Importance Of Proper Lesson Planning
Have you ever walked into an exam totally unprepared? Ever taken a fitness test when you were out of shape? What about briefings – ever “tap-dance” because you weren’t properly prepared? Hopefully, these scenarios are not a regular occurrence or part of your lifestyle. Occasionally, you may “pull something off,” but usually such unpreparedness ends in disaster.
Why then, is it that so many instructors try to “shoot from the hip” when it comes to teaching or facilitating? People frequently say they have it all in their “head” or they work best when they pull “something” together at the last minute. Teaching is similar to the scenarios above in that, in order to do a good job, you must be properly prepared. A high school football coach used to always preach what he called “The Seven Ps”:
You prepare to teach class by reviewing materials, ensuring the equipment works, setting up student supplies, etc. You must also prepare by developing lesson plans. A lesson plan is a plan for learning. In the lesson plan you arrange the activities in a logical sequence for learning to take place. It is only with careful lesson planning that we can ensure we have included everything we need to teach the students effectively and that the material is organized in a manner that encourages learning.
Purposes of Lesson Planning
Do not let the time it takes to prepare a lesson plan discourage you from doing so. The idea behind the lesson plan is to provide all instructors with a standardized tool for presenting instruction. In short, any instructor should be able to use the lesson plan and know exactly what needs to be taught and in what sequence. The three primary purposes of lesson plans are:
- They aid the instructor in preparing for instruction.
- They provide a tool for giving the instruction.
- They document course content.
Eight-step Lesson Planning Process
Lesson planning includes the following eight steps:
- Determine the objective
- Research the topic
- Select the appropriate instructional method
- Identify a usable lesson planning format
- Decide how to organize the lesson
- Choose support material
- Prepare the beginning and ending of the lesson
- Prepare a final outline.
Step 1: Determining The Objective
A task list contains tasks (sometimes referred to as terminal objectives) and subtasks (sometimes referred to as enabling objectives). The objectives serve as the foundation for the entire lesson plan. For this reason, careful thought should go into their development. The objectives must be student centered, which is why the phrase “the student will…… is used in writing the objectives. They must be student centered to show what the student is required to learn, not what we want to teach!
Step 2: Researching The Topic
After the instructional objective has been decided, it is time to outline the main points of the lesson and gather materials together to develop the lesson plan. Once you begin to research your topic it may become necessary to modify an objective or rearrange main points. This is normal. When deciding which material to select, choose materials that are both useful and appropriate. In order for the material to be appropriate, it should relate to the lesson objective and have a high possibility for student retention. In order for the materials to be useful, it should aid the instructor and student in the teaching-learning process. In other words, if the instructor chooses material solely because it is interesting, it may add little or nothing to the learning process. On the other hand, dry, uninteresting facts, even though they pertain to the material, can serve to put the students to sleep rather than enhance learning. You should strive to find interesting materials to support your lesson and arrange them to enhance learning. There are three sources available for research material: yourself (personal experiences), experiences of others (from conversations or interviews), and written or observed material.
Self- When researching a topic we should always start with what we know about the subject. Our knowledge helps to organize the lesson or point out gaps where we have no experience and require more extensive research.
Others – Discussing the subject with someone experienced in the topic could provide ideas, facts and
testimony, or suggest sources of information for the research.
Written or Observed Material – Although a lot of information can be gathered by personal experience, and talking to others, generally, it is not enough information and you will need to find written material on the subject. The most important source for written material is the library where you can find books, newspapers, magazines, journals, and sometimes case studies. When you research these materials you may decide that some of them should be required reading for your students. Keep that thought in the back of your mind while conducting the research.
Step 3: Select An Instructional Method
An instructional method is a broad approach to instruction. The more common instructional methods include lecture, performance-demonstration, guided discussion, and teaching interview. When selecting a teaching method, consider the ways in which people learn: by doing, by discussing, by listening, by observing, by participating. No single method is suitable for all teaching situations. A method should be chosen that will best lead to the desired learning outcome.
