Practicing Teachers' Perspectives on the Purposes of Mathematics Lesson Study



mathematics teacher education research, lesson study, pre-service teacher education, professional development, teacher professional growth, grounded theory, teacher perspectives


Although lesson study has been shown to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics, little research has focused on reasons for engaging in it from a teacher’s perspective, particularly after sustained engagement with lesson study. This qualitative study reports on thirty-three teachers from the United States who were involved in twelve lesson study cycles during a three-year partnership aimed at improving algebraic instruction for students aged 8–14 years during a period of educational reform. It used grounded theory techniques to analyse interview data to determine the purposes of lesson study from teachers' perspectives. Results highlight six purposes for engaging in a mathematics lesson study: understand reform standards, focus on student thinking, develop pedagogy, support collaboration, develop curricular materials, and learn mathematics. Particularly noticeable was its use for focusing on student mathematical thinking and understanding of reform initiatives and requirements. Research implications suggest positioning lesson study as a useful, teacher-vetted tool for unpacking educational reforms.


Akiba, M. & Wilkinson, B. (2016). Adopting an international innovation for teacher professional development: State and district approaches to lesson study in Florida. Journal of Teacher Education, 67(1), 74-93.

Alston, A. S., Pedrick, L., Morris, K. P., & Basu, R. (2011). Lesson study as a tool for developing teachers’ close attention to students’ mathematical thinking. In L. C. Hart, A. S. Alston, & A. Murata (Eds.), Lesson study research and practice in mathematics education (pp. 135–151). Springer.

Amador, J. M., & Carter, I. S. (2018). Audible conversational affordances and constraints of verbalizing professional noticing during prospective teacher lesson study. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 21(1), 5–34.

Amador, J. M., & Weiland, I. (2015). What preservice teachers and knowledgeable others professionally notice during lesson study. The Teacher Educator, 50(2), 109–126.

Cajkler, W., Wood, P., Norton, J., Pedder, D., & Xu, H. (2015). Teacher perspectives about lesson study in secondary school departments: A collaborative vehicle for professional learning and practice development. Research Papers in Education, 30(2), 192–213.

Chokshi, S., & Fernandez, C. (2004). Challenges to importing Japanese lesson study: Concerns, misconceptions, and nuances. Phi Delta Kappan, 85(7), 520–525.

Choy, B. H. (2013). Productive mathematical noticing: What it is and why it matters. In V. Steinle, L. Ball, & C. Bardini (Eds.), Mathematics education: Yesterday, today and tomorrow (Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference of the Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia), pp. 186–193. Melbourne: MERGA.

Corbin, J. M., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria. Qualitative Sociology, 13(1), 3–21.

Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. SAGE Publications.

Creswell, J. W., Hanse, W. E., Plano Clark, V. L., & Morales, A. (2007). Qualitative research designs: Selection and implementation. The Counseling Psychologist, 35(2), 236-264.

Darling-Hammond, L., & Richardson, N. (2009). Research review/teacher learning: What matters? Educational Leadership, 66(5), 46–53.

Druken, B. K. (2015). Sustaining lesson study: Resources and factors that support and constrain mathematics teachers’ ability to continue after the grant ends. [Doctoral dissertation, University of California, San Diego & San Diego State University].

Druken, B. K., Marzocchi, A. S., & Brye, M. V. (2020). Facilitating collaboration between mathematics methods and content faculty through cross-departmental lesson study. International Journal for Lesson & Learning Studies, 10(1), 33–46.

Fernandez, C. (2005). Lesson study: A means for elementary teachers to develop the knowledge of mathematics needed for reform-minded teaching? Mathematical Thinking and Learning, 7(4), 265–289.

Fernandez, C., Cannon, J., & Chokshi, S. (2003). A US–Japan lesson study collaboration reveals critical lenses for examining practice. Teaching and Teacher Education, 19(2), 171–185.

Fernández, M. L., & Robinson, M. (2006). Prospective teachers’ perspectives on microteaching lesson study. Education, 127(2), 203–215.

Fontana, A., & Frey, J. H. (2000). The interview: From structured questions to negotiated text. In N. K. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 645–672). SAGE Publications.

Gero, G. (2015). The prospects of lesson study in the US: Teacher support and comfort within a district culture of control. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 4(1), 7–25.

Guner, P., & Akyuz, D. (2020). Noticing student mathematical thinking within the context of lesson study. Journal of Teacher Education, 71(5), 568–583.

