%) of primary LS teams and 25 (22.3%) of secondary
LS teams had access to an external resource person, though they understood the critical role
the external facilitators play in enriching and deepening post-research lesson discussions.
Table 7.

Number of research lessons per LS cycle.


Total number of cycles (n = 253)

No. of RLs conducted in a cycle


0 RLs
1 RL
2 RLs
3 RLs
4 RLs
5 RLs
8 RLs
Total no. of RL cycles

Primary schools

Secondary schools

Total

0 (0%)
35 (24%)
97 (67%)
10 (7%)
2 (1%)
0 (0%)
0 (0%)
144

2 (2%)
40 (37%)
45 (41%)
14 (13%)
3 (3%)
4 (4%)
1 (1%)
109

2 (1%)
75 (30%)
142 (56%)
24 (9%)
5 (2%)
4 (2%)
1 (.4%)
253

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education


Table 8.

359

Involvement of external resource person in LS cycles.


Number of teams (n = 260)

Involvement of resource person

Primary schools

Secondary schools

47 (31.9%)
99 (68.1%)
146

25 (22.3%)
89 (77.7%)
114

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

Resource person involved


Resource person not involved
Total number of teams

Two reasons could account for this. One is that schools would like to experiment with LS
on their own without making their experience open to external scrutiny and second, even
if schools wanted to involve external resource persons, there is an inadequate number of
external resource persons available to support the schools.
As seen in Table 9, in terms of subject areas for LS, primary schools focused mainly
on mathematics and this is followed by English. Secondary schools focused also on mathematics and science. This mirrors international trends in the USA and elsewhere where
much of the LS experience occurs in math and science.
Perceptions of teachers
A total of 129 teachers responded to our survey, comprising 97 teachers from 15 primary
schools and 32 teachers from five secondary schools. When asked to rank the type of
support they require to carry out LS, 53 (41%) of these teachers ranked more support from
school leaders in structuring LS in their curriculum time as the highest need (first place),
as seen in Table 10. The next highest need is reduced workload (31%). Singapore teachers,
like many teachers around the world, are saddled with administrative and committee tasks
and co-curricular activities in addition to their teaching workloads.
As seen in Table 11, the teachers liked the following aspects of the LS cycle the
observations of research lessons (84%), the post-research lesson discussions (78%) and
the involvement of the resource person (66%). Thirteen (10%) of the teachers surveyed did
not like the planning meetings which they found to be time-consuming and laborious.
Table 12 shows that our teachers are generally positive about LS and agree that there
are benefits from being involved in LS in their respective schools. Thirty-seven teachers
Table 9.

Subjects pursued for Lesson Study.


Number of LS teams (n = 274)

Subjects pursued
English language
Mathematics
Science
Mother tongue languages
Geography
Humanities (history)
Social studies
English literature
PE
Art
Design & technology
Others
Total number of LS teams

Primary schools

Secondary schools

Total

37 (25.0%)
56 (37.8%)
21 (14.2%)
28 (18.9%)
0 (0%)
0 (0%)
1 (0.68%)
0 (0%)
1 (0.68%)
0 (0%)
0 (0%)
4 (2.70%)
148

13 (10.3%)
38 (30.2%)
33 (26.2%)
11 (8.7%)
6 (4.8%)
4 (3.2%)
5 (4%)
2 (1.6%)
1 (0.8%)
3 (2.4%)
6 (4.8%)
4 (3.2%)
126

50 (18.3%)
94 (34.3%)
54 (19.7%)
39 (14.2%)
6 (2.2%)
4 (1.5%)
6 (2.2%)
2 (0.7%)
2 (0.7%)
3 (1.1%)
6 (2.2%)
8 (2.9%)
274

360
Table 10.

C. Lim et al.
Teachers ranking of support components for implementation of LS.
Rank order by teachers (n = 129)
1st

2nd

3rd

4th

5th

6th

53 (41%)
40 (31%)
12 (9%)
3 (2%)
19 (15%)

45 (35%)
22 (17%)
37 (29%)
9 (7%)
14 (11%)

17 (13%)
19 (15%)
37 (29%)
27 (21%)
27 (21%)

5 (4%)
26 (20%)
25 (19%)
49 (38%)
23 (18%)

8 (6%)
22 (17%)
17 (13%)
41 (32%)
43 (33%)

1 (1%)
0
1 (1%)
0
3 (2%)

Types of support
Structured LS time
Reduced workload
Links with experts
Resources
Guides

Table 11.

