SEPTEMBER 23, 1999

[Accompanying PowerPoint slides are referenced in brackets throughout the transcript.] 

      DR. STIGLER[See Slide 1]  Teaching is important, what happens in classrooms is fundamentally important.  Everyone here knows that, yet, still it's kind of important to be told it again from time to time.  In fact, if you look at the reforms that have been conducted in classrooms or in schools over the past 20 years in this country, most of them have not focused on improving teaching in the classroom.  For example, there's been a lot of effort on changing the political structure of schools, site based management, who has power, who has control.  There's been a lot of effort on putting computers in schools, and even the standards movement, setting clear learning goals and assessments for what students need to learn has not fundamentally been targeted at changing what happens in classrooms, teaching and learning in classrooms. 

      Now, you may think that because you're the commission on improving the quality of math and science teaching, that you're going to be different, you are going to change what happens in classrooms.  And what I want to start with today is going to be the main point I want to make, which is that I'm afraid you won't be different.  I'm afraid you won't be different, and I want to urge you to maintain your focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning that goes on in classrooms.  If you shift your focus to questions of teacher licensure, teacher certification, how to recruit better people into the profession of teaching, then I think you'll be wasting an opportunity.  That's one of the main points I want to make today. 

      If you look at medicine, as an example, I think everyone would agree that healthcare has made remarkable gains in quality over the past 100 years.  But, I want to submit to you that that's not because better people are going into medicine.  It's because there is a professional knowledge base of medicine that has grown, that's alive, that has grown over the years and that new practitioners can participate in.  It's not the exceptional doctors that determine the healthcare most of us receive, but it's actually the average doctor, it's what the standard practice is.  And in education it's the same way.  What we need to do is, yes, we want the most qualified people we can in the classroom.  But, that alone is not going to make the difference.  What we need to do is find ways to shift the focus from the teachers to the teaching methods, and figuring out how to improve those methods, how to build a knowledge base for the improvement of teaching. 

      The premise of everything I'm going to say today is that teaching is not some magical, elusive quality that is only able to be carried out by certain gifted individuals.  But, teaching is something that can be studied and improved.  And that's really the challenge that we face today.  Now, [See Slide 2] what I'm going to do in my presentation is I'm going to talk about -- I was a little embarrassed that so many people came up and said they read the book, because that makes me feel a little bit redundant and superfluous.  But, you probably didn't read it as carefully as we wrote it.   

TIMSS Video Study and a U.S. Lesson [in middle of paragraph] 

      [See Slide 3]  So what I want to do today is talk about the TIMSS video study a little bit.  I want to show some video, because I want this commission to take a look inside classrooms, and see what's going on there, and talk a little about what we learned from that.  Then I want to shift gears and talk about the implications of the work that we've been doing for the improvement of teaching, a lot of which is just our own opinion developed over time. 

      I really want to stress that anyone is free to interrupt me, if that's not against the law, I don't know.  Linda, can people interrupt and ask questions?  So anybody who wants to interrupt and ask a question, I would really appreciate that, because there's no way we can get through all the material that I have.  But, I do want to make sure that I save enough time at the end to talk about my vision of how it is that we can improve teaching in the classroom. 

      All right, so first, what I want to do is I want to talk about this unique study that I was privileged to conduct, and I also want to point out that Lois Peak is here, and came up to me.  Lois Peak was the person who made this whole study possible, by securing the funding from the National Center for Education Statistics.  And she just reminded me that we cooked up this whole idea 10 years ago on a beach walk in California.  And it's amazing how long it takes to get anything done. 

      This study was actually a very simple study.  A simple idea it was to take national samples of classrooms, eighth-grade teachers, and to videotape them teaching one lesson in a classroom.  We basically had a videographer in each country.  We did this in three countries, by the way, Germany, Japan, United States, and simply gave him a schedule and had him go around for the whole school year and tape what was going on.  We took the tapes that we received, and we sent them back to our lab at UCLA, and we spent a long time with teams of researchers from all these different countries arguing about what we saw happening on the tapes.  And it was a very exciting summer, I'll never forget, when the first of these tapes came in. 

      [See Slide 4]  This is an overview of the design of our study, which is very simple.  I think most of you probably recognize this picture, I hope Senator Glenn recognizes this picture.  It was sent back from Mars a couple of summers ago.  This really summarizes the design of our study.  It was sitting in Los Angeles, waiting for these images to come back from all over the world, and then analyzing them.  And I have to say we were really just as excited about seeing these things as the people were at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where they were waiting for the results of all the work they had done to get these images back from Mars. 

      [See Slide 5]  We had three major goals in the study.  First of all was to just see what was happening in U.S. classrooms, and this may, most people who aren't in education probably figure we already knew this.  In fact, almost everybody thinks they know what's going on in classrooms, but no one really had the opportunity to actually look inside a national sample of classrooms.  Another goal was to discover alternative teaching methods.  We were very interested in what they were doing in other countries, particularly countries that had very high achievement, like Japan.  And we were interested in studying the effects of policy on classroom practice.  There are a lot of people who believe they are influencing what happens in classrooms, and we wanted to take a look and see if that was true. 

      Okay.  What I'd like to do now is shift gears, and go and actually show you some video from the study.  And at the same time I'm going to be able to show you a little about how it was possible for us to handle this incredible quantity of video information that's coming in.  In our current study we're collecting more than 2000 hours of video.  And the way we've done this is with multimedia software that we actually designed and developed to help us in this project.  So, for example you can see we've got a software screen with the video, we've got a transcript on the right, and it gives us the ability to quickly run back and forth through the videotape, and it also gives us an index over here of the video. 

      What this means is that we have in our database all of the videotape that we collect, all of it transcribed, all of it translated into English, so that we can search and find different pieces of classroom practice that we're looking for in our analysis.  This is a huge advance, because this was not possible even five years ago, to really do this, and now it is.  People who used video previously to study teaching only did it on a small scale, and I know why, because it's really hard work to get on top of this. 

      What I want to do is just show you a few minutes of this teacher, an American teacher, and let you watch it, and see what you think.  And then I'm going to show you a few minutes of a Japanese teacher, and try to give you just some sense of what's going on in these classrooms.  And, by the way, I want to preface this by saying this is a typical American teacher, and we can really say that with some confidence, because we've looked at a national sample. 


      Student:    Umm…I don’t know.  I was just stretching. 

      Students:   Ha, ha, ha. 

      Teacher:    Don’t get nervous, you do stretching.  When I intersect lines I get vertical 

                  to which angle?  

      Students:   Seventy. 

      Teacher:    Therefore angle A must be… 

      Students:   Seventy degrees. 

      Teacher:    Seventy degrees.  Go from there.   Now you have supplementary angles.

                  Don’t you?


      Student:    A. 

      Teacher:    I mean…I am sorry.  Angle A. 

      Student:    B. 

      Teacher:    B is and so is? 

      Students:   C. 

      Teacher:    C.  Supplementary angles add up to what number? 

      Student:    One eighty. 

      Teacher:    One hundred eighty degrees.  So if you know one is seventy the other one has

                  to be? 

      Student:    Hundred ten. 

      Teacher:    A hundred ten.  Go from there…Okay.  You have all you information.  So we

                  we already figured these out.  

      [Video ends] 

      DR. STIGLER:  How many people find this pretty familiar?  Most people I show this to say, that's my math teacher.  This is very familiar. 

      Did you have a question or did you just point at this question. 

      QUESTION:  It wasn't my math teacher, because I was educated in the '50s when they taught, you put in geometry by deductive proofs, which has largely disappeared from the curriculum. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Right, right, but this is many people's math teacher.  And two things I want to point out about this, first of all, this is a very typical pattern of teaching in the United States.  And one of the points I'm going to make later is that we were really shocked at how little variability there is in teaching methods across the country.  This is especially surprising in a country like ours, where we all believe we're very individual, autonomous, that we decide how we want to teach in our classroom, we have a very hands-off approach, but what's interesting is, when given the choice we all pretty much teach the same way.  It's almost like those studies of identical twins separated at birth, and then they reunite them 40 years later and find out they have all these uncanny similarities.  That's the way we feel when we're looking at these videotapes of American teachers, who are all independently deciding to teach the same way.

Classroom Differences by Country – A Japanese Lesson


      The other point I want to make is that a lot of the most important characteristics of teaching in your own culture, and that's the United States for most of us here, are very difficult to see unless you do some comparison.  And this is becoming clear to us, over and over, all the time, because one of the things we've done in our new study is we've gotten people from the seven different countries in the study to come and bring us examples of videotapes from their countries, and to tell us, you know, what they see that's important. 

      For example, we had someone from the Czech Republic come, show us videos, and tell us what is the key characteristics of teaching in the Czech Republic, and what was amazing was she showed the videos, she did some description, but she missed what to us were some of the most amazingly interesting, strange things that we'd never seen before.  For example, almost every Czech lesson starts by the teacher grading the students.  And what this means is, the teacher takes a student and calls on them, say, Paul, why don't you come to the front, solve this problem.  And Paul comes up and spends maybe five minutes, maybe even more, struggling with the problem, and the teacher asking questions back and forth, and the whole class watches.  And then the teacher says, okay, that's a B.  All right, why don't you sit down, we'll grade one more person today. 

