International Panel: Bridging Policy and Practice
A Focus on Teacher Preparation
Presentation 6: Pre-service and In-service Teacher Education in Japan
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Pre-service Teacher Education
In Japan, each prefecture has one teacher training university. At Yokohama National University, the education program and human sciences programs merged. In 2000, changes in the pre-service training program included an increased number of mathematics education methods courses. The mathematical aims of the program relate to mathematical reasoning and conceptual knowledge. All who take a mathematics education major take the same courses regardless of the grade level they plan to teach. The program has core and optional elements and includes instruction in the use of graphing calculators. One of the options is called “math for the real world.” In this course groups of students (12 groups with 5 members) each select a problem. They then solve the problem and prepare a presentation. Students are strongly encouraged to give presentations. They then assess each other’s presentation.
In-service Teacher Education
In-service teacher education may be provided by a public or private agency. The government pays for public training, while private training is paid for by the teacher, research society, or other private source. There are three types of public training: new teacher training, experienced teacher training (after five years and after ten years), and dispatched training (master’s courses).
New teacher training occurs ninety times in a year—sixty times at school, thirty times at the board of education2. The length of the training varies. Some sessions last one hour, while others last for days. The lead teacher in charge of the new teachers gives them individual guidance. There is also extensive training where new teachers attend lectures on various topics. Lesson study is conducted as well, and teachers also get additional training in classroom management.
Experienced teacher training occurs five or six times in the sixth year of teaching. Training occurs in groups, and is devoted to themes such as classroom management, student guidance, or addressing specific problems such as bullying. In the eleventh year of teaching experience, training occurs three to five times.
Sometimes a company offers dispatched training. Teachers must apply and be tested to gain admission for training. Sometimes teachers go abroad to receive language training (e.g., English teachers) or go to other countries where there are Japanese schools. In one type of dispatched training they may go to inspect the schools in other countries or to a master’s course in teaching at a university. A lot of the training involves teacher collaboration. Many teachers don’t like technology and don’t want to use it, so some of the online training activities used in 2002 tried to get teachers to use technology.
Lesson study is a collaborative learning process that is common in in-service training but is also used in pre-service at the end of student teaching. It is difficult to become a teacher in Japan. Two or three out of ten applicants succeed in becoming teachers. They must take an examination on mathematics, liberal arts, psychology, etc. The process also involves an interview on the prospective teacher’s perspectives or beliefs about teaching.
Before WWII classrooms in Japan were teacher-centered. After WWII instruction became more student-centered. This is one reason why lesson study became so significant. There are five styles of lesson study. The goal of lesson study is to increase the shared area and identify the intersection (or strongest positive relationship) between the teacher, children, and material. At beginning of class, the teacher presents a problem. Later students are given a problem of their own to solve.
In one example, students are asked which position in a display can be represented by a specific number (e.g., 3). Some students mark the position from the left, some from the right, and some give the quantity in the set from left or from right. Then the teacher asks students to explore and explain the variety of responses. The goal is to get students to understand that the number “three” can refer to order and to set.
If the teacher rejects the students’ ideas (e.g., when a student response to 13 divided by 5 is "If I had two more the quotient would be three") students won't like mathematics because they won't feel that their ideas and thinking are valued. Good instruction builds from student ideas. If the ideas are incomplete or incorrect, the teacher needs to explore them and create opportunities for students to discover this. At the end of the lesson, the teacher summarizes the discussion and then puts a panel on the board that illustrates the mathematical idea/goal.
Promises and Challenges Related to the Approach in Japan
The participants found the approach to be very promising. They especially liked the ways that the program integrates mathematics content, general pedagogical content, and content specific to teaching mathematics. Also, many liked the group-based structure of the activity and the way the activation phase was used to motivate teachers. In addition, some thought that the clearly defined schedule for training was promising. However, many participants expressed concern about how difficult it would be to implement this practice in other countries without changing some cultural components, for example, acceptance of collaborative efforts.
2 Each prefecture has a board of education, which is a very important part of the system.
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