Sustaining lesson study in Hong Kong primary schools with leadership for learning

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Abstract

Lesson Study has been the main collaborative action research approach for enhancing learning and teaching and promoting teacher professional development in Hong Kong in the past decade. Lesson Study innovation in Hong Kong has advocated an unprecedented emphasis on student learning, suggesting that teachers understand students’ learning needs and apply tailor-made pedagogical design to maximize student learning (Lo, 2008). However, sustaining Lesson Study may be inhibited by many challenges, including teachers’ pressures from the examination-oriented system, heavy workloads, pressures from parents and lack of support and trust among staff (Zhang, 2015). How to sustain Lesson Study in schools is yet to be explored, given few empirical studies have been conducted in the area. This study attempted to identify the strategies school leaders adopted to overcome challenges and promote Lesson Study in two Hong Kong schools (a primary school and a secondary school), which were selected as they had implemented Lesson Study for over 10 years. The study utilized qualitative research methods including interviews with school leaders (3-4 leaders from each school) and observation of leadership practices at management team meetings or in Lesson Study activities. Content analysis (Northcutt & McCoy, 2004) of the data from interviews and observations was conducted and the leadership practices enacted in the two case schools were coded with the five-category leadership practice model (Day & Leithwood, 2007; Hallinger, 2010): 1) establishing vision and setting directions for the school; 2) managing learning programmes; 3) understanding and developing staff in the school; 4) designing the organisation and cultivating a learning culture; and 5) managing internal and external resources to support school development. Descriptions of the leadership practices in the two schools were written up and put side by side for inter-school comparisons (Bray & Thomas, 1995) to identify common characteristics and distintive features in sustaining Lesson Study. It was found that the leadership teams in both schools adapted Lesson Study innovation into different formats of teacher collaboration activities to cater for the needs of teachers and school contexts. They maintained a central focus on student learning in their leadership practices. School leaders played a crucial role in modeling, leading, encouraging and supporting teachers’ participation in Lesson Study activities. Differences in leadership strategies between the two schools were also identified and discussed. For example, the primary school was able to maintain more big-scale Lesson Study projects due to less pressure from examinations. The paper concludes with implications for sustaining school development and professional development with Lesson Study and a checklist of leadership practices for school leaders’, teacher leaders’ and teacher trainers’ references. (See Figure C1). The paper enriches our understanding of successful leadership practices for sustaining Lesson Study innovation in Hong Kong schools. As there has currently been an increasing interest in what Western educators can learn from the educational successes in Eastern high performing education systems like Hong Kong (Marsh & Lee, 2014), the paper provides insights in sustaining education reforms in western education contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

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primary school
Hong Kong
leadership
school
learning
leader
teacher
school development
innovation
staff
learning culture
examination
student
interview
research approach
action research
qualitative method
workload
education system
student teacher

Citation

Zhang, Y. E. (2016, April). Sustaining lesson study in Hong Kong primary schools with leadership for learning. Paper presented at the 2016 AERA Annual Meeting: Public scholarship to educate diverse democracies, The Walter E. Washington Convention Centre, Washington, DC.