Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Problem with "Open Classes" in Japan

An "Open Class" is my translation of the term kenkyuujugyou. An open class is where a school makes a class available for teachers from other schools to watch in an education conference that it holds. In my experience, there are usually 30 to 60 observers of an open class and after the open class there is some kind of mini-conference between the teacher of the class and the observers.

There is something that bothers me about the meetings that take place after an open class. In these meetings, the teachers (if there was more than one class per subject there will be multiple teachers) present about their class, they then open the floor for questions, and lastly an "advisor" who is either an official from the Board of Education or a university professor gives feedback. These kinds of post-class conferences usually last an hour and a half to two hours.

The other day I attended an English class at a junior high school. In the meeting afterwards there was a lot of questions I wanted to ask and parts of the class I wanted to discuss but could not because I was one of 40 people and I did not want to take away someone else's opportunity to ask a question. Also, there were questions I wanted to ask to clarify the questions some of the participants asked to the teachers of the open classes. There were even questions directed towards the open class teachers I wanted to answer. I also wanted to ask the advisor a question about his feedback but was unable to given the format of the meeting. I left the meeting with a lot of questions unanswered and also with no real idea about what the other teachers thought of the class and their opinions about how applicable the teaching methodology shown that day (Task Based Language Teaching) was to their respective teaching contexts.

If I was in charge of such an event, I would divide people in small groups and have the open class teachers circulate and talk with each group. I would also give each group a topic to pursue or come up with a list of questions they want to ask the open class teachers.

Someone said that "Japanese teachers would find it difficult to participate in small group discussions." I agree, but if I were to facilitate such an event I would try it anyway because I am stubborn about the necessity of small group discussion. Why? Because it is more difficult to speak out in front of 40 people then it is to speak out in a small group.

I would like to note that even taking into account what I wrote above, the meeting was interesting, the advice was informative, and the atmosphere was nice. I just believe that these kinds of meetings need to be devised in a way so that teachers can interact more with eachother.


Unknown said...

Why you don't post anymore?? I would like to know more about open classes in Japan. I'm from Mexico but came to Japan to study this and lesson study.

JH said...

Dear Lidia,
Sorry, work, kids and the like have gotten in the way of blogging. I still participate in "open classes" quite a bit. Please email me if you would like to know more.