The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the World’s Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom

James W. Stigler & James Hiebert
Review by: Kei Muto

The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the World’s Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom is not a teaching methods reference book with ideas for individual teachers to apply in their classrooms. Although the book sets off by comparing mathematics instruction in Germany, Japan and the US, the reader does not get many earth shattering new techniques for math instruction. What the reader does get is a deep analysis of the cultural systems of teaching that are seen in each country. While it serves as an opportunity to gain perspective on other countries’ methods, its real purpose is setting the stage for a more important discussion. How has Japan made steady improvement in math education without the radical reforms seen cyclically in the US? Two words: Lesson Study. Instead of best-practice recommendations of the quick-fix variety, the authors recommend the slow-and-steady Japanese Lesson Study method for consistently improving teaching in the long run. Basically, a collaborative lesson planning, teaching and revising process, Lesson Study has educators work in groups to think deeply, elaborate, practice and perfect one lesson per year. Teachers across Japan often work toward the same educational goals and share the results of their studies to build professional knowledge and improve practice incrementally. The authors stress the cultural and inherently systemic aspects of teaching but believe that Lesson Study, implemented at the district level, is the best way to start improving mathematics education in the US in a significant and lasting way. The authors conclude by making suggestions for implementing Lesson Study in a North American public school context.

Insightful and inspiring, The Teaching Gap is a great jump off point for administrators interested in effective and meaningful professional development opportunities and educators who are interested in becoming teacher-researchers but are not sure what it looks like in practice.