A lesson plan is the instructor’s road map of what students need to learn and how it will be done effectively during the class time. Then, you can design appropriate learning activities and develop strategies to obtain feedback on student learning. Having a carefully constructed lesson plan for each 3-hour lesson allows you to enter the classroom with more confidence and maximizes your chance of having a meaningful learning experience with your students.
A successful lesson plan addresses and integrates three key components:
- Learning Objectives
- Learning activities
- Assessment to check for student understanding
A lesson plan provides you with a general outline of your teaching goals, learning objectives, and means to accomplish them, and is by no means exhaustive. A productive lesson is not one in which everything goes exactly as planned, but one in which both students and instructor learn from each other. You may refer to an example of a 3 hour lesson plan here.
Before Class: Steps for preparing a lesson plan
Listed below are 6 steps for preparing your lesson plan before your class.
1. Identify the learning objectives
Before you plan your lesson, you will first need to identify the learning objectives for the lesson. A learning objective describes what the learner will know or be able to do after the learning experience rather than what the learner will be exposed to during the instruction (i.e. topics). Typically, it is written in a language that is easily understood by students and clearly related to the program learning outcomes. The table below contains the characteristics of clear learning objectives:
|Clearly stated tasks||Free from jargon and complex vocabulary; describe specific and achievable tasks (such as ‘describe’, ‘analyse’ or ‘evaluate’) NOT vague tasks (like ‘appreciate’, ‘understand’ or ‘explore’).|
|Important learning goals||Describe the essential (rather than trivial) learning in the course which a student must achieve.|
|Achievable||Can be achieved within the given period and sufficient resources are available.|
|Demonstrable and measurable||Can be demonstrated in a tangible way; are assessable; achievement and quality of achievement can be observed.|
|Fair and equitable||All students, including those with disabilities or constraints, have a fair chance of achieving them.|
|Linked to course and program objectives||Consider the broader goals - i.e. course, program and institutional goals.|
The Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (link) is a useful resource for crafting learning objectives that are demonstrable and measurable.
2. Plan the specific learning activities
When planning learning activities you should consider the types of activities students will need to engage in, in order to develop the skills and knowledge required to demonstrate effective learning in the course. Learning activities should be directly related to the learning objectives of the course, and provide experiences that will enable students to engage in, practice, and gain feedback on specific progress towards those objectives.
As you plan your learning activities, estimate how much time you will spend on each. Build in time for extended explanation or discussion, but also be prepared to move on quickly to different applications or problems, and to identify strategies that check for understanding. Some questions to think about as you design the learning activities you will use are:
- What will I do to explain the topic?
- What will I do to illustrate the topic in a different way?
- How can I engage students in the topic?
- What are some relevant real-life examples, analogies, or situations that can help students understand the topic?
- What will students need to do to help them understand the topic better?
Many activities can be used to engage learners. The activity types (i.e. what the student is doing) and their examples provided below are by no means an exhaustive list, but will help you in thinking through how best to design and deliver high impact learning experiences for your students in a typical lesson.
|Activity Type||Learning Activity||Description|
|Interaction with content
Students are more likely to retain information presented in these ways if they are asked to interact with the material in some way.
|Drill and practice||Problem/task is presented to students where they are asked to provide the answer; may be timed or untimed|
|Lecture||Convey concepts verbally, often with visual aids (e.g. presentation slides)|
|Quiz||Exercise to assess the level of student understanding and questions can take many forms, e.g. multiple-choice, short-structured, essay etc.|
|Student presentation||Oral report where students share their research on a topic and take on a position and/or role|
|Interaction with digital content
Students experiment with decision making, and visualise the effects and/or consequences in virtual environments
|Game||Goal-oriented exercise that encourages collaboration and/or competition within a controlled virtual environment|
|Simulation||Replica or representation of a real-world phenomenon that enables relationships, contexts, and concepts to be studied|
|Interaction with others
Peer relationships, informal support structures, and teacher-student interactions/relationships
|Debate||Verbal activity in which two or more differing viewpoints on a subject are presented and argued|
|Discussion||Formal/informal conversation on a given topic/question where the instructor facilitates student sharing of responses to the questions, and building upon those responses|
|Feedback||Information provided by the instructor and/or peer(s) regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding|
|Guest Speaker||Feelings, thoughts, ideas and experiences specific to a given topic are shared by an invited presenter|
|Problem solving and Critical thinking
Presenting students with a problem, scenario, case, challenge or design issue, which they are then asked to address or deal with provides students with opportunities to think about or use knowledge and information in new and different ways
|Case Study||Detailed story (true or fictional) that students analyse in detail to identify the underlying principles, practices, or lessons it contains|
|Concept Mapping||Graphical representation of related information in which common or shared concepts are linked together|
|Real-world projects||Planned set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period and within certain cost and other limitations, either individually or collaboratively|
The process of reflection starts with the student thinking about what they already know and have experienced in relation to the topic being explored/learnt. This is followed by analysis of why the student thinks about the topic in the way they do, and what assumptions, attitudes and beliefs they have about, and bring to learning about the topic.