      Now, this Czech representative didn't even mention that, but we said, wow, what are they doing, that's amazing, we've never seen that.  She said, well, how else would you grade students, I mean, that's obvious.  So what's important here is that you don't really see clearly what's happening in your own classrooms unless you begin to take a cross-cultural view, and that's because teaching is a highly cultural activity, which is something I want to come back to. 

      All right.  Let's go to Japan and spend a little more time looking at the Japanese lesson, and the reason I want to do that is because many of you have probably never seen a Japanese lesson.  I'm going to turn on a subtitling feature, and what I'm going to do is show you a little bit of the lesson from the beginning, and then I'm going to sort of talk over it a little bit to help introduce you to what's going on as we go.  So this is the beginning of a Japanese lesson, and this is a geometry lesson and I'll just let the teacher take it from there. 

      [Video shown of Japanese classroom] 

      DR. STIGLER:  Now, this is very typical, he starts by talking about the concepts they studied in the last lesson.  And last time they studied this idea that if you have a triangle constructed between two parallel lines and you move the vertex along one line, but keep the base stable, the area of the triangle doesn't change.  And the reason for that, of course, is because the base doesn't change, and the height doesn't change, only the shape of the triangle.  So now what he's going to do is present the first main problem he wants the students to work on today.  And what he's done is he's taken two plots of land, divided by a crooked line, he says this is Eda's land, that's Asuza's land, and the problem is can we figure out a way to straighten the boundary between their plots of land, without changing the area, without changing how much land each person has.  Eda and Asuza are two students in the class, by the way. 

      [Video ends]  

      DR. STIGLER:  So he puts a sign up that says, I want you to think up a method of changing the boundary without changing the area of the land.  And then what he does is he just lets the kid loose to work on this problem.  And this is the way most Japanese lessons start, giving students a problem that they don't know how to solve, and having them work on it. 

      Now, what's interesting about this is, this is almost never done in the U.S.  In fact, most American teachers think that's unfair to give someone a problem to solve that you didn't teach them how to solve.  So in American lessons we see teachers teach you how to solve the problems, then they give you practice problems to work on.  In Japan, commonly they give them a problem that they don't know how to solve.  First they have them work on the problem individually, and then later in the lesson the teacher says, okay, now that you've struggled individually with this problem, I want you to do whatever you want, you can work with your friends, you can work with the assistant teacher, you can do whatever you want.  And then this is what the class looks like for about the next 15 minutes or so, as the students are trying to work on this problem.  The teacher walks around, usually making little suggestions and hints, but the real focus is on students struggling, trying to figure out methods for solving a problem that they've never solved before. 

      Now, after they're done with this, almost invariably, in a Japanese classroom, the teacher will call the class back together and ask students to report on the different solution methods that they've come up with in the class.  And usually there are at least two different solution methods presented.  We can watch a little bit of this first student.  One of the things you'll notice is they're not exceptionally articulate or anything, because they're talking about things that they don't fully understand, but that's the nature of learning something hard, like mathematics, is that you spent a lot of time struggling with things that you don't quite understand.  It's the nature of my job, too, actually. 

      By the way, does everybody understand the solution to this problem is to construct a triangle, draw a line that parallels to the base of the triangle, and then if you move the vertex up or down you're able to split the two areas in half without changing how much land either student has. 

      All right.  Often what happens in a Japanese lesson is after the students have given their presentation the teacher summarizes the different solution methods the students came up with.  And then the teacher goes on and presents another problem.  And this next problem is related to the first problem, but it's actually a little bit harder.  And the problem here is, here's an irregular quadrilateral, how can we change this quadrilateral into a triangle that has the same area as the quadrilateral. 

      And he's going to follow pretty much the same procedure, he poses the problem, students are going to work on their own, then students are going to work in groups, and as they're working the teacher has them -- every time he sees a unique solution to the problem, the teacher has them put their solution up on the board.  So that by the time we're at the end of the lesson you can see that there are all these solutions up on the board, all having been placed there by different students.  And now the teacher is going to go up and summarize the different solution methods the students came up with. 


      QUESTION:  Are their instruction periods approximately the same length in time as in the U.S.? 

      DR. STIGLER:  They're very regular, they're usually 40 to 50 minutes.  It's a highly organized thing.  You know, always the same period every day and so on.  By the way, the solution to this problem is to divide the quadrilateral into two triangles, and then construct a line parallel to that one, and then you can move this up and back and make a triangle that you know is going to be the same area as the quadrilateral.  In fact, I think if we zip through this a little bit, we can see the teacher doing a demonstration using technology to demonstrate the different solutions that you can come up with for this problem. 

      Okay.  I want to stop, but yes? 

      QUESTION:  I don't know if it's just my experience, or just reflection on my own past, but both as a parent helping kids with homework, and also as a substitute math teacher, I find that American students, or at least the students that I reflect on by comparison are -- break out in a cold sweat if you ask them an open ended question in class, and particularly are frustrated if you don't follow exactly what the teacher said as to the method of solving the problem. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Right. 

      QUESTION:  Yet, what the Japanese instructor is presenting is there are many approaches to solving the problem.  And the American students are, I guess, preconditioned to think that there is, I can only do it the way the teacher explained it, which means the teachers solve it in advance, the student is not engaged in any kind of assimilative thinking. 

      DR. STIGLER:  It's a very limited view of mathematics that we have in our American classrooms.  I mean, if you look at what mathematicians do it's not go through the steps that someone showed them how to do, it's work on problems that no one knows how to solve, exchange ideas about the different solutions, try to justify their solutions and persuade other mathematicians that they didn't make a mistake.  This is what mathematicians do, but it's not at all what goes on in school.  This is tough, my own kids also look at me like I'm crazy if I try to get them to work on a problem they don't know how to solve.  Their answer is, we haven't had that, period, case closed. 

      But, I will tell a story from a study that we did a long time ago.  We had this idea, we were studying elementary school children in Japan and the United States.  And we had this idea that we would give them an impossible math problem, and then we would measure how long they worked on it, because I'm a psychologist, we love those kind of measures, you can get the mean and the standard deviation.  So we gave the first graders and the mean time for the first graders, we did about 12.  We actually couldn't continue this.  The mean time for the first graders in the U.S. was about 15 seconds.  They looked at the problem and they said, I don't know how to do that. 

      All of the 12 Japanese kids who got the problem worked an hour, and didn't give up.  And finally they had to go back to class, because they had been pulled out to do this study, and the Japanese collaborator said, we really can't use this problem, because it would take too much time, and besides, you know, they're not really getting anywhere, it's an impossible problem.  But, the key was these kids worked on it for an hour, and this was in first grade.  So how do you socialize students to believe that mathematics is such a different kind of discipline that it's something you could struggle with for that long, it's a really important problem. 


      QUESTION:  Is this method also used across disciplines? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Actually, we're studying science now, and it is used in science.  But, I don't know about literacy or social studies.  I would guess not.  I would guess it would have to be a little bit different.  Any other questions?

Cultural Patterns of Teaching


      [See Slide 6]  Okay.  Well, what we've been able to do is produce a couple of different kinds of analyses.  One is we're able to begin identifying these cultural patterns of teaching.  If you look at the two patterns I have up here, you can see the one on the left is the one that characterizes American classrooms, and actually it's a pretty good characterization of German classrooms also.  Most of the math lessons in the United States that we looked at have two main parts.  The first part is where the teacher tells you how to do the problem.  They give you instruction.  If they're a very good teacher, they also give you some explanation about why the solution works the way it does. And then they let students practice on their own.  And what teachers do is they go around and help the kids who are having trouble. 

      In Japan they just have a very different script or pattern that emerges in most of the lessons.  They're kind of backwards from the American pattern.  First, the teacher poses a rich problem, that the students typically have not solved before.  The students struggle with that problem, they're confused, they don't know what to do.  You see a lot of evidence of that.  The students present their ideas, and their solutions, and they have a class discussion about the methods and the teacher concludes the discussion.  Often, they'll go through this twice. 

      One other interesting thing I can point out, I think we put this in the book, but American teachers have a real intolerance for confusion.  So any kid -- not only do we not pose problems for students to struggle with, but if we see students struggling most American teachers rush over to intervene and provide help, because they don't think there should be strugglers.  Somebody struggling in math class it must mean we didn't teach them very well, or we didn't explain clearly enough what they were trying to do.  Then, of course, the Japanese teachers think you should look confused, and in fact, if you ask a Japanese teacher, do you think your students really understood that at the end of this lesson, they'll say, of course not, that's going to take weeks for them to understand that.  So different views of understanding.  We have a very instantaneous view, you explain it.  If the kids get it, a light bulb goes off and you move on.  Whereas, in Japan they have a very different view of what understanding is. 


