Lesson Study and Its Role in the Implementation of Curriculum Reform in China

  • Xingfeng Huang
  • Rongjin Huang
  • Yan Huang
  • Chenqi Wu
  • Cecilia Anne Wanner
Part of the Advances in Mathematics Education book series (AME)


This chapter aims to provide a holistic picture of the system of lesson study (LS) and its role in mathematics curriculum reform in China. By means of official documents (policy) and a review of literature, we begin by examining features of the teaching research system that is part of the infrastructure of LS in China. Following this introduction, the chapter presents a case of LS at district and school levels to examine how a curriculum reform idea could be implemented in classrooms through teaching a specific topic through the LS approach. Following typical Chinese LS phases, a LS team including knowledgeable others and school teachers set the goals of understanding the concepts of milliliter and liter and developing problem-solving skills, then carried out eight iterations of rehearsing and reflecting upon research lessons, and, finally, taught an exemplary lesson. The data collected include videotaped research lessons, lesson planning and debriefing sessions, post-lesson teachers’ reflections, experts’ comments on the final exemplary lesson, and post-LS teachers’ and teaching research specialists’ interviews. An analysis of this data showed that the research lesson was substantially improved in its alignment with the goals of LS. In addition, the practicing teacher further developed her own understanding of teaching mathematics through experiment, and the specialist developed her professional expertise through mentoring the LS.


Chinese lesson study Curriculum reform Teaching research system Teaching research specialist Mathematics experiment Community of practice Encounter objects 