Hart, L. C., & Carriere, J. (2011). Developing the habits of mind for a successful lesson study community. In L. C. Hart, A. S. Alston, & A. Murata (Eds.), Lesson study research and practice in mathematics education (pp. 27–38). Springer.

Huang, R., & Shimizu, Y. (2016). Improving teaching, developing teachers and teacher educators, and linking theory and practice through lesson study in mathematics: An international perspective. ZDM–Mathematics Education, 48(4), 393–409.

Jacobs, V. R., Lamb, L. C., & Philipp, R. A. (2010). Professional noticing of children’s mathematical thinking. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 41(2), 169–202.

Lee, C. K. E., & Lo, M. L. (2013). The role of lesson study in facilitating curriculum reforms. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 2(3), 200–206.

Lee, M. Y. (2019). The development of elementary pre-service teachers’ professional noticing of students’ thinking through adapted lesson study. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 47(4), 383–398.

Lewis, C. C., Perry, R. R., & Hurd, J. (2009). Improving mathematics instruction through lesson study: A theoretical model and North American case. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 12(4), 285–304.

Lewis, C. C., Perry, R. R., & Murata, A. (2006). How should research contribute to instructional improvement? The case of lesson study. Educational Researcher, 35(3), 3–14.

Lewis, C. C., & Takahashi, A. (2013). Facilitating curriculum reforms through lesson study. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 2(3), 207–217.

Lewis, C. C., & Tsuchida, I. (1999). A lesson is like a swiftly flowing river: How research lessons improve Japanese education. Improving Schools, 2(1), 48–56.

Lieberman, J. (2009). Reinventing teacher professional norms and identities: The role of lesson study and learning communities. Professional Development in Education, 35(1), 83–99.

Meyer, R. D., & Wilkerson, T. L. (2011). Lesson study: The impact on teachers’ knowledge for teaching mathematics. In L. C. Hart, A. S. Alston, & A. Murata (Eds.), Lesson study research and practice in mathematics education (pp. 15–26). Springer.

Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. John Wiley.

Murata, A., Bofferding, L., Pothen, B. E., Taylor, M. W., & Wischnia, S. (2012). Making connections among student learning, content, and teaching: Teacher talk paths in elementary mathematics lesson study. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 43(5), 616–650.

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2012). Linking mathematics education research and practice [Position statement].

Ni Shuilleabhain, A., & Seery, A. (2018). Enacting curriculum reform through lesson study: A case study of mathematics teacher learning. Professional Development in Education, 44(2), 222–236.

Olson, J. C., White, P., & Sparrow, L. (2011). Influence of lesson study on teachers’ mathematics pedagogy. In L. C. Hart, A. S. Alston, & A. Murata (Eds.), Lesson study research and practice in mathematics education (pp. 39–57). Springer.

Richit, A., & Ponte, J. P. (2017). Teachers’ perspectives about lesson study. Acta Scientiae, 19(1), 20–30.

Robinson, N., & Leikin, R. (2012). One teacher, two lessons: The lesson study process. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 10(1), 139–161.

Saito, E., Khong, T. D. H., & Tsukui, A. (2012). Why is school reform sustained even after a project? A case study of Bac Giang Province, Vietnam. Journal of Educational Change, 13(2), 259–287.

Samaranayake, G., Premadasa, K., Amarasinge, R., & Paneru, K. (2018). Teacher change through lesson study collaboration. International Journal of Learning and Lesson Study, 7(4), 263–276.

Simmons, N, (2017). Axial coding. In M. Allen (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of communication research methods.

Stigler, J., & Hiebert. (1999). The teaching gap: Best ideas from the world’s teachers for improving education in the classroom. The Free Press.

Tachie, S. A. (2020). Teachers’ attitudes towards lesson study as a viable strategy to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 8(6), 2326–2334.

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), 2–17.

Takahashi, A., Lewis, C., & Perry, R. (2013). A US lesson study network to spread teaching through problem solving. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 2(3), 237–255.

Takahashi, A., & McDougal, T. (2016). Collaborative lesson research: Maximizing the impact of lesson study. ZDM–Mathematics Education, 48(4), 1–14.

Widjaja, W., Vale, C., Groves, S., & Doig, B. (2017). Teachers’ professional growth through engagement with lesson study. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 20(4), 357–383.

Yoshida, M. (1999). Lesson study: A case study of a Japanese approach to improving instruction through school-based teacher development. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Chicago].

Yoshida, M. (2012). Mathematics lesson study in the United States: Current status and ideas for conducting high quality and effective lesson study. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 1(2), 140–152.