      QUESTION:  Did you say their class sizes are proportionate to the U.S.? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Approximately 40 students in Japan. 

      QUESTION:  And the German classes and the American classes? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Much smaller, of course, much smaller, of course.  California class sizes are pretty high, although that's something else I want to point out, is that there's an interesting paradox looking at these teaching methods around the world.  We deal with individual differences in a very different way than they do in Japan.  In Japan there is absolutely no tracking, and no ability grouping until 10th grade, at the earliest.  So all students, whoever they are, however fast they learn, are all put in the same classroom.  In the United States we divide students up at from the very earliest ages.  Even in kindergarten, we often will have a different class for the students who need a little more help with their English, and a different class for the students who are native English speakers, and so on.  We're always dividing people up to deal with their individual differences. 

      One of the results of this is that in Japan there is actually more variability in terms of preparation in a classroom than we see in the United States.  This is one of the findings from previous research we've done.  And paradoxically, in Japan they've developed a lot of teaching methods that are especially suited to highly diverse classrooms.  Paradoxically, in the United States, where we have a very high priority and a lot of diversity, priority placed on addressing diversity, our teaching techniques really don't work that well in diverse classrooms. 

      QUESTION:  Most math classes -- most math teachers in America use the textbook as the curriculum, and they use the teachers guide that is often script for them.  In Japan, do they have textbooks, or is the curriculum pretty much designed by the teachers? 

      DR. STIGLER:  No, they do have textbooks.  And this is one of the things I want to talk about later.  They do have textbooks.  But, a lot of -- and they do have teachers' manuals, and they do follow them pretty closely.  However, those textbooks and those teachers manuals change over time, because in Japan they have a system for collecting feedback, back up from classrooms, to improve the kind of techniques they're using in classrooms.  So we tend to have a negative connotation toward a script, we say only a bad teacher would use a script.  But, I want you to think again about what professionalism means in other professions, like medicine.  Medicine, you're supposed to use the standard practice, unless there is an unusual situation that develops and you need to be able to do something different.  In teaching, we devalue teachers who use the standard practice.  So one of the points I want to make is that what we need to do is figure out how to shift the standard practice, not act like there’s something wrong with using standard practices. 


      QUESTION:   Two quick comments.  Currently in high schools there’s two academic tracks for math instruction, called high and low.  The current high level track teaches one-third less math than the standard academic track in the 1950s when I went to school.  So while we do have this diversity here, it's considerably less than what was the single standard track in the '50s.  The second is, you mentioned that in the Japanese classroom the teacher says, we’ll struggle over this concept for several weeks and then they'll get it, and in the American teacher says it once and then everybody supposed to get it immediately.  Then when we look at the textbooks, the fourth grade book, and fifth grade book, and the sixth grade book are sort of 90 percent the same.  So we basically don't expect them to get anything, because everything is going to be repeated the next year, and the next year. 

      DR. STIGLER:  The problem is we expect them to get it all in one day or one week, but they don't really get it.  So we have to repeat it the next year, and the next year.  It's a little bit of a tortoise and a hare phenomenon here.  In Japan, somebody described Japanese teaching as slow and sticky, and American teaching as quick and snappy.  And I think that's a pretty good description that can go with this. 

      [See Slide 7]  Now, in addition to identifying these patterns we also did a lot of quantitative analyses, because one of the things that's very important when you're looking at videos is videos can be very informative, but they can also be very misleading.  You can see a powerful example on video and assume that it means more than it does.  So one of the things that we're also trying to do is check ourselves by figuring out how to code quantitatively what's happening in the videos. 

      And I brought one example which is, you know, when the teacher gives students stuff to work on, on their own at their desk or in groups, we call that seat work.  And one of the things we looked at was, what was the kind of task that students were posed during seat work.  And we divided it into the three levels, the first was to practice routine procedures.  The second one was to apply concepts in novel situations.  And then the highest level was invent or think, and this included things like can you think of another way to solve that problem, or how many solutions can you come up with, or can you prove that that would always be true, not just in this case.  This is the higher level thinking. 

      And what you can see is that in Germany and the U.S. they have a very similar pattern.  About 90 or more than 90 percent of the time students are given work to do on their own, they're asked to practice routine procedures.  In other words, to do things they've been taught how to do already by the teacher.  But, if you look in Japan you'll see that the tape I showed you is very representative of what's going on in classrooms.  The majority of time Japanese students are given work to do at their seats they've given this highest level, they're asked to invent, they're asked to think, they're asked to reason, prove, engage in the kind of activities that mathematicians engage in. 


      QUESTION:  Just sitting here thinking, as an employer how I would react to something like that.  It's one of those things that you talked earlier, you go, well, yes, I do that.  Why not let the students do as they do in Japan, because in the workplace that's what's expected of you, where they discover the means to a solution.  Yet, the culture of the American classroom is, follow this prescriptive approach and you'll have the answer to the test.  Yet, you put them in the workplace and it doesn't -- problems don't get solved that way. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Right.  A lot of this is about goals, it's about being clear about what you really want students to learn, not only in the short term, but in the long term.  And that's something that is great that's going on right now, with the whole standards movement, is people have finally focused on what they want students to learn.  But, then that is a political debate, what do you want students to learn.  Do you want them to be able to, as fast as possible, execute the same solution to the problem that everyone knows, or do you want them to be able to come up with three different ways to solve a problem that they've never seen before, or maybe you want both and there's nothing wrong with that.  But, you have to realize that the kind of instruction we see is highly related to the kind of learning outcomes we're going to see. 


      QUESTION:  Could you comment on how these two different methods will change in terms of teachers’ preparation, because it seems like it's easier to follow the straight, you know, just tell how to solve the problem and you work on that, instead of challenging the student, what kind of new methods, and whatever you try.  It takes very experienced teachers, I actually learned all my math and science, you know, in Asia, in Taiwan, and before, and I see the teachers’ preparation, dedication perhaps makes a lot of difference. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Absolutely, it takes a lot of preparation.  But, you know, it takes a lot of work and preparation to teach the way we teach, also.  In fact, if you look at a lot of these videos, American teachers work very, very hard.  If you think about it, they're trying to make sure they teach every single step.  In some ways the Japanese teacher's job is easier, because they pose the problem.  But, the other thing I want to point out is, they don't do it by themselves.  They have a knowledge base, they have resources they can go to.  Every Japanese teacher can look up this problem in a book, because this problem would be used all over Japan.  And they can go read up on it and find out, here's the five most common solutions.  And so they have the resources available that they need. 

      Let me move on.  And, but keep interrupting, that's great.  I'm happy to be interrupted.  [See Slide 8]  Let me move on, and I wanted to talk about three important lessons that I think we've learned from this study, beyond the particular findings, lessons that I think are important for your work. 


      QUESTION:  You mentioned diversity, but just touched on it in your comments.  Do you have any recommendations of how teachers could do more to deal with diversity in the classroom? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, one of the things I want to stress, and I was going to bring this up a little later, but let me bring it up right now.  I'm not recommending that we teach like Japanese teachers, and there's a lot of reasons why I'm not recommending that.  The main one is that we won't be able to.  Teaching is a complex system.  In fact, I'll just put this point out of order.  Teaching is a complex system, you go into an American classroom and act like a Japanese teacher, and within a day or two you'll be back to acting like an American teacher.  Why?  Because the pressure is so great from all the other different components in the system, not the least of which are the students.  So students -- in fact, I do this in my college teaching.  I'm always trying to improve my own teaching at the university.  And I go in and it's amazing how much backlash you get if you try to change anything. 

      For example, I remember last year I said to my students, they asked for a review sheet of everything that was going to be on the midterm.  And I said, well, what I'd like you to do is go back through everything we've read, and all your notes, and you make up what you think are the most important concepts and those will probably be the ones on the midterm.  They said, that's not fair, you have to tell us what's on the test.  And I said, well, that's the way we're going to do it.  They complained, and complained, and complained, and they never stopped complaining until the end a number of them wrote in and said they learned a lot by trying to make their own review sheet.  But, the fact is, you get hit a lot. 

      So I'm not recommending that we adopt Japanese techniques, but one of the things I do want to say is that because teaching varies so little within a culture, and varies so greatly across cultures, one of the things that's very hard for us to do is to envision alternatives.  If you're a teacher in a classroom, what you tend to do is teach the way you were taught.  I mean, teaching is one of the only professions where you have a 13 year apprenticeship before you ever go out and get in the classroom, because everyone is a student.  And all those years that you're a student, you're learning what it is that a teacher does.  And if you even ask a kid, you know, pretend you're a teacher, they'll do these same sorts of things.  So what's hard for us is to envision alternatives.  This is something we can get by looking at Japanese instruction. 

      And now to answer your question, which is do I have any recommendations about diversity, I wouldn't recommend any particular teaching techniques, because I don't think that should be what anyone does.  However, I would say that we can learn a lot from cultures who worked, who have perfected techniques that tend to be especially useful in diverse situations.  I don't think our teaching techniques are, so I think we have a lot to learn. 

