, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 441–454 | Cite as

Characterizing mathematics teaching research specialists’ mentoring in the context of Chinese lesson study

  • Feishi GuEmail author
  • Lingyuan Gu
Original Article


This study examines how mathematics teaching research specialists mentor practicing teachers during post-lesson debriefs of a lesson study in China. Based on a systematic, fine-grained analysis of 107 h of videotaped mentoring meetings of 20 groups of teachers and teaching research specialists from different elementary schools, this study reveals that the Chinese teaching research specialists pay a great deal of attention to practical knowledge which consists of setting students’ learning goals, designing instructional tasks, formative assessment of students’ learning and improving instructional behaviors. Less attention is paid to mathematics content knowledge and general pedagogical knowledge. Meanwhile, the teaching research specialists tend to comment on lessons in general and address anticipated problems based on their previous experience, and pay less attention to address issues raised by the teachers or to engage in dynamic dialogue with them. On the basis of the data analysis, a framework for analyzing mentoring activities emerges. The strengths and weaknesses of the teaching research specialists’ mentoring strategies are identified through the framework, and suggestions to improve the teaching research specialists’ mentoring strategies are discussed.


Teaching research system Lesson study Mentoring Teacher learning 



We thank all of the teachers, teaching research specialists, and researchers who were involved in this joint effort for their dedicated time and expertise. We very much appreciate Dr. Rongjin Huang and Dr. Teresa Schmidt from Middle Tennessee State University for their help in editing and proofreading the manuscript.


