Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 285–304 | Cite as

Improving mathematics instruction through lesson study: a theoretical model and North American case

  • Catherine C. Lewis
  • Rebecca R. Perry
  • Jacqueline Hurd


This article presents a theoretical model of lesson study, an approach to instructional improvement that originated in Japan. The theoretical model includes four lesson study features (investigation, planning, research lesson, and reflection) and three pathways through which lesson study improves instruction: changes in teachers’ knowledge and beliefs; changes in professional community; and changes in teaching–learning resources. The model thus suggests that development of teachers’ knowledge and professional community (not just improved lesson plans) are instructional improvement mechanisms within lesson study. The theoretical model is used to examine the “auditable trail” of data from a North American lesson study case, yielding evidence that the lesson study work affected each of the three pathways. We argue that the case provides an “existence proof” of the potential effectiveness of lesson study outside Japan. Limitations of the case are discussed, including (1) the nature of data available from the “auditable trail” and (2) generalizability to other lesson study efforts.


Lesson study Professional learning Professional development Teacher change Mathematics content knowledge Pedagogical content knowledge Teacher community 



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants REC 9814967, REC 0207259 and DRL 0633945. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


  1. Ball, D. (1996). Teacher learning and the mathematics reforms: What we think we know and what we need to learn. Phi Delta Kappan, 77(7), 500–508.Google Scholar
  2. Bannan-Ritland, B. (2003). The role of design in research: The integrative learning design framework. Educational Researcher, 32(1), 21–24. doi: 10.3102/0013189X032001021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Borasi, R., & Fonzi, J.(2002). Professional development that supports school mathematics reform (Foundations Monograph, Vol. 3). Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation.Google Scholar
  4. Borko, H., Davinroy, K., Bliem, C., & Cumbo, K. (2000). Exploring and supporting teacher change: Two-third-grade teachers’ experiences in a mathematics and literacy staff development project. The Elementary School Journal, 100(4), 273–306. doi: 10.1086/499643.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowers, J., Cobb, P., & Mcclain, K. (1999). The evolution of mathematical practices: A case study. Cognition and Instruction, 17(1), 25–64. doi: 10.1207/s1532690xci1701_2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Center for Research on Context. (2002). Bay area school reform collaborative teacher survey. Retrieved October 15, 2008, from
  7. Chazan, D., Ben-Chaim, D., & Gormas, J. (1998). Shared teaching assignments in the service of mathematics reform: Situated professional development. Teaching and Teacher Education, 14(7), 687–702. doi: 10.1016/S0742-051X(98)00022-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Collopy, R. (2003). Curriculum materials as a professional development tool: How a mathematics textbook affected two teachers’ learning. The Elementary School Journal, 103(3), 287–311. doi: 10.1086/499727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cuevas, G., & Yeatts, K. (2001). Navigation through Algebra in grades 3–5. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.Google Scholar
  10. Doerr, H., & English, L. (2006). Middle grade teachers’ learning through students’ engagement with modeling tasks. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 9(1), 5–32. doi: 10.1007/s10857-006-9004-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Doerr, H., & Lesh, R. (2003). A modeling perspective on teacher development. In R. Lesh & M. Doerr (Eds.), Beyond constructivism: A models & modeling perspective on mathematics problem solving, learning & teaching (pp. 125–140). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  12. Fernandez, C., & Yoshida, M. (2004). Lesson Study: A case of a Japanese approach to improving instruction through school-based teacher development. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  13. Fullan, M. (2001). The new meaning of educational change (3rd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  14. Garet, M., Porter, A., Desimone, L., Birman, B., & Yoon, K. (2001). What makes professional development effective? Results from a national sample of teachers. American Educational Research Journal, 38(4), 915–945. doi: 10.3102/00028312038004915.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hashimoto, Y., Tsubota, K., & Ikeda, T. (2003). Ima naze jugyou kenkyuu ka [Now, why lesson study?]. Tokyo: Toyokan.Google Scholar
  16. Hashweh, M. (2003). Teacher accommodative change. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19, 421–434. doi: 10.1016/S0742-051X(03)00026-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heck, D., Banilower, E., Weiss, I., & Rosenberg, S. (2008). Studying the effects of professional development: The case of the NSF’s local systemic change through teacher enhancement initiative. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39(2), 113–152.Google Scholar
  18. Hiebert, J., & Stigler, J. (2004). A world of difference: Classrooms abroad provide lesson in teaching math and science. Journal of Staff Development, 25(4), 10–15.Google Scholar
  19. Hill, H., Ball, D., & Schilling, S. (2008). Unpacking pedagogical content knowledge: Conceptualizing and measuring teachers’ topic-specific knowledge of students. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39(4), 372–400.Google Scholar
