Promoting and sustaining Lesson Study as a form of effective professional learning
: an investigation of the practices enacted by teacher, school and system leaders

  • Stefanie Guene Edwards

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


What kinds of teacher, school and system leadership practices successfully promote and sustain Lesson Study as a form of effective professional learning for teachers?

This research project emerged from professional problems associated with introducing and sustaining effective Lesson Study, initially within one and subsequently across a cluster of eleven primary schools in England. Lesson Study is a form of inquiry-oriented, collaborative teachers’ professional development that originated in Japan and has increased in popularity across the world in recent years. There is a dearth of literature about the practices enacted by leaders in their efforts to introduce Lesson Study successfully in their schools. This inquiry therefore aimed to analyse and understand the practices enacted by leaders in their efforts to implement and sustain effective Lesson Study within their own schools and across a number of schools.

The research took place in two phases between 2014 and 2021, utilising a design reflecting significant changes in the researcher’s professional role as headteacher of an individual school and later the leader of the group of schools involved in the study during that time. Phase One was centred on the researcher’s leadership of a single school between 2014-2016. Phase Two focused on a period of system leadership within a network of primary schools which had started as a group of seven and grown to eleven schools by the end of the project.

This was interpretivist, qualitative research. A crystallisation methodology was used to synthesise findings from iterative, thematic analyses of a broad range of data collected over several years. These data included ethnographic field notes from participant observation, thirty-one semi-structured interviews, narrative and reflective writing derived from my professional experience and documents and artefacts related to Lesson Study.

The crystallised findings illuminate the nature and orientation of leaders’ Lesson Study macro- and micro-practices and suggest key priorities relating to ways in which leaders work with Lesson Study participants to establish supportive conditions, cultures, processes and structures. Where Lesson Study implementation was sustained and successful, patterns and categories of practice emerging from analysis reflected leaders’ understanding and knowledge of key characteristics of Lesson Study, teachers’ professional learning and of theories of change and improvement leadership. They highlighted the importance of providing dedicated time, skilled facilitation and of securing characteristics of effective teacher inquiry and professional learning and development within a Lesson Study framework.

Although context specific and filtered through an interpretive lens, these findings suggest priorities for leaders’ intentional practices which may support their efforts to ensure the success and efficacy of Lesson Study as a form of school and classroom-based teachers’ professional development. They may therefore have implications for policy and professional practice in teacher education and be of interest to educational leaders concerned with teachers’ ongoing professional development and learning.
Date of AwardDec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorJools Page (Supervisor), Alison Barnes (Supervisor) & Michael Hayler (Supervisor)

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