Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Lesson study

I once took part in a 'lesson study' class when I used to work in Japan. They're all the rage these days and the latest in a long line of 'they're doing it better abroad' approaches to education.

Lesson study basically involves a bunch of teachers from other schools coming over to your school and watching you teach. After the class (which is a performance like most observations) the kids are sent home and then you and the other teachers talk about your lesson and then discuss more generally 'teaching'. 

Sounds pretty neat, huh? 

So onto my second Japan related story. One of my favourite comedy programs over there once asked old people (who obviously have lots of life experience) which proverbs were the most useless. One guy said: 

三人が寄れば文殊の知恵
Two heads are better than one (lit: three people together have the wisdom of Monju

The presenter asked him why he thought this was a useless saying and the old guy said 'because if the people are idiots it doesn't matter how many there are' 

And so back to lesson study. I distinctly remember receiving some interesting advice from some of the English teachers who were gathered there. I also distinctly remember them telling me that if the kids don't learn good Japanese their English will never be any good (myth) and that educating young kids in English would make their native Japanese 'go weird' (myth). As the teachers were all older and much more experienced than me I had to sit there in silence as they continued on with this kind of 'professional development'.

I'm sure study learning could have some great benefits but the plural of anecdote isn't data


4 comments:

  1. Acabo de llegar a tu blog después de ver tu conferencia sobre pseudo ciencia en EFL... Es un mito también que el aprendizaje de una segunda lengua o lengua extranjera depende también del nivel que los alumnos tengan en su lengua materna?

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    1. you wrote "



      I just came to your blog after seeing your pseudo science conference in EFL ... is also a myth that learning a second or foreign language also depends on the level that students have in their mother tongue"

      I'd say that it's a myth that students first language ability affects significantly their second language ability. Obviously, someone who is a good communicator and reads lot in L1 will be able to transfer those skills to some extent. But it's a myth to say that in order to improve in L2 you first have to improve a student's L1. If that were the case, how could bilingualism even exist?

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  2. Hi there, I've been following your blog for a while and on many occasions tend to agree with you regarding psuedo-science in language education. However, coming across this post by accident searching for an article I felt this particular observation a bit of a lazy one. Granted, it sounds as though your experience of lesson study was a fairly loose and unprincipled interpretation, and only one isolated experience at that. Lesson study in its contemporary form as action research tends to involve slightly more than "a bunch of teachers from other schools coming over to your school and watching you teach". If delivered effectively, it offers a nice alternative to top down teacher education, changing the power dynamic between teachers of differing experience level in a more supportive and constructive environment. I've experienced first hand how combining a range of experience levels and backgrounds this way, and over a number of cycles of observation, can enrich your approach to a certain learning problem. It encourages all participants (ideally 3 in a group) to experiment more, and to shift the focus from teacher to student, in contrast to conventional rounds of teacher observation for QTS. I commend your efforts to debunk myths but a bit of referencing or qualification of your statements might add a bit of credibility here. Check out this journal here http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journal/ijlls, this site also has some good introductory information here http://lessonstudy.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/new-handbook-revisedMay14.pdf

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    1. your comment was lingering in the spambox and I just came accross it. THanks for the post, very interesting. I admit, there wasn't much thought that went into this post. I just really wanted to share my personal experiences of doing lesson study in Japan, in response to all those people who were touting it as 'the next big thing'. The last sentence is as applicable to the post itself as to lesson study.

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