  20. Jacobs, V., Franke, M., Carpenter, T., Levi, L., & Battey, D. (2007). Professional development focused on children’s algebraic reasoning in elementary school. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 38(3), 258–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Lesh, R. (2002). Research design in mathematics education: Focusing on design experiments. In L. D. English (Ed.), International handbook of research in mathematics education (pp. 27–50). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  23. Lesh, R., Hoover, M., Hole, B., Kelly, A., & Post, T. (2000). Principles for developing thought-revealing activities for students and teachers. In A. Kelly & R. Lesh (Eds.), Handbook of research design in mathematics and science education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  24. Lesh, R., & Kelly, A. (1997). Teacher’s evolving conceptions of one-to-one tutoring: A three-tiered teaching experiment. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 28(4), 398–430. doi: 10.2307/749681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lesson Study Research Group. (2004). LSRG maintains a central database of U.S. lesson study groups. Retrieved July 19, 2004, from .
  26. Lewis, C. (2002). Lesson study: A handbook of teacher-led instructional change. Philadelphia, PA: Research for Better Schools.Google Scholar
  27. Lewis, C., Perry, R., Hurd, J., & O’Connell, M. (2006). Lesson study comes of age in North America. Phi Delta Kappan, 88(4), 273–281.Google Scholar
  28. Lewis, C., Perry, R., & Murata, A. (2006b). How should research contribute to instructional improvement? The case of lesson study. Educational Researcher, 35(3), 3–14. doi: 10.3102/0013189X035003003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Linn, M., Eylon, B., & Davis, E. (2004). The knowledge integration perspective on learning. In M. Linn, E. Davis, & P. Bell (Eds.), Internet environments for science education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  30. Little, J. (2003). Inside teacher community: Representations of classroom practice. Teachers College Record, 105(6), 913–945. doi: 10.1111/1467-9620.00273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lloyd, G. (2002). Mathematics teachers’ beliefs and experiences with innovative curriculum materials. In G. Leder, E. Pehkonen, & G. Toerner (Eds.), Beliefs: A hidden variable in mathematics education? (Vol. 31, pp. 149–159). Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McLaughlin, M., & Talbert, J. (2001). Professional communities and the work of high school teaching. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  33. Mills College Lesson Study Group. (2003a). Can You Find the Area? Three mathematics research lessons [DVD], Oakland, CA: Mills College Lesson Study Group.Google Scholar
  34. Mills College Lesson Study Group. (2003b). To open a cube: Mathematics research lesson (problem-solving & geometry) [DVD]. Oakland, CA: Mills College Lesson Study Group.Google Scholar
  35. Mills College Lesson Study Group. (2005). How Many Seats? Excerpts of a lesson study cycle [DVD]. Oakland, CA: Mills College Lesson Study Group.Google Scholar
  36. Mukouyama, Y. (1999). Kenkyuu jugyou no yarikata mikata (How to conduct and view research lessons). Tokyo: Meiji Tosho.Google Scholar
  37. Murata, A., & Takahashi, A. (2002). District-level lesson study: How Japanese teachers improve their teaching of elementary mathematics. Paper presented at the Research Precession of National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, NV.Google Scholar
  38. Orihara, K. (1997). Kenkyuu jugyou no susemekata, mikata (shougakkou). (How to develop and view research lessons (elementary school). Tokyo: Bunkyo Shoin.Google Scholar
  39. Perry, R., & Lewis, C. (2008). What is successful adaptation of lesson in the U.S.? Journal of Educational Change, 9. doi: 10.1007/s10833-008-9069-7.
  40. Remillard, J., & Bryans, M. (2004). Teachers’ orientations toward mathematics curriculum materials: Implications for teacher learning. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 35(5), 352–388.Google Scholar
  41. Sherin, M. (2002). When teaching becomes learning. Cognition and Instruction, 20(2), 119–150. doi: 10.1207/S1532690XCI2002_1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shimizu, Y. (1999). Aspects of mathematics teacher education in Japan: Focusing on teachers’ roles. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 2(1), 107–116. doi: 10.1023/A:1009960710624.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Smith, M. (2000). Balancing old and new: An experienced middle school teacher’s learning in the context of mathematics instructional reform. The Elementary School Journal, 100(4), 351–375. doi: 10.1086/499646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Spillane, J. (2000). Cognition and policy implementation: District policymakers and the reform of mathematics education. Cognition and Instruction, 18(2), 141–179. doi: 10.1207/S1532690XCI1802_01.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Steinberg, R., Empson, S., & Carpenter, T. (2004). Inquiry into children’s mathematical thinking as a means to teacher change. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 7(3), 237–267. doi: 10.1023/B:JMTE.0000033083.04005.d3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Takahashi, A., Watanabe, T., Yoshida, M., & Wang-Iverson, P. (2005). Improving content and pedagogical knowledge through kyozaikenkyu. In P. Wang-Iverson & M. Yoshida (Eds.), Building our understanding of lesson study (pp. 77–84). Philadelphia: Research for Better Schools.Google Scholar
  47. TE-MAT.(2008). Designing Effective Professional Development: A Conceptual Framework. Retrieved October 16, 2008, from
  48. Tsubota, K. (2004). Sansu jugyou kenkyuu saikou. Rethinking mathematics lesson study. Tokyo: Toyokan Shuppansha.Google Scholar
  49. Wang-Iverson, P., & Yoshida, M. (2005). Building of understanding of lesson study. Philadelphia: Research for Better Schools.Google Scholar
  50. Warfield, J., Wood, T., & Lehman, J. (2005). Autonomy, beliefs and the learning of elementary mathematics teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 14(1), 151–165.Google Scholar
  51. Zawojewski, J., Chamberlin, M., Hjalmarson, M., & Lewis, C. (2008). Developing Design Studies in Mathematics Education Professional Development: Studying Teachers’ Interpretive Systems. In A. Kelly, R. Lesh, & J. Baek (Eds.), Handbook of Innovative Design Research in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) Education. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine C. Lewis
    • 1
  • Rebecca R. Perry
    • 1
  • Jacqueline Hurd
    • 2
  1. 1.Mills CollegeOaklandUSA
  2. 2.Addison SchoolPalo AltoUSA

Personalised recommendations