Professional Development, Made in Japan

By Elizabeth Rich — October 14, 2009 1 min read
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Three years ago, Marie Reed Elementary School in Washington, D.C., adopted a professional development instruction model called “lesson study” developed in Japan and, by all accounts, it appears to be working, according to The Washington Post.

Principal Dayo Akinsheye, a former math resource teacher, brought the PD model to her school after landing a $47,000 grant from the D.C. school district. The program resembles a professional learning community with an instructional objective decided by the teachers. Together, they determine how they will teach it, anticipating student and teacher exchanges over possible misunderstandings. And then, they take the lesson to the classroom. There, a member of the group observes them—not to evaluate their colleagues, but to grasp how the lesson reaches the students. The teachers reconvene, putting the instruction under a microscope. This process goes back and forth, sometimes over the course of an entire year.

Ninety-four percent of Reed’s study body is low-income and two-thirds struggle with English—demographics that can be tough for any classroom teacher, but educators at the school are finding support from each other. Says one 4th grade teacher, Elinor Stephens, “You don’t stay in a corner there wondering, how do I teach this?”

Now in his eighth year of teaching, 5th grade teacher Eric Bethel agrees. “Lesson study is a way for teachers to get better. It provides a vehicle to grow. I’ve never been involved in any professional development that’s been as enriching.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.