Teachers attitudes toward the different components in LS.

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

Percentage of teachers (n = 129)


Lesson Study components
Observing RL
Post-RL discussion
Resource person
Planning meetings
Videos
Teaching RL

Dislike

Neutral

Like

5 (4%)
6 (5%)
3 (2%)
13 (10%)
6 (5%)
8 (6%)

15 (11%)
22 (17%)
41 (32%)
31 (24%)
44 (34%)
44 (34%)

109 (84%)
101 (78%)
85 (66%)
85 (66%)
79 (61%)
77 (60%)

(29%) strongly agreed that LS offered them the opportunity to learn from colleagues and
grow professionally. Thirty-six teachers (28%) strongly agreed that LS had raised ideas
that would influence their own classroom instruction. Thirty-three teachers (26%) strongly
agreed that LS increased their understanding of students learning processes in the subject.
While 30 teachers (23%) strongly agreed that LS increased collegiality among colleagues,
the teachers were still tentative about opening their lessons for others to observe. This is
expected as teachers often work in isolation behind closed doors and are not used to having
several of their colleagues in their classrooms at the same time.
Table 13 shows a comparison between the perceptions of teachers who have not had
any experience teaching a research lesson (henceforth classified as non-RL teachers) and
those who had experienced teaching a research lesson (RL teachers). Sixty-three teachers
reported that they had taught an RL, and another 66 indicated that they had not taught an
RL. More of the RL teachers (34%) strongly agreed that LS had influenced their classroom
instruction, as compared with the non-RL teachers (24%), and none of the RL teachers disagreed that LS had influenced their classroom instruction. More of the RL teachers strongly
agreed that the post-RL discussions were beneficial and it is likely that they found the discussions more meaningful. More non-RL teachers did not find LS a productive use of time,
with two of them registering strong disagreement. This implies that teachers would better
appreciate the benefits of LS if they actively participated in the cycle by actually teaching a research lesson themselves. A two-year pilot intervention project of Lesson Study
in a local government school in Singapore also revealed that teachers found observing
live classrooms and sharing observations during post-research lesson discussion the most
helpful (Fang et al., 2009).
By comparing the perceptions of teachers according to their years of teaching experience, an interesting pattern arose (Table 14). Beginning teachers (with less than two years
of teaching experience), as well as teachers with more than 11 years of teaching experience, tended to agree that the planning meetings are beneficial, and that LS is a productive

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education


Table 12.

361

Teachers perceptions of the benefits of LS.


Number of teachers (n = 129)

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

Benefits of LS: Lesson Study . . .


was a productive use of my time
raised ideas that will influence my own
classroom instruction
made me want to learn more about the subjects I
teach
increased my understanding of students
learning processes in the subject
contributed to my own knowledge in the subject
contributed to my own knowledge about
teaching the subject
enabled me to examine the curriculum more
carefully
increased collegiality amongst colleagues
has made it easier for colleagues to visit each
others classrooms
has made me less afraid about opening my
lessons to others to observe
has increased the frequency with which
colleagues meet and discuss teaching
pedagogies
has increased the frequency with which
colleagues share and discuss students
learning
offers me the opportunity to learn from
colleagues and grow professionally
generated useful resources for my own teaching

Table 13.

Strongly
disagree

Disagree Neutral Agree

Strongly
agree

2
0

4
6

29
27

80
80

14
36

22

75

28

11

84

33

0
0

5
2

14
9

87
90

23
28

23

80

21

0
0

6
10

16
36

77
64

30
19

13

38

60

18

16

88

19

16

89

18

86

37

20

89

17

Comparison of perceptions between RL teachers and non-RL teachers.