      QUESTION:  Can I ask question?  What is the level of parental involvement, and so on, on this?  It seems to me under the Japanese system you're talking about it would a whole different thing to try and help a kid doing homework, like the governor is talking about at home, whatever than it would be under the American system.  Did you tie in any study of that, also? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, I've done that in other research.  And it's interesting the kind of parental involvement is very different in the U.S. than in Japan.  U.S., there's more direct teaching, parents try to actually help their kids do the homework, get the right answer.  In Japan it's a much more indirect kind of help.  So provide a desk for the student, or provide time, or give them snacks, but not actually get in there and help them do the homework. 

      I'll tell you one other interesting thing, and that is we're always talking about parental involvement.  Every school you go into now that's a good school there's parents all over the place.  And one of the things we learned in showing our videotapes to our colleagues from Japan is they said, who are those people in the classroom?  And we said, that's the parents.  They said, you've got to be kidding.  And they said, you let parents teach?  They couldn't believe it.  And you know, when you think about it, it's a very interesting point.  Would you let parent volunteers go in and do surgery in the operating room, just to show that you have a hospital with a lot of involvement?  No.  It's just another example of the very, the very subtle ways that we undermine teaching as a profession.  Yes, it looks like a great thing to have parents in the classroom.  But, think about it, what you're saying is, anyone can teach, and I think we do believe that.

Three Truths About Teaching


      Let me just talk about three truths about teaching, and this is things that -- some of which I've touched on already, but I think are important.  First of all, teaching in this country is a very private activity.  I said it before at the beginning, that most of our efforts to improve education have not focused on what happens in classrooms.  One of the reasons for this is that policymakers believe it's none of their business what happens in classrooms, because everyone in our society has told them that over and over again.  A teacher goes in their classroom, they shut the door, that's it, it's their classroom, they're the ones who get to decide what happens.  One of the consequences of this organization of teaching is that we have no shared language for talking about teaching. 

      I was at a meeting two days ago, this is my third Washington meeting, and I've got to get out of here.  But, someone was saying that he takes in his graduate class at Harvard University, and these are mostly experienced practitioners coming back for a masters degree, and he shows them videotapes from classrooms and has them talk about it.  And he says, it's the most painful thing he does every year, because they don't have anything to say, they don't know how to talk about the practice that's going on in their classrooms.  We saw this with our videotapes.  We got all the videotapes back, and we were trying to agree just on what we could point to was happening on tape. 

      One of the things we thought we'd do is, this was math, we thought -- I said, why don't we mark all the problems they work on in a math lesson.  And do you know that we struggled for months to try to define what a problem is, and we could never agree on it.  We were never able to talk about how many problems they do in a math class.  Now, in our new study actually we went back and we are going to talk about how many problems they do in a math class.  But, the point is, we have no shared language for talking about teaching, which is a huge problem if you're trying to improve professional knowledge, because knowledge requires that you be able to communicate about that knowledge. 

      QUESTION:  Dr. Stigler, should this be three truths about American teaching, and America and this is really what you're saying --  

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, most of these are true about all teaching.  But, nowhere have I found teaching to be such a private activity as it is in the United States.  I mean, somebody said, even sex, you know more about what people do in their bedrooms than you know about what teachers do in their classrooms.  And it's true.  For the most part we don't think we have a right to know.  But, you know, if we don't get into classrooms we will not improve education.  That is the bottom line.  Whether you think teachers are under-qualified, not capable, whatever, you cannot improve education if you don't work with teachers, because they are the gatekeepers, they're the ones there, they are the ones who have access to the information that's required, and you have to get to them. 

      Second is that teaching is a complex system, and I already sort of made this point, but I want to make sure you understand that you can't just copy a teaching technique that you see on a videotape.  It's actually a fun thing to try, and you learn a lot about yourself as a teacher when you do that.  But you immediately learn that it won't work because of all the things that aren't there.  You know, you may change your behavior, but your students don't change their behavior, or they have all these materials and we don't have those materials, or in the last lesson the students studied how to find the area of parallelograms and our students didn't study that, so they don't know what they need to know to do this lesson.  And this come up over and over again.  So there's no feature of teaching that's always good or always bad. 

      So all these wars that are going on between we should do basic skills, we should do direct teaching, or we should do discovery learning, the fact is all of those things are good sometimes, it just depends on the situation.  There is nothing wrong with discovering something in the right situation.  There is nothing wrong with giving a lecture.  In fact, one of the ways Japanese -- Japanese teachers engage their students in more discovery than any country that we've studied so far.  They also lecture more than teachers in any other country that we've studied so far.  But for them the key is, the best preparation for a lecture is yourself struggling with a problem, then they're prepared to hear a lecture.  So the whole thing about teaching is that it's a complicated system and you can't take a simplistic view. 

      And then finally, I've pointed to this already, but this is an extremely important point, teaching is a cultural activity.  It varies a lot more across cultures than it does within cultures.  And there are some important implications of this.  First of all, teaching is learned implicitly, not explicitly.  So it's not the same as learning to be an engineer where most of what people learn they learn in college and graduate school.  With teaching, it's learned implicitly, and that makes it very hard to change.  It's also hard to see, as I talked to you before.  But, teaching is hard to change.  Everyone who has ever tried to change teaching will tell you that it's really hard to change teaching. 


      QUESTION:  If all of this is true, how do you explain the fact that American students in the fourth grade sample of the TIMSS did quite well, compared to the other nations.  So where does it fit in?  Is it part of the culture that's working and other parts that are not? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, they didn't really do that well.  And actually if you look at the TIMSS results what you find is the further you go through school the more behind American students are.  So at fourth grade they're not as far behind because they're only in fourth grade.  But, these are like linear functions, and I think it's important to not act like there's something different going on in fourth grade that makes us superior.  We're just not as far behind.  And also, we're a very rich and privileged country.  A lot of kids know all the stuff they're learning in school before they ever go to school.  And that really takes you a long ways in school.  You can get through first grade, second grade, fourth grade, and still do pretty well if you go home at night and you're engaged intellectually by your parents.  But, it can't take you the rest of the way.  That's the problem.  So that's the way I look at it. 


      QUESTION:  Now that technology is being introduced in the classroom, another element, are the Japanese ahead of us in terms of that?  I saw that the Japanese teacher seemed to use a video, especially with math, for the teacher's acceleration.  You can talk about it a long time, but if you see a graph or you see something moving you can understand it, the concept is better. 

      DR. STIGLER:  No, the Japanese are not ahead of us in terms of technology in the schools.  We have more computers in the classrooms than we ever see in any other country in the world.  However, the Japanese understand that putting the tool in the classroom will have no effect on what's happening in the classroom unless you study it and figure out how to integrate it into your classroom practice.  So what's going to happen in Japan is they're going to be very slow to integrate technology into the classrooms, but they're going to do it in a very thoughtful way.  They'll have teacher study groups, and they already have them all over Japan, studying how to use technology.  The way we saw it in this tape is one of the most common ways it is used in Japan, which is as a focus for class discussion.  The most common way computers are used in American classrooms is to give extra drill and practice to some students, so that the teacher can work with another group of students.  That's the most common thing we see. 


      QUESTION:  So could we say that we are only number two to in science in relation to other countries in the world on TIMSS and something happens along the way that our students don’t do as well in the upper grades -- that is not exactly true?  You know, you mention that we’re falling behind -- the reason that we are doing so well on the fourth grade… 

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, you know, we don't hardly teach science at the fourth grade level.  That's one of the things that was also in the TIMSS report that most people didn't notice, is we scored very well in science, but we don't really teach it in school.  So again, it gets back to the point I was making before, which was there are a lot of different ways to learn things.  Math is interesting, because most of the math kids learn they do learn in school, that actually makes it a pretty interesting topic for study. 

      Yes, I'll take a couple more questions.  Then I'm going to move on, because I don’t know, do I have an ending time?  I bet I do.  Because I want to make sure I talk about how to improve teaching  Diane? 

      QUESTION:  Yes, you collected these data when? 

      DR. STIGLER:  These data were collected in 1994 and 95. 

      QUESTION:  Okay.  Since 1994-95, one of the things you mentioned was that, in fact, this teaching is situated within a complex system, instruction materials are part of it, preparation is part of it.  And even the kids and what they expect is part of this system.  Since then, some new instruction materials have come out that have a different structure, and call for a different kind of teaching.  And actually now there's been an opportunity for some school districts to actually implement those materials and start kids from kindergarten through a different kind of instructional sequence, where there is, in fact, at least the beginnings of a different system starting.  In your new study are you going to be looking -- have you looked at any of those classrooms, are any of those included in your new study? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, I would like to look at those classrooms, and many people will look at those classrooms.  What's important about our study is that it is a national sample.  So what I can tell you is, and this was a surprise to me, and I think would be a surprise to everyone, is that if we're working with these new curricula and new teaching methods, we tend to think they're really catching on.  The fact is, they're not really catching on.  They're so miniscule that they hardly show up at all in the national sample.  Now, I believe we should be studying those, because I think that we can learn a lot from that kind of research.  But, it just doesn't happen to come out when you study the national sample.  Now, in our new study, I can't say for sure, we're still collecting the data.  So we may find more evidence of that. 

