What Japanese Lesson Plans Teach us About Sharing Knowledge of Teaching?

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US mathematics education has failed to find a robust way to develop and store a knowledge base for teaching. We explore the use of detailed lesson plans as a solution to the storage problem for a knowledge base for teaching. We gather lesson plans and lesson-plan like documents from seven different sources (2 in Japan, 5 in the US) and analyze them to see which ones tend to best capture the key elements of high quality lessons and, moreover, makes the reasoning behind the instructional decisions explicit. We found that Japanese lesson study lesson plans tended to be the best examples of a knowledge base for teaching, although activity articles from Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School and Teaching Children Mathematics also did very well on a few dimensions and fairly well overall. Lessons from the Chicago School Lesson Study Group also scored high.

One feature that was common among the better example lessons plans was that they tied together three elements: (1) specific instructional decisions based on (2) student mathematical thinking around a (3) a particular mathematical topic or idea. The good examples integrated these three things differently, and some specific examples were shared about how these were integrated into the lesson plans or lesson-plan like documents.

Location: NCTM 2017 Research Conference, San Antonio, Texas

Doug Corey, Eula Monroe and Michelle Wagner, Brigham Young University