Percentage of teachers (n = 129)

Perceptions
Planning meetings are
beneficial
Post-RL discussions are
beneficial
LS is a productive use of
time
LS has influenced my
classroom instruction
LS has made me want to
learn more about the
subjects I teach

Teacher type

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

Strongly agree

RL teacher
Non-RL teacher
RL teacher
Non-RL teacher
RL teacher
Non-RL teacher
RL teacher
Non-RL teacher
RL teacher

7%
12%
5%
4%
1%
8%
0
3%
2%

63%
25%
13%
19%
20%
21%
6%
4%
14%

22%
55%
57%
63%
64%
60%
60%
70%
54%

7%
8%
25%
13%
15%
11%
34%
24%
30%

Non-RL teacher

4%

17%

64%

15%

use of their time. From the qualitative data, teachers mentioned that the planning meetings were beneficial in that they provided an avenue for teachers to share problems when
teaching certain topics, and teams could collectively generate ideas from each members
knowledge and experience. As a result, new perspectives to teaching and learning were

362

C. Lim et al.

Table 14.

Comparison of perceptions across years of teaching experience.

Comparison across years of teaching experience

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

Planning meetings are beneficial


<2 years
34 years
510 years
>11 years
LS is a productive use of time
<2 years
34 years
510 years
>11 years

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

Strongly agree

22%
12%
4%

24%
15%
24%
30%

76%
56%
58%
54%

8%
6%
12%

3%
8%
4%

28%
30%
14%
23%

72%
63%
65%
54%

3%
14%
19%

opened up, and the teachers subject matter knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge were deepened. In comparison, more teachers who have had three to ten years of
teaching experience tended to disagree that the planning meetings were beneficial, or that
LS was a productive use of their time. One possible reason for this pattern is that teachers
in the in-between years of teaching experience (310 years) could be over-burdened with
more commitments, while teachers with more than 11 years of teaching experience may
have come to a point where they seem able to balance their commitments. Time seemed to
be the key factor behind the negative views of LS. From the qualitative data, the common
complaints were that the teachers had to juggle other activities besides LS, and that they
found it difficult to find a common time to meet.
Discussion: issues and implications for future developments
The survey revealed that the following factors seemed to be important in sustaining LS in
our schools:
(i) the school leader (principal or vice-principal) is critical in providing supporting
conditions for LS to take root in a school and flourish;
(ii) school leaders feel that LS is able to impact on student learning and outcomes;
(iii) school leaders feel that LS is able to impact on teacher knowledge, particularly
subject matter knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge;
(iv) protected time for LS meetings; and
(v) presence of an advocator among the teachers.
There is a lot more work to be done to sustain and scale up LS in Singapore schools. Our
work is still at the infancy stage. While there is a lot of interest in LS going by the numerous
requests for training and the increasing presence of Singapore principals and teachers at the
annual conferences of the World Association for Lesson Study, there is concern that schools
embarking on LS may do so in a superficial manner and dilute the essential features that are
capable of creating deep and enduring learning for teachers and students involved. Time is
a constant and recurring problem and even those who are committed to the potential and
benefits of LS may feel an overwhelming sense of demand on their time (Goodson, 2003;
Hargreaves, Earl, Moore, & Manning, 2001). Sato (2006) gave an analogy of the teacher
as a juggler, who simultaneously conducts various tasks. In order to include LS as a new
activity, school leaders have to provide enough time for teachers to be engaged in LS. LS
teams may not give the time to planning of research lessons which they richly deserve.