|Reflection journal||Written records of students’ intellectual and emotional reactions to a given topic on a regular basis (e.g. weekly after each lesson)|
It is important that each learning activity in the lesson must be (1) aligned to the lesson’s learning objectives, (2) meaningfully engage students in active, constructive, authentic, and collaborative ways, and (3) useful where the student is able to take what they have learnt from engaging with the activity and use it in another context, or for another purpose.
3. Plan to assess student understanding
Assessments (e.g., tests, papers, problem sets, performances) provide opportunities for students to demonstrate and practice the knowledge and skills articulated in the learning objectives, and for instructors to offer targeted feedback that can guide further learning.
Planning for assessment allows you to find out whether your students are learning. It involves making decisions about:
- the number and type of assessment tasks that will best enable students to demonstrate learning objectives for the lesson
- Examples of different assessments
- Formative and/or summative
- the criteria and standards that will be used to make assessment judgements
- student roles in the assessment process
- Peer assessment
- the weighting of individual assessment tasks and the method by which individual task judgements will be combined into a final grade for the course
- information about how various tasks are to be weighted and combined into an overall grade must be provided to students
- the provision of feedback
- giving feedback to students on how to improve their learning, as well as giving feedback to instructors how to refine their teaching
To learn more about designing assessment, click here.
4. Plan to sequence the lesson in an engaging and meaningful manner
Robert Gagne proposed a nine-step process called the events of instruction, which is useful for planning the sequence of your lesson. Using Gagne’s 9 events in conjunction with Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (link) aids in designing engaging and meaningful instruction.
- Gain attention: Obtain students’ attention so that they will watch and listen while the instructor presents the learning content.
- Present a story or a problem to be solved
- Utilize ice breaker activities, current news and events, case studies, YouTube videos, and so on. The objective is to quickly grab student attention and interest in the topic
- Utilize technologies such as clickers, and surveys to ask leading questions prior to lecture, survey opinion, or gain a response to a controversial question
- Inform learner of objectives: Allow students to organize their thoughts regarding what they are about to see, hear, and/or do.
- Include learning objectives in lecture slides, the syllabus, and in instructions for activities, projects and papers
- Describe required performance
- Describe criteria for standard performance
- Stimulate recall of prior knowledge:
- Help students make sense of new information by relating it to something they already know or something they have already experienced.
- Recall events from previous lecture, integrate results of activities into the current topic, and/or relate previous information to the current topic
- Ask students about their understanding of previous concepts
- Present new content: Utilise a variety of methods including lecture, readings, activities, projects, multimedia, and others.
- Sequence and chunk the information to avoid cognitive overload
- Blend the information to aid in information recall
- Bloom's Revised Taxonomy can be used to help sequence the lesson by helping you chunk them into levels of difficulty.
- Provide guidance: Advise students of strategies to aid them in learning content and of resources available. With learning guidance, the rate of learning increases because students are less likely to lose time or become frustrated by basing performance on incorrect facts or poorly understood concepts.
- Provide instructional support as needed – as scaffolds (cues, hints, prompts) which can be removed after the student learns the task or content
- Model varied learning strategies – mnemonics, concept mapping, role playing, visualizing
- Use examples and non-examples
To find out more about scaffolding student learning, click here
- Practice: Allow students to apply knowledge and skills learned.
