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What You Need to Know About Designing a Lesson Plan
Maintaining Learner Interest is the Key
I spent six years as a content writer in education. This involved the use of learning theories to develop learning objectives, writing instruction for trainers in the classroom apart from creating assessments too.
It was fascinating watching different theories in practice where the 'lecture' method was used by sparingly.
A large part of training facilitation involves maintaining learner interest. This, almost always, required one to keep the class engaged. As a content writer, it was necessary to use a number of methods that would ensure the learner didn't doze off.
If one had to summarize instructional design or technology, Stephen Covey's words should suffice: begin with the end in mind.
So, how does one teach a class with the 'end in mind'?
For this, setting clear learning objectives is the key. There were two learning theories that I found valuable: Bloom's Taxonomy and Lorin Anderson's Revised Bloom's Taxonomy.
Of course, the ideal lesson plan will be the one that doesn't need improvement – which is why setting expectations that the one you create will always be a work-in-progress was very necessary.
So, what do you need in order to design a 'lesson plan'?
It's not a simple task, really. There's a lot of 'angles' to consider, to be honest. Despite the complexity of such a task, here are 5 things to consider when designing a lesson plan:
ASK: Putting It All Together
1: Attitude, Skill and Knowledge
Students often sit in classes being force fed knowledge and skill but knowing why they should acquire these aspects. Yes, if anything, understanding the 'why' is just as important as the 'what' and 'how'.
If you are able to explain why the lesson is important to student or how it fits into the grander scheme of things, the rest of the session might go easier.
For example, if you were teaching them to tune a guitar, you'd have to explain why this is important, right?
You don't need me to tell you that playing a guitar with strings out of tune would do you no good - much less bring acclaim.
It's probably the first thing you should divulge with your student – the 'purpose' of this session. After which, you can detail out the different strings, the tuner and the key as part of the 'knowledge' component. Finally, you can help them develop skill by demonstrating how one can tune a guitar with practice.
Gagne's Nine Learning Events: A Clear Road Map
2: Understand Gagne's Nine Learning Events
For the most part, applying this learning theory will help you create an effective lesson plan. When you read the theory you'll understand the 'flow' and what the training facilitator must do at each step in order to make learning as effective as possible.
In fact, you can structure your lesson outline based on this theory itself. It isn't difficult at all. When you look at this link, you'll understand how simple it is to create a lesson plan from it. Also, from a content writer's perspective, you'll be able to put yourself in the training facilitator's shoes and write a plan that they can easily follow in class.
By the way, any structured learning session requires the use of a Facilitator Guide that training facilitators should follow strictly.
Learning Objective: How Your Students Should Feel, Really
3: Use Revised Bloom's Taxonomy for Learning Objectives
Probably the simplest objective to set for students would be to help them remember certain facts or understand a few concepts. For example, if I said that FC Barcelona is a football club, this is a fact.
Also, a concept such as iteration in computer science would need to be understood if you wanted to apply it. So, based on what you want to teach your students, you'll have to set objectives accordingly.
In other words, if you are teaching them about Indian or American history, there's no doubt that your learning objective would be to get them to recall or remember a lot of facts.
Of course, if you were teaching them how to pronounce 10 words in English, this would also involve remembering how they sound apart from learning how to reproduce those sounds, in terms of syllables.
For the most part, getting them to apply something that they learned was as far as I went, in terms of developing educational content. That's the third step above remembering and understanding and which entails demonstrating how something is done and then alloting time for practice while being observed.
Don't Be Boring. Please.
4: Zero Lectures, Questions Galore
Every time you sit to create a lesson plan, think about your students and whether the way you present your material will put them to bed or get them to participate actively.
While children might enjoy stories and require strict disciplinarians as teachers, this is not the same with adults.
Even if you do explain the purpose of a training session, how you present and involve them matters greatly.
Humor is one big aspect of training facilitation. Apart from this, if you break down your session into a series of open and closed ended questions, you allow for discussion and sharing which gets their wheels turning.
Moreover, if you are able to teach abstract concepts through role-plays, this makes the session even more interesting and as opposed to boring them to death.
No boring lectures, please. Use the Socratic Method of Questioning, if you must. Your class will never tune out because it keeps them mentally active too.
For example, instead of just talking about how you build rapport with people, give your class a scenario where they can bring it to Life. This is also known as 'experiential learning' and is a wonderful way to explain certain concepts that are abstract.
Just a Test, Not Rocket Science, Please
5: Create Assessments That Test Your Learning Objectives
If you wish for your class to learn 10 new words of English or even how to write a simple Python program that prints “Hello World”, it's obvious what will make the session seem successful as opposed to a complete failure.
In other words, if your class pronounces all 10 English words perfectly. Or they can write out a Python program that prints “Hello World” with no errors, you've clearly done your job.
So, what would your assessments be? For the first scenario, you can get each student to pronounce any of the words. Better still, and if you want to take it further, they can apply it in a sentence too.
As for the Python program, you can get them to print out just more than “Hello World”. Who knows? Get them to write out a letter using print statements.
You get what I mean, right?
In other words, if your learning objective is: Remember the pronunciation of 10 English words with 100% accuracy, your assessment should meet this objective and standard set. How you do this is really up to you.
Yet the bottom line is that your assessment to ascertain the learners' takeaway from the class would have to be directly related to the learning objectives that you have set.
Failing to do this means that you will not know how 'successful' your training session has been.
Most of all, it will be a waste of everyone's time involved. Something that most adults hate. And so will you too when you get your session feedback forms.
Teach & Learn - That's Education!
There's a clear science behind teaching a class. Some of us take years to develop this skill. It doesn't come easy.
It's even more difficult if you are developing content as I have. Being able to visualize the flow and best possible methods for a given subject takes a lot of thinking too. This becomes far more complex when you design an entire training program that spans a few days or more. And the lesson plan is where you get started with it all.
That said, every time you take a class using these principles, it'll feel like a different training session, thanks to the active participation of your students.
What's more: you'll stand to learn a lot more from your students too and have a nice time while you are at it.