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education

363

Teams may simply go through the motions in order to meet their principals expectations
of being involved in at least one LS cycle per year. There is a need in schools to move from
a top-down directive from school leaders to involving the entire school culture including
grassroots-level teachers (Dufour, 2004; Reeves, 2009). LS is after all a teacher-directed
form of professional development.
In some schools, there is an over-reliance on external support in the form of a resource
person from the National Institute of Education or the Ministry of Education as a facilitator
of the LS teams. Schools worry that they are not doing LS the right way or in a way that
is not as rigorous as it should be. Principals tell us that they want their teachers to be
hand-held in their journey. Both the National Institute of Education and the Ministry of
Education do not have adequate capacity to help all the schools requesting such support.
At the same time, there is a need to persuade teacher teams to trust their own wisdom
and craft knowledge honed by years of practical experience (Evans, 2001). Some schools,
particularly those with younger faculty, lack teacher capacity in curriculum, pedagogy and
assessment. Others have young and inexperienced heads of departments who need more
time to develop their capacity to lead in curriculum and lesson study.
With more schools embarking on LS in Singapore, there is also the nagging concern
about the prevalence of misconceptions about LS. Some teams see LS as lesson planning
and are short-sighted in their focus of only planning research lessons for observations.
Others may lose sight of the central focus of LS which is about childrens learning and do
not see the link of what they do with the larger vision and mission of the school and the
educative experiences they bring to each child. Some schools want to see dramatic changes
and outcomes from their engagement in LS particularly in student achievement as soon as
possible and are impatient about cascading LS to the whole school without the provision
of adequate support. Successful Japanese cases of school reform arising from LS show us
that changing school situations will take some time, involving several years of work (Ose
& Sato, 2003; Sato & Sato, 2003).
Lesson Study is being introduced into an educational system that has been characterised by efficiency and competition with a strong performance-driven culture in schools
(Cheah, 1998). Changing the culture of the school takes time and requires the strong will
and commitment of the school leadership team to providing the conditions that will promote teacher collaboration in professional learning communities (Wells & Feun, 2007).
These conditions include not crowding the teachers timetable, which is already full with
other non-teaching initiatives and activities. There are inherent tensions when the central
work of a school and teachers is dispersed by demands that lead them away from teaching and improving childrens learning (Evans, 2001). Building a school into a conducive
learning environment for teachers requires the school leadership to lead the school with a
philosophy that the core of teachers lives lies in learning to improve their teaching and
to organise the school into a professional learning community for teachers to achieve this
(Fullan, 2007).
Our experience of implementing LS in Singapore schools shows that while teachers are
generally convinced of the value of Lesson Study, they would need a lot more support for
LS to grow in schools. The provision of time and space is one dimension but the teachers
would need tools to be engaged in LS. These tools include access to curriculum materials, teaching resource books, assessment exemplars, as well as access to resource persons
who can lend support to teacher deliberations during planning meetings and post-research
lesson discussions.
There is a need for funding for resources to support the scaling up for Lesson Study
within schools and across schools. There is also a need to develop a pool of resource

364

C. Lim et al.

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

persons from retired principals, curriculum specialists and experienced teachers to support
schools and reimburse them for their services to schools. The role of the resource person is critical in enhancing the disciplinary and subject matter knowledge of the research
lesson topics (Takeda & Ito, 1994). In Japan, retired principals (Ishii, 1996; Sato, 2009)
play an important role as resource persons to schools and teacher professional associations (Inagaki, 2006; Sato, 2006), providing opportunities for teachers to learn from their
commentaries on live and video lessons.
In conclusion, as Lewis et al. (2004) remind us, the value of LS is far more than just
going through a set of activities. It means building a set of pathways that enable continual growth of the knowledge, interpersonal resources, and motivation required to improve
instruction in the classroom and beyond (p. 22). If Singaporean educators want to see
improvement in learning, we have to be committed to supporting the building of pathways
for teacher professional development.

Acknowledgements
We would like to record our thanks to the school leaders and teachers who took the time to complete
our survey questionnaires.

Notes on contributors
Dr Christina Lim is a Senior Lecturer with the Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Academic Group.
Her research interests include curriculum implementation and educators identities.
Associate Professor Christine Lee is Head of the Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Academic
Group. Her research interests include Lesson Study and teacher learning and school-based curriculum development and implementation.
Dr Eisuke Saitos research interests cover Lesson Study, comparative education, action research,
professional development and learning of teachers. He was an educational consultant in Bangladesh,
Indonesia and Vietnam.
Ms Sharifa Syed Haron was a Research Assistant at the Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
Academic Group during the time of the writing.

References
Arani, M.R.S. (2006). Transnational learning: The integration of jugyou kenkyuu into Iranian teacher
training. In M. Matoba, K.A. Crawford, & M.R.S. Arani (Eds.), Lesson study: International
perspective on policy and practice (pp. 3775). Beijing: Educational Science Publishing House.
Baumann, J.F., & Bason, J.J. (2004). Survey research. In N.K. Duke & M.H. Mallette (Eds.), Literacy
research methodologies (pp. 287307). New York: Guilford Press.
Berg, H.C., & Grammes, T. (2006). Lehrkunst (teaching art): A German version of lesson study?
Examples from Science and Humanities education. In M. Matoba, K.A. Crawford, & M.R.S.
Arani (Eds.), Lesson study: International perspective on policy and practice (pp. 239256).
Beijing: Educational Science Publishing House.
Cheah, Y.M. (1998). The examination culture and its impact on literacy innovations: The case of
Singapore. Language and Education, 12, 192209.
Dufour, R. (2004). What is a professional learning community? Educational Leadership, May, 611.
Evans, R. (2001). The human side of school change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Fang, Y.P., Lee, K.E.C., & Haron, S.T. (2009). Lesson study in mathematics: Three cases from
Singapore. In K.Y. Wong, P.Y. Lee, B. Kaur, P.Y. Foong, & S.F. Ng (Eds.), Mathematics
education The Singapore journey (pp. 104129). Singapore: World Scientific.
Fernandez, C., Cannon, J., & Chokshi, S. (2003). A USJapan lesson study collaboration reveals
critical lenses for examining practice. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19, 171185.