Step 4: Identify a Lesson Plan Format
This is your preference. Your training department can assist you in selecting the best format for your lesson.
Step 5: Decide How To Organize The Lesson
Now that you have developed your objectives, researched the topic, selected your instructional (teaching) method, and identified a lesson planning format, it is time to organize your lesson. Every lesson requires an introduction, body, and conclusion. Most times, it is advisable to develop the body of your lesson prior to developing the introduction and the conclusion. This may sound backwards, but after you’ve completed the body of the lesson you will be in a better position to decide how you want to begin and end the lesson. When beginning the body of the lesson you must first decide how to organize main points and subpoints. Proper arrangement of the main points will help you, the instructor, teach the material, and it will help the students learn the material. Lessons, regardless of length, should have from two to five main points. Mainpoints and subpoints are arranged in one of six patterns of organization: patterns of time, space, cause-effect, problem-solution, pro-con, or topical. Along with the patterns, there are strategies (such as known to unknown or simple to complex) to be used. Although it may sound like a lot of decisions to make, once you’ve laid out your lesson materials they will lend themselves to one particular pattern and strategy.
The Strategy Statement
The following examples have been provided as a guide.
WHAT? HOW? WHY?
LESSON TYPE: Informal Lecture
ORGANIZATIONAL PATTERN: Topical
STRATEGY: This lesson will begin with a definition of personal effectiveness to ensure that students start from a common reference point. Once the definition is covered I will discuss the three elements of the time management model: setting priorities, daily planning, and delegation, along with their relationship to personal effectiveness. Beginning with priority systems, I will establish the principle that “Using a Priority System Improves Personal Effectiveness” through lecture, questions, and answers. Since establishing priorities is the first step one takes in a time management system, it is logical that I begin here. Once priorities are established, planning can begin. With the relationship between priorities and personal effectiveness established, I will next examine how planning daily activities improves personal effectiveness. Finally, I will discuss how “Delegation Improves Personal Effectiveness”. Delegation is the last step in my time management model and therefore, will be reviewed last during today’s presentation. I will summarize the three main points in a comprehension-level summary combining my teaching points with the student inputs from the classroom questions to aid in reaching the generalization that “Time Management Techniques Improve Personal Effectiveness”.
WHAT? HOW? WHY?
LESSON TYPE: Teaching Interview
ORGANIZATIONAL PATTERN: Topical
STRATEGY: The interview will start with lead-off and follow-up questions about the general role and purpose of the Security Assistance Training Program (SATP) to show the main point that the SATP promotes national security. Then a series of lead-off and follow-up questions addressing the particular role the International Officers School (IOS) plays in the training process will demonstrate the other main point; viz., that IOS (also, as a player in the SATP) promotes national security. Students will learn what the SATP is from the point of view of its initial purpose as well as how it operates today. This will be done by use of a practicing expert within the SATP. The interviewing of the expert is chosen for two reasons: 1) to effectively present the concept of the SATP in an understandable and interesting format with the use of personal experience and real-life examples; and, 2) to foster an affective response on the part of the students by testimony of one who believes in the goals of the SATP. A topical pattern will be used to explain the goals and importance of the SATP as well as the goals and importance of IOS as it contributes to reaching that goal through the use of Air Force training resources. The interview will proceed from a general explanation and understanding of the role of IOS. This strategy should be more effective in fostering a deeper comprehension of the importance of the program as well as pointing out the personal relevance of the program to the ordinary Air Force civilian or military member, all of whom are likely to encounter an international military student during their careers. After the formal interview of the guest by the instructor, a question and answer period will be directed by the instructor to further illuminate the topic.
WHAT? HOW? WHY?