- Allow students to apply knowledge in group or individual activities
- Ask deep-learning questions, make reference to what students already know or have students collaborate with their peers
- Ask students to recite, revisit, or reiterate information they have learned
- Facilitate student elaborations – ask students to elaborate or explain details and provide more complexity to their responses
- Provide feedback: Provide immediate feedback of students’ performance to assess and facilitate learning.
- Consider using group / class level feedback (highlighting common errors, give examples or models of target performance, show students what you do not want)
- Consider implementing peer feedback
- Require students to specify how they used feedback in subsequent works
- Assess performance: To evaluate the effectiveness of the instructional events, test to see if the expected learning outcomes have been achieved. Performance should be based on previously stated objectives.
- Utilise a variety of assessment methods including exams/quizzes, written assignments, projects, and so on.
- Enhance retention and transfer: Allow students to apply information to personal contexts. This increases retention by personalising information.
- Provide opportunities for students to relate course work to their personal experiences
- Provide additional practice
5. Create a realistic timeline
A list of ten learning objectives is not realistic, so narrow down your list to the two or three key concepts, ideas, or skills you want students to learn in the lesson. Your list of prioritized learning objectives will help you make decisions on the spot and adjust your lesson plan as needed. Here are some strategies for creating a realistic timeline:
- Estimate how much time each of the activities will take, then plan some extra time for each
- When you prepare your lesson plan, next to each activity indicate how much time you expect it will take
- Plan a few minutes at the end of class to answer any remaining questions and to sum up key points
- Plan an extra activity or discussion question in case you have time left
- Be flexible – be ready to adjust your lesson plan to students’ needs and focus on what seems to be more productive rather than sticking to your original plan
6. Plan for a lesson closure
Lesson closure provides an opportunity to solidify student learning. Lesson closure is useful for both instructors and students.
You can use closure to:
- Check for student understanding and inform subsequent instruction (adjust your teaching accordingly)
- Emphasise key information
- Tie up loose ends
- Correct students’ misunderstandings
- Preview upcoming topics
Your students will find your closure helpful for:
- Summarizing, reviewing, and demonstrating their understanding of major points
- Consolidating and internalising key information
- Linking lesson ideas to a conceptual framework and/or previously-learned knowledge
- Transferring ideas to new situations
There are several ways in which you can put a closure to the lesson:
- state the main points yourself (“Today we talked about…”)
- ask a student to help you summarize them
- ask all students to write down on a piece of paper what they think were the main points of the lesson
During the class: Presenting your lesson plan
Letting your students know what they will be learning and doing in class will help keep them more engaged and on track. Providing a meaningful organisation of the class time can help students not only remember better, but also follow your presentation and understand the rationale behind the planned learning activities. You can share your lesson plan by writing a brief agenda on the whiteboard or telling students explicitly what they will be learning and doing in class. Click on link here for tips and techniques to facilitate an interactive lesson.
After the class: Reflecting on your lesson plan
Take a few minutes after each class to reflect on what worked well and why, and what you could have done differently. Identifying successful and less successful organization of class time and activities would make it easier to adjust to the contingencies of the classroom. If needed, revise the lesson plan.
- Ambrose, S., Bridges, M., Lovett, M., DiPietro, M., & Norman, M. (2010). How learning works: 7 research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
- EDUCAUSE (2005). Potential Learning Activities. Retrieved April 7 2017, from EDUCAUSE website: https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/NLI0547B.pdf.
- Fink, D. L. (2005). Integrated course design. Manhattan, KS: The IDEA Center. Retrieved from http://ideaedu.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Idea_Paper_42.pdf.
- Gagne, R. M., Wager, W.W., Golas, K. C. & Keller, J. M (2005). Principles of Instructional Design (5th edition). California: Wadsworth.
- Gredler, M. E. (2004). Games and simulations and their relationships to learning. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.), Handbook of research for educational communications and technology (2nd ed., pp. 571-82). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Richardson, J.C., & Swan. K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students' perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks 7(1), 68-88.
- Schuell, T.J. (1986). Cognitive conceptions of learning. Review of Educational Research, 56, 411-436.