  1. Adler, J., Ball, D. L., Krainer, K., Lin, F. L., & Novotna, J. (2005). Mirror images of an emerging field: Researching mathematics teacher education. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 60, 359–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bakkenes, I., Vermunt, J. D., & Wubbels, T. (2010). Teacher learning in the context of educational innovations: Learning activities and learning outcomes of experienced teachers. Learning and Instruction, 20, 533–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ball, D. L., Thames, M. H., & Phelps, G. (2008). Content knowledge for teaching: What makes it special? Journal of Teacher Education, 59, 389–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barlow, A. T., Burroughs, E. A., Harmon, S. E., Sutton, J. T., & Yopp, D. A. (2014). Assessing views of coaching via a video-based tool. ZDM—The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 46, 227–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Blömeke, S., Hsieh, F. J., Kaiser, G., & Schmidt, W. H. (2014). International perspectives on teacher knowledge, beliefs and opportunities to learn: TEDS-M results. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen, G. (2006). Collaborative preparation of instruction. Journal of Education in China, 9, 40–41.Google Scholar
  7. Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. (1999). Relationships of knowledge and practice: Teacher learning in communities. Review of Research in Education, 24, 249–305.Google Scholar
  8. Cong, L. (2011). Silent authority—Teaching research system of Chinese basic education. Beijing: Beijing Normal University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of qualitative research (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  10. Depaepe, F., Verschaffel, L., & Kelchtermans, G. (2013). Pedagogical content knowledge: A systematic review of the way in which the concepts have pervaded mathematics educational research. Teaching and Teacher Education, 34, 12–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R., & Tesch-Romer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100, 363–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Even, R. (2014). Challenges associated with the professional development of didacticians. ZDM—The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 46, 329–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gu, F., & Gu, L. (2015). Further studies on teaching research specialists. Global Education, 9, 104–114.Google Scholar
  14. Gu, L., & Wang, J. (2003). Teacher development in education action. Curriculum Textbook and Pedagogy, 1, 9–26.Google Scholar
  15. Gu, L., & Zhu, L. (2012). Preliminary studies on teaching research specialists. Global Education, 8, 31–37.Google Scholar
  16. Han, X., & Paine, L. (2010). Teaching mathematics as deliberate practice through public lessons. The Elementary School Journal, 110, 519–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hart, L. C., Alston, A., & Murata, A. (Eds.). (2011). Lesson study research and practice in mathematics education. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  18. Hill, H. C., Ball, D. L., & Schilling, S. G. (2008). Unpacking pedagogical content knowledge: Conceptualizing and measuring teachers’ topic-specific knowledge of students. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39, 372–400.Google Scholar
  19. Huang, R., & Bao, J. (2006). Towards a model for teacher’s professional development in China: Introducing keli. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 9, 279–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Huang, R., Gong, Z., & Han, X. (2016). Implementing mathematics teaching that promotes students’ understanding through theory-driven lesson study. ZDM Mathematics Education, 48. doi: 10.1007/s11858-015-0743-y.
  21. Huang, R., & Han, X. (2015). Developing mathematics teachers’ competence through parallel lesson study. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 4, 100–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huang, R., & Li, Y. (2009). Pursuing excellence in mathematics classroom instruction through exemplary lesson development in China: A case study. ZDM—The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 41, 297–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huang, R., Li, Y., Zhang, J., & Li, X. (2011). Improving teachers’ expertise in mathematics instruction through exemplary lesson development. ZDM—The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 43, 805–817.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huang, R., Peng, S., Wang, L., & Li, Y. (2010). Secondary mathematics teacher professional development in China. In F. K. S. Leung & Y. Li (Eds.), Reforms and issues in school mathematics in East Asia (pp. 129–152). Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  25. Huang, R., Su, H., & Xu, S. (2014). Developing teachers’ and teaching researchers’ professional competence in mathematics through Chinese lesson study. ZDM—The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 46, 239–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Huang, R., Xu, S., Su, H., Tang, B., & Strayer, J. (2012). Teaching researchers in China: Hybrid functions of researching, supervising and consulting. In Paper presented at 12 th International Conference on Mathematics Education, July 8–15, 2012 Seoul, Korea.Google Scholar
  27. Jaworski, B. (2008a). Development of the mathematics teacher educator and its relation to teaching development. In B. Jaworski & T. Wood (Eds.), International handbook of mathematics teacher education: The mathematics teacher educator as a developing professional (Vol. 4, pp. 335–361). Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  28. Jaworski, B. (2008b). Building and sustaining inquiry communities in mathematics teaching development: Teachers and didacticians in collaboration. In K. Krainer & T. Wood (Eds.), International handbook of mathematics teacher education: Participants in mathematics teacher education: Individuals, teams, communities and networks (Vol. 3, pp. 309–330). Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  29. Jaworski, B., & Huang, R. (2014). Teachers and didacticians: Key stakeholders in the processes of developing mathematics teaching. ZDM—The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 46, 173–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lewis, C., & Hurd, J. (2011). Lesson Study step by step: How teacher learning communities improve instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinneman.Google Scholar
  31. Li, Y., Huang, R., Bao, J., & Fan, Y. (2011). Facilitating mathematics teachers’ professional development through ranking and promotion practices in the Chinese mainland. In N. Bednarz, D. Fiorentini, & R. Huang (Eds.), International approaches to professional development of mathematics teachers (pp. 72–87). Canada: Ottawa University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Lin, C., Xin, T., & Shen, J. (1999). Observation of normal education reform based on the structure of teacher knowledge. Teacher Education Research, 66, 12–17.Google Scholar
  33. Ma, L. (1999). Knowing and teaching elementary mathematics: Teachers’ understanding of fundamental mathematics in China and the United States. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  34. Ministry of Education China [MOE]. (2001). Mathematics curriculum standards (experimental version). Beijing: Beijing Normal University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Ministry of Education China [MOE]. (2011). Mathematics curriculum standards. Beijing: Beijing Normal University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Mudzimiri, R., Burroughs, E. A., Luebeck, J., Sutton, J., & Yopp, D. (2014). A look inside mathematics coaching: Roles, content, and dynamics. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22(53), 1–32.Google Scholar
  37. OECD. (2013). PISA 2012 results: What students know and can do: Student performance in mathematics, reading and science (Vol. 1). Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  38. Qingpu Research Institute. (2012). Teachers “action education”. Curriculum, Teaching Material and Method, 3, 3–12.Google Scholar
  39. Ricks, T. E. (2011). Process reflection during Japanese lesson study experiences by prospective secondary mathematics teachers. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 14(4), 251–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ruth, H. (2004). Keynote speech. In The 49th World Assembly World Assembly Conference. Hong Kong in July 13–17 2004.Google Scholar
  41. Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  42. Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15, 4–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Simon, H. (1996). The sciences of the artificial. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  44. Stigler, J., Thompson, B., & Ji, X. (2012). This book speaks to us. In Y. Li & R. Huang (Eds.), How Chinese teach mathematics and improve teaching (pp. 223–231). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Sutton, J. T., Burroughs, E. A., & Yopp, D. A. (2011). Coaching knowledge: Domains and definitions. Journal of Mathematics Education Leadership, 13(2), 12–20.Google Scholar
  46. Takahashi, A. (2014). The role of the knowledgeable other in lesson study: examining the final comments of experienced lesson study practitioners. Mathematics Teacher Education and Development, 16(1), 83–97.Google Scholar
  47. Tang, Y. (2014). Rethinking the Chinese education: A perspective of life-oriented education. Shanghai Research on Education, 32(5), 15–19.Google Scholar
  48. Wang, J. (2009). Mathematics education in China: Tradition and reality. Jiangshu: Jiangshu Education Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wang, S. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2015, from王守仁(1472~1528).
  50. Yang, Y. (2009). How a Chinese teacher improved classroom teaching in Teaching Research Group: A case study on Pythagoras theorem teaching in Shanghai. ZDM—The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 41, 279–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Yang, Y., & Ricks, T. E. (2012). Chinese lesson study: Developing classroom instruction through collaborations in school-based teaching research group activities. In Y. Li & R. Huang (Eds.), How Chinese teach mathematics and improve teaching (pp. 51–65). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  52. Zaslavsky, O. (2008). Meeting the challenges of mathematics teacher education through design and use of tasks that facilitate teacher learning. In B. Jaworski & T. Wood (Eds.), International handbook of mathematics teacher education: The mathematics teacher educator as a developing professional (Vol. 4, pp. 93–114). Rotterdam: Sense.Google Scholar
  53. Zhao, C. (2008). Efficacious teaching research: the introduction of teaching research in Chinese basic education. Shanghai: Shanghai Education Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© FIZ Karlsruhe 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.East China Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Shanghai Academy of Educational SciencesShanghaiChina

Personalised recommendations