Developing lesson plans should be based on accomplishing student learning objectives

You can develop a well-thought-out course syllabus but the class-by-class meetings (or the lesson-by-lesson development of an online course) are what is going to determine the effectiveness of the students’ learning experience.

Here’s where the lesson plan comes into play.

The lesson plan lets you map out an approach to meeting the learning outcomes for each class meeting.

Lesson plans can take a number of approaches – from a list of questions to guide the class discussion to PowerPoint slides to present information. But the foundation of the lesson plan should be student learning.

It can be tempting to take the approach of structuring a lesson based on covering the content in a particular chapter or explaining a concept. But the key for you as the teacher is to determine: What is it that the student should be able to do/think/know?

Once you’ve determined that, you want to plan a lesson that makes that learning happen.

So start with the student learning objectives. List those for each class. You may have one to four objectives per class meeting. Fewer if the objective is more complex, more objectives if the concepts are easier.

Once you’ve determined the learning objectives for a particular class meeting, you will develop a plan to make that happen.

Two of my favorite educational leaders who have studied effective instruction are Madeline Hunter and Robert Gagné. Penn State has a useful website on lesson planning that briefly explains each of their approaches to structuring lesson plans.

Gagné’s Events of Instruction
Madeline Hunter’s Seven-Step Lesson Plan

What both of those models provide is a template for structuring a lesson. Both take the approach of:

  • Getting students interested in what is to be learned
  • Reviewing previous learning
  • Presenting the learning
  • Having students practice with new learning
  • Assessing learning
  • Providing students with feedback on their learning

You won’t include all of those components in every lesson. But both Gagné’s and Hunter’s approaches to structuring learning are good reminders of why the approach of teaching for a month before providing students any opportunity to demonstrate what they are learning isn’t as effective a learning approach as providing students with regular and on-going opportunities to demonstrate learning and receive feedback.

Using their models to planning a lesson makes for a much more student-learning-driven approach than just opening up PowerPoint and creating slides (even good slides).

In class, we’ll talk about different approaches to creating lesson plans.


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