LESSON TYPE: Demonstration-Performance
ORGANIZATIONAL PATTERN: Sequential
STRATEGY: The lesson on determining cash value will be taught in sequential order to show how each step of the calculation builds on the next. The lesson will start with a brief explanation of present value and cash flows. This explanation will help students understand the benefit of using this method in deten-nining the time value of their money. Next, a demonstration and explanation of each task step of the process of calculating the present value of an unequal stream of payments to show each student how to extract necessary data from a scenario and obtain the present value of each amount. This demonstration and explanation step will also teach students how to use the present value table. The instructor will then have the students perform the calculations themselves while he reads the task steps to give the students practice under controlled conditions. Once the students have completed the task steps, they will practice once more on their own with the last practice occurring under conditions duplicating the final evaluation so that the instructor can be sure each student is ready. The demonstration and explanation of problem, the controlled practice problem and the independently done practice problem should provide enough repetition of the required sequence of steps while providing adequate time for questions to ensure students are learning the procedure. The instructor will then have the students perform the computations without assistance, and then he will grade the results to ensure the students have performed to the required standards.
Step 6: Choose Appropriate Support Material
Although the organization of the materials forms the basic structure of the lesson, some type of clarification or proof support is still required for the student to learn. Most students find it difficult to understand unsupported ideas or assertions. Those of us who have children can associate with this. When children learn something for the first time normally they ask questions like why? Where? How come? Adults are no different. If they are learning something for the first time, they want proof to support what you are telling them.
The subject, the method, the ability of the students, and the size of the class, along with other factors will determine how much support material you require. For instance, if students have no background knowledge of what you are teaching they will probably require more proof support. On the other hand, if you have some very experienced students in the class that share their own personal experiences, you will require less support to get your point across.
Verbal support is required to clarify points made or to prove our assertions. Definitions, examples, and comparisons are used for clarification support. Statistics and expert testimony can be used for both clarification and support. During lectures the instructor provides the proof support. When student interaction is involved (demonstration-performance, informal lecture, guided discussion), the instructor asks the students questions in order to have them provide the proof support.
Definitions – These are often used to clarify or explain the meaning of a term, concept, or principle. There can be more than one definition, however, for any of the above. Technical terms may be familiar to the instructor but confusing to the students. Technical terms should always be defined in a language the student understands. If a term has a different meaning to different people it should be defined to eliminate misunderstanding. Just as it is necessary to define technical terms, it is also necessary to define acronyms. When teaching students a skill it is very critical that you teach the tasks in language the student understands.
Examples – Examples (especially personal experiences) add credibility to what is being taught and give the students information they can associate with, to better understand what is being taught.
Comparisons – It is easier for students to understand something they are unfamiliar with if you place it next to (compare it to) something familiar to them. You can compare things that are very much alike or things that are unlike. To prove an assertion you must compare “like” things. Contrast is a form of comparison and helps to explain things, for example, comparing AF training or management to civilian training or management.
Testimony – The experiences, words, and thoughts of others (experts) provides proof support for the points we are trying to make. For example, often our children do not listen to us when we try to explain the dangers of talking to strangers. When the police visit the schools and talk to the children, the children consider them experts and often come home excited and remember exactly what was said to them and why it is important.
Statistics – These are the most misused and misunderstood type of verbal support. They can help clarify ideas if collected properly and used wisely. Statistics show relationships or summarize facts and data. Some figures, however, are just numbers, they are not statistics. If using statistics for proof support consider the following:
Are the statistics recent? If you were trying to develop a household budget, statistics on housing, cost of living, etc., would be of no value to you if they were several years old. Before using statistics check the date and if no date is provided, they may be outdated.
Do the statistics indicate what they pu&port to? A single test score on a high school student may not give a true picture of their grades or aptitude. This is why military personnel applying for special job positions are often requested to submit the last 3-5 EPRs for review. If only I report was reviewed, it would not give a clear picture of that person’s work history.
Do the statistics cover a long enough time to be reliable? If we were to base curriculum development changes on the feelings of one class this would not be a valid critique. Students vary with every class as far as their intellectual capacity, their work experience, their disposition, and what they expect to learn. This is why when we validate curriculum we normally do it over a period of 3 classes. This allows us to reach a broad background of students, and weigh the validity of the feedback.