      But, another thing I want to say, and I was going to say this later, but since later may not come I'll say it now, is the third goal of our study was to look at reform, to see what effect it has in classrooms.  And you do see evidence, in our last study we asked teachers have you read the NCTM standards, and all these new documents that are out there to tell teachers, these are recommended things, changes you should make in your classroom.  And 75 percent of the teachers had read them, and 75 percent of the teachers said they implement them in their classrooms.  And so we have the videotape, so we said, what about the lesson we videotaped, can we see it there?  And yes, they said, it's right there, you'll see I'm implementing the NCTM standards in my classroom.  And then we went back and looked at the videotape, and what you see is just like what's on every other videotape, what's going on here? 

      In the book we told that story that Al Shankar told, which I'll tell again for the people who didn't hear it, because I think it's exactly what happens.  He was telling a story about when he visited Israel back in the '60s, I think it was, and he was looking at housing projects that had been set up to house immigrants from other Arab countries.  And they were telling him that one of the big problems they had in these housing projects was health because the Arabs were coming in, and they were eating off the floor, and it was causing a lot of health problems and disease and everything.  So they started a campaign to get Arabs to eat off tables.  And Shankar said, well, that's interesting, could we go in and look and see how a family is living.  He said they walked into a household of a family who had recently immigrated from Yemen and he said, there they were, the family, eating dinner off a table.  The only thing is, the table was upside down, and the legs were sticking up in the air, and the food was on the underside, and they were all sitting on the floor around it.  What they did is they used the table to fit into their cultural system. 

      This happens all the time with teaching.  The reason it's important to know that is not to discourage you, that you can't improve teaching, but to realize that you can't improve teaching by writing a document and printing a whole bunch of copies and sending it out to everybody.  And, sure, the same is going to be true for the report this commission puts out.  There's going to be a report, it's going to get printed, but that alone is not going to change what teachers do in classrooms.  It may lead to things, hopefully, that do change what teachers do in classrooms.

Improving Teaching by Improving Teaching Methods


      [See Slide 9]  Let me move on now to the final part of my presentation and talk about improving teaching.  I want to go back to the point I made at the beginning.  I said, it would be a tragedy if you make your work into solving the problem of how to get different kinds of people into the classroom.  That is important, improving the quality of the teachers is important.  But, it's not going to be enough, and in fact, it's not going to solve the problem of improving the methods that happen. 

      Right now we can go back and we can say, actually, there are two other kinds of improvement, or ways that you can improve teaching.  The second way is to improve the competence of the teachers in the classrooms.  Now, I want to make the point here that of course you want teachers in the classrooms to be as competent as possible.  But, in the TIMSS video study you saw many examples of competent teachers, competently implementing limited teaching methods.  And I think that's how I would characterize the teacher I showed you today.  This is a competent teacher.  He's warm, he's well liked by his students, it's got a good climate.  But, he has a very limited view of what mathematics is, and limited teaching techniques.  So the point I want to make is that improving the competence of teachers also is only going to be another little bit of the way.  What we need to do is figure out how to shift the methods that teachers are using. 


      QUESTION:  Have you compiled any evidence that shows that when teachers are brought in, let's say from industry, and outside of the educational realm that it's actually improved in teaching, or doesn't improve the teaching competence by showing that they have more, as this fellow here said, they have more of a business orientation and you have them work as more in discovery rather than the typical standard? 

      DR. STIGLER:  I haven't done a formal study, but I can tell you from personal experience, they teach just like everyone else teaches, because you put them back and say, now you're a teacher.  And they go, I'm a teacher, so they start acting like a teacher.  It doesn't matter how they acted in business, they're going to act like a teacher when they get in the classroom.  So I don't think you're going to see any big difference in the kind of teaching methods that they use. 

      So really the key, and most Americans I think would rank order these in the order that I've listed them.  They think the first thing is to get really good teachers in the classroom.  Now, beyond that it would be nice to give them a little in-service and let them improve their competence.  And most Americans don't even know what you mean when you say, well, let's improve the methods.  What I want to urge you to consider is totally changing the order of these.  The most important gains are going to be made by figuring out a way to improve the teaching methods that are used in classrooms.  Beyond that, improvements in competence will definitely follow.  And beyond that, we're going to be dealing with the teachers that are in the classrooms right now.  Any policy we try to implement to recruit different kinds of people in teaching, I don't think they're going to work, necessarily.  And also, it's going to be a very hard thing to do, it's going to take a long time.  The best way to recruit better people into teaching, by the way, is to give them a professional life, is to let them become members in a profession with a professional knowledge base, and that's what you get when you improve teaching methods. 

      So the point, the main point I want you to understand today, which I highlighted is that the key to long-term improvement is to generate – figure out how to generate, accumulate, and share professional knowledge.  What we desperately need is a knowledge base to underlie the teaching profession.  And we do not have this today.  One of the things I want to say that's a great tragedy is we have 3 million teachers out there, some of them are outstanding, they didn't get to be outstanding because we trained them well.  They didn't get to be outstanding because they participated in professional knowledge base, they got to be outstanding because they're just outstanding people who went into their classrooms and learned from their own experience.  The biggest tragedy that I think we face is that we have no way to learn even from those teachers. 

      There is no way for an excellent teacher to share what they know with other teachers and so we can't possibly improve.  Yes, individual teachers can improve, but unless we can figure out a way for them to share what they know with other teachers, then each new teacher will start new.  And yes, the ones who work extra hard, the ones who are extra smart, some of them are going to be excellent teachers, and they're going to figure out what to do.  But again, we have to keep starting over each time. 

      Deborah, did you have your hand up? 

      QUESTION:  I just want to respectfully also say that improving teaching methods I think is extremely critical, but also helping teachers and educators find a way to internalize those methods is critical.  Because I know we've done training in the summer, and somebody may implement a program and use teaching methods that are very effective, and then not really internalize them and carry them over to the classroom throughout the year. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Good.  That's a very good point.  And I'm going to come back to that as soon as I move on. 


      QUESTION:  When you talk about improving methods, the implication is that maybe we know what good methods are.  And, so -- 

      DR. STIGLER:  I'm going to address that in just a second, too. 

      QUESTION:  And something else I hope you'll address is, what advice would you have to those of us in universities in terms of preparing the next -- I mean, what do we need to do in order to put teachers in the classroom who are adept at these new methods? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Okay.  I will answer that in a second because I have an answer.  Let's take one more question, Diane, and then move on, because I'm afraid they're going to kick me out here. 

      ANSWER:  You're fine. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Really.  I'm used to being kicked off. 

      ANSWER:  You've negotiated a good deal, Jim. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Yes, go ahead, Diane. 

      QUESTION:  You talk about the key to long-term improvement is the generating, accumulating and sharing of professional knowledge.  You already mentioned that in Japan one of the mechanisms for sharing this accumulated professional knowledge is through the textbooks that, in fact, reflect this, and there's other resources available that teachers can go in.  And you've alluded to their time for collegial discussion.  Would you elaborate other kinds of mechanisms they have for doing that? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Yes.  I am going to do that.  In fact, these are all the things I was just about to say, so maybe I should just go on and say it, and then ask questions. 

      [See Slide 10]  Okay.  So, how do you do this, how do you improve the teaching methods?  That's really the key.  And I want to talk about two different approaches.  One is the old approach, and one is what I would call a better approach.  So the old approach is, as the questioner there pointed out, assumes that somebody knows the best way to teach, and in particular it assumes that it is researchers who know the best way to teach, people like me, for example. 

      And, most people think that the biggest bottleneck in improving teaching is not that we don't know how to teach, but it's how to get that message across to the teachers and everybody will tell you that.  You know, if we could only find a way to get them to understand what we're saying.  But see, they're not smart enough.  And that's one of the reasons why people say, you know, we need better people in the classroom because people who are researchers go out and say, I need somebody who understands what I'm saying.  Well, part of the problem is, most researchers don't really know that much about what's going on in classrooms.  And a lot of the ideas that come up with actually aren't useful to particular classroom teachers.  And that's one of the problems. 

      But there are some other problems also.  Another problem is that -- well, same problem, researchers really aren't the ones in a position usually to know what's the best way to improve teaching in the classroom.  And finally, there just aren't very many researchers.  There might be a few thousand researchers out there trying to figure out how to improve teaching techniques, but there's three million teachers out there.  The work of coming up with enough good ideas to improve teaching methods isn't going to come from teachers. 