  1. Akkerman, S., & Baker, A. (2011). Boundary crossing and boundary objects. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 132–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bartolini Bussi, M. G., Bertolini, C., Ramploud, A., & Sun, X. (2017). Cultural transpositions of Chinese lesson study to Italy: An exploratory study on fraction in a fourth grade classroom. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 6(4), 380–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Borko, H., Jacobs, J., Koellner, K., & Swackhamer, L. (2015). Mathematics professional development: Improving teaching using the problem-solving cycle and leadership preparation models. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. G. (2016). Learning to improve: How America’s school can get better at getting better. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.Google Scholar
  5. Campbell, P. F., & Malkus, N. N. (2014). The mathematical knowledge and beliefs of elementary mathematics specialist-coaches. ZDM Mathematics Education, 46(2), 213–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen, X. (2017). Theorizing Chinese lesson study from a cultural perspective. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 6(4), 283–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen, X., & Yang, F. (2013). Chinese teachers’ reconstruction of the curriculum reform through lesson study. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 2(3), 218–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of qualitative research (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Cravens, X., & Wang, J. (2017). Learning from the masters: Shanghai’s teacher-expertise infusion system. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 6(4), 306–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cravens, X., & Drake, T. (2017). From Shanghai to Tennessee: Developing instructional leadership through teacher peer excellence groups. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 6(4), 348–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dong, L. W. (2015). Developing sense of quantity in mathematics experiment. China Mathematics Education, 11, 2–6 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  12. Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R., & Tesch-Romer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100(3), 363–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fang, Y. (2017). School-based teaching research and lesson-case study in mediating the second-cycle curriculum reform in Shanghai. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 6(4), 293–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fei, L. F. (2014). Sense of quantity as an important content of teaching quantitative unit: A case of knowing millimeter. Elementary Teaching Design, 8, 4–5 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  15. Gu, L. Y., & Wang, J. (2003). Teachers’ growth in educational action: A study on the model of teacher education based on curriculum. Global Education, 185(1), 44–49 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  16. Han, X., & Paine, L. (2010). Teaching mathematics as deliberate practice through public lessons. The Elementary School Journal, 110, 519–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. He, X. B. (2013). The components, and characteristics and development of core capacity of teaching research specialists. Journal for Introduction to Education, 10(1), 38–40 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  18. Huang, J. H. (2017a). Shanghai elementary mathematics textbook, grade 4(1). Shanghai: Shanghai Education Publisher (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  19. Huang, J. H. (2017b). Teaching reference materials, grade 4(1). Shanghai: Shanghai Education Publisher (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  20. Huang, R., & Han, X. (2015). Developing mathematics teachers’ competence through parallel lesson study. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 4(2), 100–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Huang, R., & Li, Y. (2009). Pursuing excellence in mathematics classroom instruction through exemplary lesson development in China: A case study. ZDM Mathematics Education, 41(3), 297–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huang, R., Xu, S., & Su, H. (2012). Teaching researchers in China: Hybrid functions of researching, mentoring and consulting. Paper presented at 12th International conference on Mathematics education, Seoul, July 8–15.Google Scholar
  23. Huang, R., Fang, Y., & Chen, X. (2017a). Chinese lesson study: An improvement science, a deliberate practice, and a research methodology. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 6(4), 270–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huang, R., Gong, Z., & Han, X. (2016b). Implementing mathematics teaching that promotes students’ understanding through theory-driven lesson study. ZDM Mathematics Education, 48(4), 425–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Huang, R., Su, H., & Xu, S. (2014). Developing teachers’ and teaching researchers’ professional competence in mathematics through Chinese lesson study. ZDM Mathematics Education, 46(4), 239–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Huang, R., Ye, L., & Prince, K. (2016a). Professional development system and practices of mathematics teachers in mainland China. In B. Kaur & K. O. Nam (Eds.), Professional development of mathematics teachers: An Asian perspective (pp. 17–32). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  27. Huang, R., Zhang, J., Mok, I., Zhou, Y., Wu, Z., & Zhao, W. (2017b). The competence of teaching research specialists and their development in China. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Special issue, 6(4), 321–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ji, M. (2016). How to realize inheritance and innovation in Shanghai teaching and research. People Education, 20, 20–23.Google Scholar
  29. Jiang, Y. G., & Liu, G. B. (2017). How to achieve the teaching goals effectively: A case study of elementary mathematics teaching. Education and Teaching Research, 31(6), 85–90 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  30. Lee, C. K., & Lo, M. L. (2013). The role of lesson study in facilitating curriculum reforms. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 2, 200–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lewis, C. (2016). How does lesson study improve mathematics instruction? ZDM Mathematics Education, 48(4), 571–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lewis, C. C. (2015). What is improvement sciences? Do we need it in education? Educational Researcher, 44(1), 54–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lewis, C., & Takahashi, A. (2013). Facilitating curriculum reforms through lesson study. International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, 2, 207–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Liu, J., & Li, Y. (2010). Mathematics curriculum reform in the Chinese mainland: Changes and challenges. In F. K. S. Leung & Y. Li (Eds.), Reforms and issues in school mathematics in East Asia. Rotterdam: Sense PublisherGoogle Scholar
  35. Ministry of Education (MoE). (2001). Mathematics curriculum standards for compulsory education (trial). Beijing: Beijing Normal University Publisher (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  36. Ministry of Education (MoE). (2011). Mathematics curriculum standards for compulsory education. Beijing: Beijing Normal University Publisher (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  37. Rui, J. F. (2015). The practical strategy of accumulating the experience on sense of quantity in mathematical experiments. Basic Education Research, 5, 49–51 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  38. Secondary Mathematical Instruction Council (SMIC), China Education Association. (2012). Guidance for secondary school teaching research activity at city and county levels. September 4, 2012. Retrievable at: htpp://
  39. Shanghai Education Committee [SHEC]. (2014). Shanghai elementary and secondary school mathematics curriculum. Shanghai: Shanghai Education Publisher (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  40. Shen, X. J., & Tan, N. J. (2014). The cultivation of sense of quantity is inseparable from real experience: The lesson record and comments on knowing millimeter. Hunan Education, 6, 52–57 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  41. Shi, M. M., & Tan, N. J. (2014). Improvement of sense of quantity: Only slow work can make a fine work: Lesson record and comment on grams and kilograms (Vol. 9, pp. 50–55). Hunan Education (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  42. Sun, C. R., Dong, L. W., & Zhu, G. F. (2016). Measurement framework construction and strategy analysis of mathematics experiment conception in middle school. Curriculum, Teaching Materials, and Methods, 36(7), 90–95 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  43. 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), 4–12.Google Scholar
  44. Tan, D. L., & Zhu, J. M. (2016). Teaching evaluation for middle school mathematics experiment. Curriculum, Teaching Materials, and Methods, 36(8), 108–113 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  45. Wang, J. (2013). Mathematics education in China: Tradition and reality. Singapore: Galeasia Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
  46. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Widjaja, W., Vale, C., Groves, S., & Doig, B. (2017). Teachers’ professional growth through engagement with lesson study. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 20, 357–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Yang, Y. (2009). How a Chinese teacher improved classroom teaching in teaching research group: A case study on Pythagoras theorem teaching in Shanghai. ZDM Mathematics Education, 41(3), 279–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Yu, P., & Dong, L. W. (2016). Analysis of nature of mathematics experiment in middle school. Curriculum, Teaching Materials, and Methods, 36(8), 89–95 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  50. Yu, Z. Q. (2017). What is more important than the goal of mathematics classroom teaching in elementary school? People’s Education, 27, 55–58 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  51. Zhao, W. K., & Zhang, J. Y. (2016). Teaching design of mathematics experiment in middle school. Curriculum, Teaching Materials, and Methods, 36(8), 102–107 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  52. Zhou, G. R. (2014). Survey and analysis of Grade 6 students’ sense of quantity. Unpublished master thesis. Chongqing: Southwest University (in Chinese).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xingfeng Huang
    • 1
  • Rongjin Huang
    • 2
  • Yan Huang
    • 3
  • Chenqi Wu
    • 4
  • Cecilia Anne Wanner
    • 2
  1. 1.Shanghai Normal UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Middle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboroUSA
  3. 3.Xuhui District Education CollegeShanghaiChina
  4. 4.Xuhui Experimental Primary SchoolShanghaiChina

Personalised recommendations