Why is it that Japanese students seem to outperform us in mathematics and science when we study the results of testing? Many seem to 'generalize' the answer to one notion...they have better students...This is not true. A typical classroom in Japan would look very similar to one here in the U.S. The difference is in the teaching practices and the delivery of material.
Japanese educators continually develop themselves and their teaching practices through the practice of Lesson Study. In their practice of Lesson study, Japanese teachers will work in small teams to develop lesson plans based on content/curriculum goals and the learning/emotional goals of their students. Once lesson plans are completed and agreed upon by the team, one teacher will deliver the lesson to his/her class while the other teachers observe.
After the lesson has been taught, the teachers meet again and discuss the lesson as a whole, delivery of instruction, interaction of students, achievement of instructional and affective goals. The lesson is then revised upon all the findings and then taught by a second teacher to a different group of students, while teachers observe.
In Japan, lesson study is a very important component of professional development. Japan's emphasis on this process has gained the attention of the National Council of Teacher's of Mathematics and the National Science Foundation. Check out the following link to find multiple resources on the process of lesson study, materials to help implement lesson study, and research that supports it's use in schools.