      The other thing I want to point out though, is that we have to get beyond this idea that anybody knows the best way to teach.  We should be agnostic on the best way to teach.  A great opportunity exists now because we have so many states adopting standards for learning.  What this should do is focus us not on what's the best method, but the best method of teaching is the method that helps students learn the most.  That is how we should define good teaching.  And we should not seek an end to that.  We should stop, you know, back and forth from old math to new math to this and that, and start implementing a system where we're not going to argue in favor of any particular method.  What we're going to do is develop a system where any idea is worthy of being tested.  And if it helps students learn more, it's an idea we're going to work more with, and we're going to perfect.  And if it doesn't help students learn more, we're not going to do it, even if our ideology tells us it's the right thing to do. 


      QUESTION:  One of the things that I thought of in a meeting we were in last week that really relates to what Jim says, and there is hope.  Jim has worked with some of our teachers and after having an opportunity to reflect on watching different strategies, they have gone back and worked together and looked at what they want to do in the classroom.  But in all of our meetings in the last week and this week, we continue to hear about the medical model.  And it finally dawned on me where Jim is talking about refining better techniques.  In the 1950s when my father had cataract surgery, we lived in Ohio, and they had to take him to Michigan to have the surgery and they put his head between two cement blocks on a bed for two weeks so that he had this recovery time.  And, unfortunately, I inherited that trait from him, and I've had to have a number of cataract surgeries, and I've gone into the hospital at 9 a.m. and I'm out by noon. 

      The medical model has said we have taken strategies or techniques, and we've built upon them for a number of years and continuously refined them so that the practitioners can use them.  And it seems that on numerous occasions we're prepared to throw everything out and start over again as opposed to refining these concepts and using them, as Jim has said, in an eclectic way, to use a variety of strategies that have continuously been refined, and I thought that one medical model really spoke volumes about what it is that we're charged with doing. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Thank you, Paul. 

      Now, a better approach, the one that I want to argue needs to be considered, is more like what we see in Japan, the lesson study movement in Japan.  What it does is, it says teachers have to play a central role in the development of professional knowledge.  We need to figure out a way to capture the knowledge that teachers are developing, capture their experience, and let them generate, accumulate, and share knowledge among their colleagues. 

      Now, some people would say, you know, this is never going to work because teachers are the whole reason we're discussing it in the first place.  And to them I would simply say, first of all, I disagree.  But, second of all, whether you think teachers can do this or not, there's really no one else who can do it.  Because teaching is such a cultural activity, and so highly contextualized, there's no one -- you cannot go around the teacher.  There is no one else who is going to be able to observe what teachers observe and come up with the ideas that teachers come up with. 

      Now, yes, people can -- teachers don't only learn from their experience, they can get ideas from a lot of different sources.  And even from researchers.  But ultimately, whether some idea is going to work to help students learn more in classrooms is going to have to be something that teachers are part of discovering.  There's no way we're going to be able to get around that. 

      Now, I want to talk just a little bit about lessons studied.  But I'll take Deborah's question first. 

      QUESTION:  I guess I don't see the dichotomy between those two.  The teachers will play a central role in helping to identify practices that are making a difference with kids, play a role in identifying parts of the work that people can't see, all these things you've been talking about, language, the fact that it's complex, strikes me that you're right that teachers have to play a central role.  But that doesn't seem at odds with the notion that we need disciplined study of teaching, which is what research can contribute.  Without that, we're very likely, especially given your argument about the cultural embeddedness of the practice, to simply give a high status to some practices that don't work because it won't be necessarily situated in a disciplined approach to figuring out whether certain techniques actually do work for kids.  It seems to me you'd want to argue for something that combines these two. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, I do.  And I always argue for something that combines these two.  But the problem is, I think this dichotomy is important because the first approach is so ingrained.  Most teachers don't believe they should have any role in improving teaching.  They think when they go to an in-service they're supposed to have somebody tell them what's the latest, and what's the greatest.  They don't take responsibility for that.  And I think that that we have to really counteract because we're wasting so much information that we need. 

      Yes, we do need disciplined study of teaching, and that is going to play a part of it.  [See Slide 11]  And one of the things that I want to talk about for just a few minutes is lesson study in Japan because it's an example of the kind of system that I'm talking about that's actually concrete. 

      In the book we talk about it, and I don't need to go into great detail, but the key of lesson study in Japan, and this is something that 99 percent of all elementary school teachers in Japan participate in, about 50 percent of all middle school teachers, is that teachers participate in lesson study groups.  And what lesson study groups do is, they meet together two to five hours a week.  And their focus is on improving teaching in their classrooms, that's what they do in a very concrete way.  And the way this work goes is, first of all, they get together and they plan a lesson.  And usually they'll only do one or two lessons a year, so it's a very intense process, and I brought some pictures that one of my graduate students gave me who spent a year with a lesson study group, and just here's a picture of teachers in a Japanese school.  And this is a very typical activity. 

      Now, in front of them they have detailed lesson plans because they use lesson plans not to write in their books so a substitute will know what to do, not to write in their book because the principal is going to inspect it later, but they use it as a planning tool to actually think through how instruction can be improved.  And these lesson plans are about 10 or 15 pages thick.  And they go through the lesson in such detail that you can't imagine. 

      For example, this group spent three hours talking about whether, this was in first grade, they were going to learn subtraction with borrowing for the first time, and they spent three hours talking about whether they should do the problem 12 minus 7, or 13 minus 7, as the first problem.  And they had an amazing discussion where they thought through, well, these are the 12 different things a student might say.  And, oh, some students may misunderstand it.  And they actually went through.  And that's the level of planning they go through. 

      [See Slide 12]  When they're done planning the lesson, they go into the classroom and teach it.  One of the teachers teaches it, and all the other teachers watch.  And you can see they're all fanned out here observing what the students are doing during the lesson.  They collect the students' work, they look over the students shoulders, and 90 percent of their discussions about these lessons have to do with how did students understand the instruction that we planned?  How is it helping them learn what we wanted them to learn? 

      So, what's unique about this is that they're trying to improve teaching by directly studying teaching, not by going and taking a course on child development or technology or cognitive science in a college, but by going into the classroom and saying, let's take this lesson, and see if we can make it better.  They teach the lesson, [See Slide 13] and then they meet to go over what happened.  And here's some pictures from a meeting, and this is a meeting in a school where this is the second time they've taught this lesson. 

      They invited all the teachers in the school to come, and there were about 70 teachers in this school.  We don't have a shot that shows all of them.  But what's interesting here is, first of all, that's the principal of the school on the top.  Every teacher in this school is there to hear about this first grade math lesson, the principal, the vice principal, the music teacher, the art teacher, this was the key most important thing going on in this school was the focus on how to improve teaching.  And the guy on the bottom, by the way, is a researcher.  He's a consultant who was called in to watch the lesson and to provide his feedback, and so on.  So, Deborah, there is a role in their system for university-based researchers. 

      Now, at the end of this whole lesson study process, these teachers write the report.  And these reports are the story of what they did.  Here is the lesson plan we first planned.  Here's what happened when we taught it.  Here's the problems that occurred, some of the students didn't get this, some got the wrong idea, they developed a misconception.  Here's our hypothesis about why this didn't work.  And here's a solution we're going to propose.  Then we redid it with the solution, the revised lesson plan is there.  Then we tried it, and here's what happened the next time we taught it.  Did it solve the problem?  Hey, maybe we're right about what we thought was the root of the problem. 

      Now, if you go to any bookstore in Japan, you can see shelves and shelves of books written by teachers, products of lesson study.  So that if you're a teacher in Japan, you can buy books on how to teach all the different parts of the Japanese curriculum.  Whatever part you're struggling with that year, whether it's fractions, subtraction, geometry, proofs, you can find books written by teachers that explain the results of their lesson study.  And this is the way they accumulate and share the professional knowledge base. 

      Now, in Japan, it's a lot easier because they have a national curriculum, so any particular lesson that the teachers choose to work on is immediately shareable and it's shareable because that lesson is going to be taught by other teachers throughout the country.  So, they really have an interest in finding out what your lesson study group learned about how to teach that lesson. 

      Now, what can policymakers -- and the other thing I wanted to say, by the way, is I was just in a meeting two days ago and heard a whole bunch of presentations by the superintendent, the principal, and a teacher from District 2 in New York City, which has something very similar to this going on in their school.  They decided, their whole focus was going to be professional development.  And the focus of all their professional development is how to help students learn more. 

      They started this 10 years ago, they went in, they took every student, they looked at where they were, and they said, what can we do to help them?  We're going to organize ourselves around figuring out how to do that.  That's what the teachers do.  The principal's job is to help teachers do that, help the teachers get together and figure out how to help these kids learn.  The superintendent, their job is to help the principals help the teachers.  And they've made remarkable gains. 

      Often people say, we can't do that here because it's Japanese, and we're not Japanese, which is obviously true.  But what's interesting to me is that the Japanese never take no for an answer, they never say, we can't do that here because it's American.  They say, that's an interesting idea, let's study it and see if that would help us.  I think we need to have an attitude more like that. 