Downloaded by [125.167.36.158] at 22:27 13 December 2012

Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education

365

Fullan, M. (2007). The new meaning of educational change (4th ed.). New York, NY: Teachers
College, Columbia.
Goodson, I. (2003). Professional knowledge, professionals lives: Studies in education and change.
Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press.
Gopinathan, S., & Deng, Z.Y. (2006). Fostering school-based curriculum development in the context
of new educational initiatives in Singapore. Planning and Changing, 37(1&2), 93110.
Guskey, T. (2002). Professional development and teacher change. Teachers and Teaching: Theory
and Practice, 8(3/4), 381391.
Hargreaves, A., Earl, L., Moore, S., & Manning, S. (2001). Learning to change: Teaching beyond
subjects and standards. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Inagaki, T. (2006). Kyoshi Kyoiku no Sozo [Creating teacher education]. Tokyo: Hyoronsha.
Ishii, J. (1996). Tomo ni manaberu ba wo tsukuru [Creating space for mutual learning]. In J. Ishii,
H. Ushiyama, & M. Maejima, Kyoshi ga Kabe wo Koerutoki [When teachers break their walls],
pp. 55101. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten.
Lee, J.F.K. (2008). A Hong Kong case of lesson study Benefits and concerns. Teaching and Teacher
Education, 24, 11151124.
Lewis, C. (2002). Lesson study: A handbook of teacher-led instructional change. Philadelphia, PA:
Research for Better Schools.
Lewis, C., Perry, R., & Hurd, J. (2004). A deeper look at lesson study. Educational Leadership,
61(5), 1823.
Lewis, C., Perry, R., & Murata, A. (2006). How should research contribute to instructional
improvement? The case of lesson study. Educational Researcher, 35, 314.
Ose, T., & Sato, M. (2003). Gakko wo kaeru [Changing a school]. Tokyo: Shogakkan.
Perry, R.R., & Lewis, C.C. (2009). What is successful implementation of lesson study in the US?
Journal of Educational Change, 10, 365391.
Reeves, D. (2009). Level-five networks: Making significant change in complex organisations. In
A. Hargreaves & M. Fullan (Eds.), Change wars, pp. 237258. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
Saito, E., Harun, I., Kuboki, I., & Sumar, H. (2008). A study of the partnership between schools and
universities to improve science and mathematics education in Indonesia. International Journal
of Educational Development, 27(4), 194204.
Saito, E., & Tsukui, A. (2008). Challenging common sense: Cases of school reform for learning community under an international cooperation project in Bac Giang Province, Vietnam. International
Journal of Educational Development, 28, 571584.
Sato, M. (2006). Gakko no Chosen [Challenges of schools]. Tokyo: Shogakkan.
Sato, M. (2009). Kyoshi kadensho [Book on style and the flower of teachers]. Tokyo: Shogakkan.
Sato, M., & Sato M. (2003). Koritsu chugakko no chosen [Challenge by a public junior high school].
Tokyo: Gyosei.
Stigler, J.W., & Hiebert, J. (2009). The teaching gap: Best ideas from the worlds teachers for
improving education in the classroom. New York, NY: Free Press.
Takeda, T., & Ito, K. (1994). Kyoshi ga Kawaru Toki, Gakko ga Kawaru Toki [Changing teachers,
changing schools]. Tokyo: Hyoronsha.
Wells, C., & Feun, L. (2007). Implementation of learning community principles: A study of six high
schools. NASSP Bulletin, 91, 141160.