Re: [xmca] unions and reform/improvement

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Sun Jan 07 2007 - 09:32:44 PST

Very interesting, Tony. Gotta look up the Catherine Lewis article. From what
I know
of her work it should be very informative.

On 1/7/07, Tony Whitson <> wrote:
> Reading the thread, it occured to me that one place to look for union
> involvement is the experience with "lesson study" in localities all over
> the US. I formulated the question in a blog post at
> and then wrote to the lessonstudy email list soliciting input from anyone
> there.
> Below is a response from Alice Gill of the American Federation of
> Teachers.
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2007 11:15:15 -0500
> From: "Alice Gill, Ed Issues" <>
> To: Tony Whitson <twhitson@UDel.Edu>,
> Lesson Study Listserv <>
> Cc: "John Mitchell, Ed Issues" <>
> Subject: RE: [lessonstudy] 2 questions about lesson study
> Hi, Tony,
> I just saw your question "What roles have teacher unions played in
> lesson study?"
> Lesson Study is one of my areas of work at AFT, the American Federation
> of Teachers. Thank you for referring to AFT's involvement on the other
> site.
> As a staff member in our Educational Issues department I have been
> involved in learning about and promoting Japanese Lesson Study for
> almost 10 years. As I learned about the process through the work of Jim
> Stigler, Harold Stevenson, Catherine Lewis, James Hiebert, the
> conferences Patsy Wang-Iverson put together for RBS and the involvement
> there of Makoto Yoshida, Akihiko Takahashi and Tad Watanabe, visits to
> the Stamford Japanese School, and the Japan/U.S. conference on
> professional development sponsored by NCTM in Japan, I became convinced
> that this was a process of great value to teachers. AFT created its own
> professional development program for teachers in 1981 (the Educational
> Research and Dissemination program known as ER&D). The courses have
> their foundation in sharing the best research available along with its
> classroom implications for the course topics. So the idea of examining
> what works and what doesn't has been part of our culture for more than
> 25 years.
> What struck me about Lesson Study is the fact that it could provide two
> things that were somewhat difficult for us to provide from a national
> office: (1) a way to ensure that the kind of examination of practice and
> research we promote in ER&D, and the striving to continually improve,
> had a vehicle members could use throughout their teaching careers, long
> after they participated in our courses; and, (2) LS was a way for
> practitioners who had learned new strategies or validated intuitive ones
> could get together in a productive way to understand how such strategies
> could be woven into their everyday work in their own schools with their
> own students. Lesson Study was the perfect follow-up to integrate new
> knowledge and old and to build stronger communities within schools that
> were searching for answers to common problems of instruction. Further,
> the process honored teachers as professionals.
> So we began to promote lesson study, first in Rochester, NY and then in
> Volusia County, Fla. We provided list serves so we could facilitate the
> groups' initial efforts even though we were not onsite, engaged
> knowledgeable others to work with the groups, were present when the
> lessons were taught and continue to be engaged with their continuing
> efforts. We have promoted lesson study in Florida, Minnesota, and
> Montana, Chicago, San Antonio (which is on the verge of getting
> started), Toledo (which had their first study last spring), and Lake
> County, Florida (which is working on their first), as well as at our own
> QuEST and ER&D Conferences.
> I advise you to read my chapter in the RBS publication on Building Our
> Understanding of Lesson Study; it describes our involvement in detail.
> Pay particular attention near the end of the article where I talk about
> conditions of trust that must be present in order for this to work.
> History. AFT's very first brush with lesson study (although a bit
> misinterpreted at that time as a process that led to "perfect" lessons)
> was the publication of the article "The Polished Stones" by
> Stigler/Stevenson in the American Educator in 1991. These researchers
> talked in more detail about what they had observed in Japan at an
> AFT/DoE International Conference on TIMMS in 1997--referring to teachers
> walking around with clipboards that had notes about what to do if
> students made certain errors. AFT published Catherine Lewis's "A Lesson
> Is Like a Swiftly Flowing River" in 1998, an article which shed a great
> deal more light on the process. The Shanker Institute was behind the
> publication of The Teaching Gap which devotes an entire chapter to
> Lesson Study.
> That publication leads me to comment on Tony's second question, although
> I have not read the arguments elsewhere about whether the translation
> should be "lesson study" or "teaching study." Every time I speak about
> Lesson Study I refer to it as a powerful study of "teaching, not
> teachers." It is that. It is also a study of how students are thinking
> in relation to an enacted lesson. In all instances, what we learn is
> learned through the lessons that must be thought about, crafted, and
> played out. Otherwise we cannot observe how students grasp or do not
> grasp what we want them to. My fear is that if the phrase becomes
> "teaching study" it will more easily lead to abstract, amorphous
> discussions that are not connected to that vital venue when the rubber
> hits the road. And they will more likely morph to focus on teachers.
> So while LS is really a study of teaching AND learning, "Lesson Study"
> provides focus on how the complexity of a lesson plays out with
> students. Teachers teach lessons every day! I have learned the power of
> FOCUS when we talk about lessons for students. Focus is also important
> for teachers.
> Returning to the role of unions in good schools, AFT also has programs
> to help new teachers, to Restructure Schools to Raise Achievement, to
> work with English language learners, to increase Teacher Quality and
> retention, and many more. Tony refers to charges that unions hinder good
> schools. We know that unionized states have better student achievement
> than non-unionized ones. One accusation that continually surfaces is
> that contracts are responsible for the neediest schools not having the
> most experienced teachers. Here's a recent factual report.
> es.pdf
> I apologize for this being so long for an e-mail, but the AFT is very
> involved in promoting Lesson Study and in other efforts to improve
> schools.
> Alice J. Gill
> Associate Director
> Educational Issues Department
> 555 New Jersey Ave. NW
> Washington, D.C. 20001
> T: 202/393.6384
> F: 202/393.6371
> E:
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tony Whitson [mailto:twhitson@UDel.Edu]
> Sent: Sunday, January 07, 2007 1:35 AM
> To: Lesson Study Listserv
> Cc: Lesson Study Listserv
> Subject: [lessonstudy] 2 questions about lesson study
> 2 qustions:
> 1) What roles have teachers' unions played in places where lesson study
> is being implemented?
> (On the xmca list, a question has been raised about the view that the
> unions are the obstacle to improvement of education. I want to suggest
> that the experience with lesson study around the country could provide
> examples of unions contributing to improvement. It's my guess that this
> is so, but I don't know myself, so I thought I could ask the people
> here.)
> I have a post at
> that elaborates more on the question. If anybody has examples of union
> involvement, if you add a "comment" to that page I can direct the xmca
> folks to see it there.
> The second question is related to the first one in a way that's
> indicated in that post, but is otherwise not obvious. It's a question
> about "lesson study" as the English translation of the Japanese term,
> rather than "teaching study." I'm very interested if anybody here has
> anything to say about that. Again, it's elaborated more on the post
> linked above.
> What do you think?
> Tony Whitson
> UD School of Education
> NEWARK DE 19716
> _______________________________
> "those who fail to reread
> are obliged to read the same story everywhere"
> -- Roland Barthes, S/Z (1970)
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