Japanese lesson study was introduced to the West in the late 1990s. Certain widely disseminated publications and classroom videos, and also reports on international surveys of students achievement, led many to consider that Japanese mathematics teaching is highly creative and effective, with lesson study as a main explanatory factor. As a result, substantial efforts have been deployed in many countries to engage mathematics teachers in lesson study. In this paper, we argue that lesson study is but one element of a comprehensive Japanese “infrastructure” for developing teacher knowledge, both personal and shared, and that the functions and workings of any particular element in this infrastructure cannot be fully understood when viewed in isolation. In this paper, we offer a systemic (institutional) analysis of how these “infrastructure” elements interact in crucial ways. Specifically we study two episodes where a teacher’s “practice research” is clearly motivated and supported by other infrastructural conditions, such as the possibility to present the outcomes at a regional teacher conference, and in a publication. Moreover, a central prerequisite for the creative part of “lesson planning” is a much more limited activity: the patient study and discussion of mathematical tasks and materials. This activity is also crucially supported by elements of the infrastructure.
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