SLC International Conference celebrated its 10th anniversary!

We were very honored to host more than 2,000 participants at the 10th International Conference of School as Learning Community held in Tokyo, March 3-5, 2023. Participants from 31 different countries and areas shared their practices, struggles, and excitements in SLC at the conference.

What is School as Learning Community (SLC)?

SLC is a set of a vision, philosophies and activity system that aims to reform schools into a community in which everyone—teachers, students and their guardians, and local residents—learns and grows together through active, collaborative and reflective learning; learning-centered lesson study; professional collegiality; school autonomy; and democratization of school policies.

SLC started as a bottom-up movement among Japanese schoolteachers with theoretical backup by Manabu Sato, one of the leading members of WALS, and this movement came to be known as School as Learning Community (SLC) or Manabi no Kyodotai in Japanese. Hamanago Elementary School, established in 1998 in Chigasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture, was the first SLC pilot school, and it triggered an explosive spread of the SLC movement across Japan. Currently 300 -pilot schools which wire huge networks of 3,000 schools adopt the SLC model for their school reform, and SLC has gained strong momentum particularly among teachers working in schools in low SES communities. SLC is nowadays practiced across East and Southeast Asia, Africa, UK, and Mexico.

How important is Lesson Study in SLC?

SLC puts teachers’ professional learning at the center of school reform. With ‘leaving no teacher alone’ as a slogan, the school administration focuses on ensuring every teacher’s right to learn, regardless of years of experience. It is believed in SLC that we cannot ensure every student’s right to learn without ensuring every teacher’s professional learning.

Professional learning is primarily facilitated through lesson study, which is considered an activity system of SLC. Through collaborative lesson planning, observation, and reflection in Lesson Study, teachers help each other to learn to become reflective practitioners and to develop trust and collegiality.

Lesson Study serves as an activity system with which SLC’s three guiding philosophies—philosophies of public, democracy, and excellence—should be pursued. The primary focus of Lesson Study in SLC schools, therefore, lies in how we can achieve caring and listening relationships in classrooms while at the same time pursuing learning with excellence and authenticity.

*For more information on SLC, here are some useful resources available in English:

  • Tsukui, Atsushi., & Murase, Masatsugu. 2018. (Eds.) Lesson Study and Schools as Learning Communities: Asian School Reform in Theory and Practice (Routledge Critical Studies in Asian Education).
  • Suzuki, Yuta. 2022. Reforming Lesson Study in Japan: Theories of Action for Schools as Learning Communities (WALS-Routledge Lesson Study Series)
  • Kusanagi, Kanako. 2022. Lesson Study as Pedagogic Transfer: A Sociological Analysis (Education in the Asia-Pacific Region: Issues, Concerns and Prospects, 69)

SCL’s 10th International Conference

Professor Sato and the organizing committee, together with distinguished speakers and participants, celebrated the 10th anniversary of SLC’s international conference this year. Having this year’s theme as “Learning Recovery and Innovation for Future Education: Design and Practice in School as Learning Communities,” the conference welcomed 50 onsite participants for the first time since 2020 and around 2,000 online participants from 31 different countries and areas.

This three-day conference started with a school visit to Ushiku Dai-ichi Junior Secondary School in Ushiku city, Ibaraki Prefecture. We observed an open lesson conducted in 7th Grade Math by Mr. Yasuhiro Fujikake, followed by a reflection session by all the teachers at Ushiku Dai-ichi Junior Secondary School.

Participants sharing their learning and reflection after the open lesson.

We had 10 keynote speakers from around the world on the second day of the conference. Distinguished speakers shared their learning from the visit to Ushiku Dai-ichi as well as findings from their own research and SLC practices. The topics covered ranged from caring community, listening pedagogy, slow pedagogy, and evolving SLC networks in various places.

Welcoming onsite participants after 3 years was a great excitement.

The conference hosted two plenary symposiums and concurrent paper presentation sessions on the third day. Again, presenters shared their practices, struggles, and excitements in SLC from different parts of the world.

We, on behalf of the organizing committee and all the participants, would like to express our sincere gratitude to the teachers and students at Ushiku Dai-ichi Junior Secondary School, particularly Mr. Fujikake, for letting us observe and learn from their practices. Our appreciation also goes to the keynote speakers, plenary speakers, and presenters, who shared their invaluable experiences and perspectives on their SLC journeys. Last, but not least, we would like to thank all the participants, both onsite and online, who joined us to strengthen and expand the SLC networks.

Reported by Takayo Ogisu, PhD. (Sophia University, Japan)

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