      Well, what can policymakers do to help all this happen?  I think there are three things that I want to leave you with.  First of all, the emphasis on standards and assessments is really, really important.  And I think that you've got to affirm that in the recommendations that come out of this commission because if you don't have clear standards for what you want students to learn, this kind of professional knowledge-based development can't occur.  The only criterion by which we know something is an improvement in teaching is if it helps students learn more.  So that's very important. 

      Second of all, there need to be incentives provided to make work by teachers on improving teaching a significant part of their work week.  This is something that more and more people know.  There are a lot of schools now that have teachers getting together, collaborating, trying to improve the instructions going on in their school, and everyone who does some of this sees the value instantly, and the teachers see the value instantly. 

      The problem is, most school districts say, it's impossible to find any time for our teachers to get together and work.  They're too busy teaching.  That's what we pay them for is to teach.  Incentives have to be put into place so that professional development is seen as not something extra that teachers do in the summer, or go back to a university and do, it's something that's part of their work week, and has to be built in.  And this somehow needs to be supported. 

      Finally, using the kind of technology that I've demonstrated here today, I think that there could be a national role in developing an archive of professional knowledge about teaching that includes not only written reports, but also videos, and teachers’ explanations of what's going on.  We need a way to capture this knowledge, and it seems to me that something that a nation could do is begin to put together such an archive. 

      [See Slide 14]  So, in conclusion, and then I will take as many questions as you want to ask, but I do want to stop, teaching quality can only be improved inside the classroom.  Teachers have to be part of this process any way you slice it.  And we shouldn't continue to waste the experience that they have.  Currently, we have a lot of experience and no way to profit from it. 

      We need to move beyond these ideological wars about what people think they want to happen inside classrooms and, instead, ask ourselves this question, 50 years from now, will we be able to look back and say, you know, teaching has gotten gradually better over the past 50 years.  Unfortunately, today, we really can't do that.  We can't look back and say, you know, teaching has gotten gradually better, there have been some real advances.  Fifty years from now, we ought to be able to do that, and that ought to be a major goal of a commission like this is to figure out how we can ensure that that will happen. 

      And, finally, developing this professional knowledge base I think needs to be a national priority. 

      So, that's all I prepared to say and I'll take as many questions as you have. 

      QUESTION:  How much of this is a national policy in Japan that this is the way they will teach, and it's put out, and that's they way they do it, standardized all over Japan, and how much of it is left up to individual teaching schools, and so on? 

      And the other, you haven't really brought in Germany.  You mentioned in the book Germany, and I wonder if there were serious, if there were major differences there also? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Yes.  Well, you know, one of the things interesting about Germany, we didn't know this when we first started the study is, they don't actually do that well in mathematics.  Their achievement is not that high.  And in many ways, they're teaching looks a lot like our teaching.  There are some differences, but that's the reason we haven't focused on it as much. 

      But your other question is really interesting, which is how policy works in Japan, and it's a very interesting situation in Japan, where there is top down policy, there's no question about it.  But there also is a great deal of feedback up from teachers that influences national policy.  And one of the ways this happens is through the network of national schools in Japan.  There's 100 national schools in Japan and they're kind of like laboratory schools.  But the way the government uses them is like this, the government in Japan, the ministry of education puts out new curricula and new teacher guidelines, and so on, every ten years.  And they're always thinking about five years ahead. 

      So if they have an idea, like right now a good example is technology.  They're very interested in how to, in figuring out how to use technology in their classrooms.  Now, what they do is, they put out a directive to their national schools, and it's always very vague.  It says, we need to find ways to use technology in classrooms to help our students understand mathematics more deeply. 

      In these national schools all over Japan, teacher groups get together and they read this stuff, and they go, what does that mean "technology," and they don't know, and they talk about it.  They're usually vague.  They say, deep understanding, what's deep understanding?  They talk about it.  And then, they develop a lesson study group to focus on the issues that the national government has asked them to focus on.  The results of what they learned five years later ends up getting built into the national education policy. 

      So, yes, it's a national policy and centralized, but it's highly influenced by feedback up from teachers.  It's a very interesting system. 


      QUESTION:  What's your assessment of the teacher preparation programs in our colleges and university, and is what we're doing in these programs compatible with what you think needs to happen in the classroom? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, I'm not an expert on teacher education programs, but most teachers don't think teacher education programs help prepare them very well for teaching.  I went through a teacher education program, and I don't believe it prepared me very well for teaching.  I think that teacher education programs also largely take place outside the classroom.  Now, part of that is because they must.  They take place in universities.  Yes, I think we could improve the focus on practice in teacher training programs, we could use more video and have one of the things that teachers-in-training could learn is how to analyze classroom practice and talk about it.  They could learn a shared language from talking about what happens in the classrooms and analyzing it, and trying to envision ways to improve it. 

      But the key is probably in-service training.  In Japan, they don't do any better at pre-service training than we do.  And most Japanese teachers don't think they learn very much from pre-service training.  The difference is, that's most of the training American teachers ever get is what they got in their pre-service training.  The rest is sink or swim.  The difference is, in Japan, they jump in and they have a lifelong path of learning, a place that they can continually be working to improve their knowledge, improve their skills, and so on.  

      By the way, I want to say something, Japan, the teachers in these groups believe that the main thing they're doing there is trying to improve teaching methods for the nation.  They don't believe what they're doing is trying to improve their own skills.  But of course, they do improve their own skills in these groups.  The group that my students studied, one of the teachers was a first year teacher.  He said, she didn't really say a word the whole year.  Maybe she said a little bit.  But what she's doing is, she's getting socialized into a profession that values reflective inquiry on what's happening in classrooms, and studying how to improve it, and that's what that teacher is learning. 

      QUESTION:  Jim, could I have, I think we will limit questions to the commission members here for a little while.  We have about ten minutes left here, and I appreciate the interest of other people here, and that's great.  Your questions have been good.  But let's limit this to commission members here for the remaining 10 minutes of the questions. 

      QUESTION:  In your book, you made reference to the fact that the Japanese in their classrooms have all of the students from high to low range.  What about gifted and talented programs, and special ed kinds of programs that we have here in America, do they have those in Japan, and how does it affect the instruction? 

      DR. STIGLER:  For the most part, they don't have those kinds of programs, although they think they need those kind of programs more and more.  They have people constantly studying our educational system because they worry they're not doing enough for their gifted students, for example.  But, for the most part, they don't have those kind of programs. 

      And that saves a lot of money.  I mean, in a Japanese school, all the money goes to classroom teachers.  They don't have special teachers particularly.  They don't have janitors.  The kids clean the school themselves.  They get together every day and scrub the school.  There are no janitors in schools.  They don't have cafeteria workers to serve lunch, the kids go get the lunch and serve the lunch every day.  The kids clean up after the lunch. 

      So, Linda Darling-Hammond, who I understand is going to talk to you this afternoon, has some statistics on percentage of staff in school that are actually in the classroom, and we're one of the lowest.  We're like 43 percent of school staff are in the classroom teaching students.  In Japan, it's closer to 70 or 80 percent. 

      QUESTION:  One of the things I think we need to understand about the Japanese study groups, and the Japanese teachers is that they actually go into the universities before they can ever enter teacher training with a lot more knowledge of math than our teachers have.  And I think having that knowledge enables them to do more in study groups from this knowledge base, but especially at elementary and middle school.  What most of our elementary teachers lack and many of the middle school ones.  And I think that issue is one that actually has to bring the commission to talk about issues of certification, and although the focus on the teaching and the instruction is prime, I don't think we can neglect those other things that impinge upon teaching and what teachers know and why they are able to do the kinds of teaching that they do. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Yes.  That's true.  And now you're going to get us all depressed about how we don't know enough math.  And part of this is a chicken and egg problem.  I mean, the only way our students are ever really going to learn more math is if we do a better job teaching math to them.  And this is going to take a very long time. 

      However, I just want to say that I don't think it's true that if teachers just take more math courses, they're going to be better math teachers because the knowledge it takes to teach mathematics is not the same as knowledge of mathematics.  But, yes, you have a very good point, because our students knowledge of mathematics is very, very poor. 

      QUESTION:  I agree with that.  And I think there's a very good exposition of the kinds of knowledge that the teachers need about math in Liping Ma’s book. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Right. 

      QUESTION:  I would like to make a comment on this teachers lesson groups.  It appears very similar to the QC circle.  In fact, this has been proving so successful in the manufacturing industry, was invented in the United States in the 1960s, but nobody followed that in American industry.  But the Japanese perfected it in their industry, and in the 1980s, and they became so successful.  U.S. immediately going back to implement the QC circle, exactly a quality control circle, found the people on the front line, and now you ask industry, it increases the productivity and efficiency tremendously.  I think this is very similar. 

      DR. STIGLER:  I think it's a very important point, and the idea is so simple.  It is the people in a position to know how to improve the qualities are the ones right there doing it.  So, give them that as part of their job is to study what's happening and figure out how to improve it. 


