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Sofie M. M. Loyens, Lisette Wijnia, Ivette Van der Sluijs - Duker, and Remy M. J. P. Rikers

Problem-based learning (PBL) is a student-centered instructional method, with roots in constructivist theory of learning. Since its origin at McMaster University in Canada, PBL has been implemented in numerous programs across many domains and many educational levels worldwide. In PBL, small groups of 10–12 students learn in the context of meaningful problems that describe observable phenomena or events. The PBL process consists of three phases. The first is the initial discussion phase in which the problem at hand is discussed, based on prior knowledge. This initial phase leads to the formulation of learning issues (i.e., questions) that students will answer during the next phase, the self-study phase. Here, they independently select and study a variety of literature resources. During the third and final phase, the reporting phase, students share their findings with each other and critically evaluate the answers to the learning issues. A tutor guides the first and third phase of the process. PBL is based on principles from cognitive and educational psychology that have demonstrated their capacity to foster learning. More specifically, four principles are incorporated in the PBL process: (a) connection to prior knowledge, (b) collaborative learning among students, but also among teachers, (c) gradual development of autonomy, and (d) a focus on the application and transfer of knowledge. Research on the effects of PBL in terms of knowledge acquisition shows that students in traditional, direct instruction curricula tend to perform better on assessments of basic science knowledge. However, differences between PBL students and students in direct instruction classrooms on knowledge tests tend to diminish over time. There is, however, a lack of controlled experiments in this line of PBL research. Directions for future research should focus on combining the best of both direct and student-centered instruction, explore the possibilities of hybrid forms, and investigate how the alignment of scale and didactics of an instructional method could be optimized.


In Japan, various styles of Lesson Study (LS) have been born over 140 years. The first issue is what should be the focus of observation in the live lesson. There are two trends with regard to the target of observation. One is teacher- and lesson-plan-centered observation since the Meiji era (1870s), and the other is child-centered observation since the Taisho era (1910s). The former is closely related to administrative-led teacher training. The latter is more complex and can be further divided into five types. The second issue is which activities are given priority in the LS processes: observation of the live lesson itself, preparation before the lesson, or reflection after the lesson. Furthermore, each activity can be designed as a personal or a collaborative process. Thus, there are roughly six types of LS in Japan related to this issue. Which type is adopted depends on the period, lesson-study frequency, and school type. In addition, it is noteworthy that the type of LS implemented is closely related to which of demonstration teacher or observers are regarded as the central learners. The third issue is whether to regard LS as scientific research or as literary research. Teachers and researchers in 1960s Japan had strong interest in making lessons and lesson studies more scientific. On the other hand, as teachers attempt to become more scientific, they cannot but deny their daily practice: making improvised decisions on complicated situations without objective evidence. Although lesson studies have been revised in various forms and permutations over the last 140, formalization and ceremonialization of lesson studies has become such that many find lesson studies increasingly meaningless and burdensome. What has become clear through the discussions on the three issues, the factors that impede teacher learning in LS are summarized in the following four points; the bureaucracy controlled technical expert model, exclusion of things that are not considered scientific, the view of the individualistic learning model, and the school culture of totalitarian products. To overcome obstruction of teachers’ education in LS and the school crisis around the 1980s, the “innovative LS Cases” has begun in the 1990s. The innovative LS aims not for as many teachers as possible but for every teacher to learn at high quality. In the innovative LS Case, what teachers are trying to learn through methods of new LS is more important than methods of new LS itself. Although paradoxical, in order to assist every single teacher to engage in high quality learning inside school, LS is inadequate. It is essential that LS address not only how to actualize every single teacher to learn with high quality in LS but also through LS how to improve collegiality which enhances daily informal collaborative learning in teachers room. Furthermore, LS cannot be established as LS alone, and the school reform for designing a professional learning community is indispensable. Finally, the concept of “the lesson study of lesson study (LSLS)” for sustainable teacher professional development is proposed through organizing another professional learning communities among managers and researchers.


Harrison Hao Yang and Jason MacLeod

Practices of blended learning are being wholeheartedly accepted and implemented into the mainstream processes of educational delivery throughout the world. This trend follows a large body of research that suggests blended learning approaches can be more effective than both traditional face-to-face instruction and entirely computer-mediated instructional approaches. However, in teacher education there are two important factors that influence the outcomes of blended learning; first, the articulation of differences between instructional approaches, and second, the understanding of key pedagogical strategies that support student success. Research on blended learning in teacher education should include both preservice and in-service teacher participants. Preservice teachers are individuals operating in the preparation and training stages, prior to assuming full responsibility of a professional teaching role. In-service teachers are individuals practicing as teachers that are typically still toward completion of their early career induction training to the profession. Both historical utilization and future research trends are evident through a critical analysis of the last three decades of highly cited scholarship on blended learning in teacher education. Historical utilization trends show an emergence of online and blended learning approaches, which reached nearly 30% of postsecondary education students in 2016. Future research trends include evidence-based practices, preparing for active learning classrooms, building capacity for practical training, collaborative teaching opportunities, leveraging blended learning to improve education equity, and cultivating mixed reality blended learning environments. Researchers, practitioners, administrators, and policymakers should continue to stay informed on this topic and continuously find ways to improve the application of blended learning in teacher education.