Monday, November 21, 2005

NYTimes Editorial on Educational Practices in Japan

Interesting editorial in the New York Times today about Japanese teacher training programs. Here's a highlight:

The book has spawned growing interest in the Japanese teacher-development strategy in which teachers work cooperatively and intensively to improve their methods. This process, known as "lesson study," allows teachers to revise and refine lessons that are then shared with others, sometimes through video and sometimes at conventions. In addition to helping novices, this system builds a publicly accessible body of knowledge about what works in the classroom.

The lesson-study groups focus on refining methods that improve student understanding. In doing so, the groups go step by step, laying out successful strategies for teaching specific lessons. This reflects the Japanese view that successful teaching is the product of intensive teacher development and self-scrutiny.

Sound familiar? Here's my letter to the editor on the subject:

To The Editors:

In Why the United States Should Look to Japan for Better Schools, you lauded the Japanese practice of “lesson-study groups” in which teachers come together to share best practices, thereby promoting instructional mastery and student achievement.

While such practices may not be commonplace in American public schools or university education programs, they do occur in 189 locations around the U.S. every summer.

The National Writing Project (NWP) offers fellowships to teachers interested in improving their pedagogy, increasing their resources and expanding their professional networks. The month-long summer institutes focus on teacher research, writing, and the sharing of best practices through peer-to-peer teaching demonstrations. Following the institutes, teachers return to their own schools and districts to offer professional development to their colleagues. As stated on the NWP web site, the main purposes are “developing teacher knowledge and leadership in their home communities and putting this knowledge and leadership to work to improve student achievement”.

We don’t need to look to Japan for a model with which to revitalize American education; we need to recognize the successful models we already have and begin to integrate them into the mainstream of American teacher training.


Megan Freeman
Fellow, Colorado State University Writing Project

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