      QUESTION:  There are two things that really resonated to me as I listened to you.  One was when you talked about how in all of our years we've learned this culture of what a teacher is, and that we immediately become that, and I thought how true that was when people want to teach me new methods that I should be using in my classroom, they always use the old methods.  So, the lesson I got on how to individualize instruction was done by lecture, that when I was done listening to the lecture, I was supposed to go back in my classroom and implement an individualized approach to students.  So, it hit that all of a sudden I understand why, because as soon as they got in front of this group of teachers, they immediately got into the mode of teacher, and into that culture that says, this is how you present it. 

      The second thing that really hit me is, when you were talking about and showing the slide or pictures of the teachers working in groups, it goes to how we define what is the work of a teacher.  As I listened to you, and your emphasis about the key to long-term improvement of generating and accumulating this professional knowledge, and the teachers have to play a key role, that has to be their work.  But in our systems, that's now how they define my work as a teacher.  My sister, before she was a judge, was a practicing lawyer, I used to tease her that lawyers bill you for more time than when they're in front of the judge or jury.  They have work that they are, it's their work to prepare for that.  But as a classroom teacher, they often see my work is the only time I'm working is when I'm in front of the students.  And so I only work six hours a day, because I'm only in front of the classroom for six hours a day.  But if we only paid lawyers when they were in the courtroom, they would be a lot less expensive. 

      DR. STIGLER:  They'd raise their hourly rates then. 

      QUESTION:  But what you demonstrated by those pictures in Japan, it is the work of the teacher not only to present lessons to students, but to cultivate and develop that professional knowledge.  They weren't doing that on Saturdays and evenings after teaching six hours.  That was part of their work.  And that is a cultural change that has to occur in order for us to implement what you call the key to really changing the quality of the instructional methods that occur. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Very good point, very well taken.   


      QUESTION:  Playing off of that same idea, could you tell me just a little bit, I think it's a remarkable, remarkable process in Japan, other than the instructional emphasis on the research roles that the teachers do play, what sort of non-instructional responsibilities do those Japanese teachers have? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, it depends on the grade level, and the school.  But, a lot of them do have a lot of non-instructional responsibilities.  Japanese teachers spend a lot of time on things like sports day, children's day, special days and celebrations and so on that they're on the committee to work on.  It takes a lot of time.  But, in Japanese elementary schools, well, there’s two big differences.  One is they only teach about four hours a day on average, in front of a classroom.  American teachers teach about six.  But, the other big difference is, Japanese teachers are at school nine hours a day, that's a big difference from American teachers who are at school six-and-a-half to seven hours a day. 

      So both of these things are part of the problem.  I mean, yes, we need to build more time into the work week of American teachers, but if teachers are really professionals there is no other profession where people only go to work and stay there six-and-a-half hours a day.  Now, yes, what teachers do is they go home and they work till 11:00 at night, getting ready for school the next day.  But, that is a different kind of work, that's private work.  And what's key in Japan is the value placed on collaborative, public work.  It's a very public process. 

      GLENN:  We're going to have to end this pretty soon.  Two more questions then we're going to have to call a break here. 

      QUESTION:  I had the great pleasure of visiting several schools throughout Japan as a math teacher, and observing the same things you were doing.  I found that the pressure was on exit exams, so even though students were not tracked, they were tracked by the results of their exams.  So I'd like to hear your thoughts on their exams.  The issue that we have with social promotion with our kids’ attitudes, thinking, well, I'm going to pass anyway, and not having the national or the state exams. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, that’s very interesting.  Obviously these exit exams in Japan have a huge influence on everything that happens before.  But, one of the things we found in our study is that the focus on testing is, it's there in America.  That's what we see in our classrooms.  I'd say 90 percent of the lessons we looked at, at some point the teacher talked about a test, a test on Friday, you don't have to take the test if you got your quiz problems right.  We're moving the test up next week because of the vacation.  We never saw Japanese teachers talking about tests.  Tests are part of Japanese life, but they're not part of classroom life.  That's all part of what makes you go to school with the right attitude and work hard and study hard. 

      And they do have social promotion in Japan, because they have the test at the end of ninth grade to get into high school, you always go to the next grade in Japan.  Now, at the end of ninth grade, you may get tracked off into a vocational track, and you know that can happen.  But, before that nobody gets held back in Japan.  I'm not saying it's good or bad, that's just the way they do it, although there's a lot of problems with -- it's easy to say end social promotion, it's much harder to actually make a policy that makes sense, and actually helps students learn more and succeed.  That's hard. 

      One more, yes? 

      QUESTION:  There's much written about the pressure that young Japanese girls and boys experience in their school years.  And I wonder what's known, or what can be known about how that connects with the way in which teaching is done, or are there so many different kinds of cultural influences that you can't really sort that out?  In other words --   

      DR. STIGLER:  Are you saying that maybe they feel more pressure because of the way they're taught? 

      QUESTION:  I'm asking whether we know anything about that. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, actually, there's a lot of pressure that American students feel also.  In fact, if you look at indicators of mental health, you know, school phobia, and psychosomatic illnesses, and all kinds of stuff like that, psychological problems, American students are probably under more stress than the Japanese students.  But, they're under stress about completely different things, you know, girlfriends, boyfriends, drugs, sex, violence, safety and so on.  So it's very important to put this whole stress thing in context.  But, you don't see evidence of Japanese kids under stress. 

      I mean, one thing I've learned from doing research in Japan for almost 20 years is that you can't ask the Japanese to tell you how serious their problem is, because they have -- everything is terrible, they are a very self-critical society, you know.  They go, our schools are terrible, they're awful.  I remember a few years ago somebody was talking about the dropout problem in Japan, and how terrible it was.  So somebody -- and they had newspaper articles, the front page, and kids were dropping out of even elementary school in Japan, it was so bad, the pressure.  And somebody went and did a study of the percentage of students who actually drop out of school in Japan by the end of 10th grade, it’s like one-quarter of 1 percent, or something, compared to, say, 20 percent almost in the United States by that time.  So you've got to be really, really careful in listening to the Japanese tell you what their problems are because we have much bigger problems, we have huge problems, and most of them have nothing to do with teaching. 

      Shall we take one more? 

      GLENN:  One more, that's it, that’s it, one more. 

      QUESTION:  In the U.S. there has been a lot of emphasis on girls dropping out --  

      DR. STIGLER:  Let's take two questions. 

      QUESTION:  There's been a lot of emphasis on girls dropping out of math classes, particularly in the middle years because U.S. kids are interested in boys and as they're developing, is that true in Japan?  I think we’ve addressed a lot of that problem.  Are there are lot of girls going into math, and how do they do in math? 

      DR. STIGLER:  One thing you ought to realize is Japanese kids hate math, they don't like math.  They think it's the hardest subject in school.  American kids like math, all the way up until they get to the end of elementary school, and they think it's a lot of fun and it's very easy.  Japanese teachers think math is the hardest thing to teach.  American teachers think math is the easiest thing to teach.  But, they don't allow the girls to drop out of math as early in Japan as we do here.  So they get through more curriculum.  But, you have to understand that they don't love math.  They really don't like math.  And that's a problem.  They don't like math more than we don't like math. 

      QUESTION:  I think one of the issues is that for policymakers is that many times I don’t think there is an understanding of assessment and I think oftentimes policymakers may take that issue and stop. 

      DR. STIGLER:  Yes. 

      QUESTION:  And tie it to that's how they will grade teacher performance and teacher pay.  And then when you do that, I think what happens, teaching methods and creativity go out the window, because you begin to teach to the test and teach so that students perform, so that your school doesn't end up graded as a low performing school, if you will, in a certain area.  What would you say, or how do you address the issue of keeping the assessment and standards, what makes them important, but not to the point that you are really tying them into teachers in the classroom? 

      DR. STIGLER:  Well, two things, one is make them better.  This is our first draft at standards that states are adopting now.  A lot of them aren't very good.  And a lot of the assessments don't match the standards, and a lot of the assessments don't really measure things that most people think are important.  So let's make those better.  I don't think we should say, because teachers in Texas are teaching to the test, therefore we shouldn't have tests.  I think that would be a big mistake.  But, the other thing is, people have to realize that teachers right now are doing the best that they can. 

      So it doesn't make sense to go, in my view, and say, we're going to pay you less because your students didn't learn as much, or we're going to pay you more because your students learned more, because the teachers have no idea of what they're doing that made their students learn more or learn less.  So it seems to me that we've got to just drive home the fact that although standards and assessments are important, they don't tell you how to improve, all they do is tell you whether you are improving or not.  And you've got to look somewhere else to find out how to improve.  And we just have to keep saying it, I guess. 

      QUESTION:  Part of the point that you made in terms of improving the model was sharing knowledge, people can't share things that they don't have, just like you can't teach what you don't know.  And if this is going to work there's got to be a very, very significant increase, across the board, particularly in the elementary schools in the math or science courses before they even start majoring in education as a lot of people do.  Can it work any other way? 

      DR. STIGLER:  People always need to get smarter.  I mean, that's true.  The smarter we are, the better we're going to do. 

      Thank you very much. 

      (Applause and end of video.)