If the statistics are drawn from a sample, does the sample accurate r resent the group to which we are generalizing? If we are going to give statistics relating to the people in the United States (for instance), we would want a broad sample of people and we would want to take people from all age groups, all ethnic groups, both sexes, and different levels of social status to get accurate statistics.
When comparing things, are the same units of measure used to make the comparisons? If more students fail one course more than another, we cannot necessarily conclude that the content of one course is more difficult. It could be that the grading scale was more difficult in one course, that prerequisite knowledge was not the same for both courses, or several other reasons.
Do the statistics come from a reliable source? It is ineffective to state “recent surveys show……
You should state the exact source of your information.
Step 7: Beginning And Ending The Lesson
Before you start the final outline you must consider the beginning (introduction) and ending (conclusion) for your lesson. If the lesson is to stand alone, you should carefully prepare the introduction and conclusion. If other lessons follow this one it will be fairly easy to come up with your conclusion (it will lead into the following lessons). If this is the first lesson in a block of instruction the introduction will take more consideration than if it follows after the first lesson, for the same reason as above, the conclusion from the previous lesson will lead into the introduction of this lesson.
Introduction – The introduction serves the following purposes:
- Establishes a common ground between instructor and students
- Holds the student’s attention
- Outlines the lesson and shows how it relates to the entire course
- Shows the student how the instruction will benefit them
- Leads into the instruction
Jokes can be a good way to break the ice as long as the joke is relevant to the material being presented. The three necessary elements in the introduction are: gain attention, motivate, and provide an overview of the lesson to be taught.
Attention – There are several ways to gain the students attention: you may talk about an incident related to the lesson, thereby leading into the lesson, you may ask a question that relates to the material, or any other means of showing the students the lesson has begun. Your primary concern is to focus the student on the lesson being taught.
Motivation – The whole purpose of the motivation step is to show the students how the lesson relates to them and why they need to learn the material. Before students can be motivated to learn, they must feel the learning will benefit them.
Overview – The purpose of the overview is to tell the students what you will be teaching them, show them the big picture so to speak. You should show the students the main objectives of the lesson using visuals if possible. The overview should serve as a roadmap to the students, showing them what they will be learning, and the route taken to get there. The basic purpose of the overview is to prepare the students to learn.
The conclusion of the lesson will probably stick with the student longer than any other part of the lesson. For this reason, you should prepare your conclusion carefully. The conclusion should accomplish three things: summarize, remotivate, and provide closure.
Final Summary – When dealing with knowledge level lessons it may be appropriate to have interim summaries throughout the lesson to emphasize the main points. A final summary is always made at the end of the lesson and should retrace the critical elements of the lesson. Reviewing the main points will aid the student in retaining the information and allow them to jot down any missed information in their notes. If dealing with a comprehension level lesson the final summary should provide logical reasons to support the desired conclusion (lesson objective).
Remotivation – As an instructor this is your last chance to tell the students why the information-nation is important to them. Effective instructors will continually remotivate students throughout the lesson.
Closure – This is normally the most difficult portion of the lesson. During the closure the students need to be released from active listening. Because this part is difficult, instructors often end up saying something like “well, that’s all I have to say” which sounds lame. Use inflection in your voice to show the lesson has ended, or try a funny story, a cartoon, or a thought provoking question related to your topic. If the lesson is followed by another lesson, it is very easy to close by telling the students what is ahead in the next lesson.
Step 8: Preparing The Final Outline
Now it is time to prepare the final outline! By now you’ve worked and reworked the lesson until hopefully you feel it is ready to go final.
Sometimes, as you develop your lesson you will discover the students would learn the material easier if it was presented using a different method or if the material was rearranged in a different order. Just remember to go back and readjust your method, media, and strategy statement, your task list, or whatever is affected by the change. Continually evaluate what you are doing to ensure the best student learning outcome!