Assistant Director, General Education
Faculty Member, Center for Teaching and Learning
Plans change, but preparing for class using a lesson plan helps you stay focused on the goals and gives you a toolbox of activities and assessments to draw from while you help students learn.
An effective lesson plan aligns all of the following:
1. learning objectives
3. checks for understanding (assessments)
We believe that a lesson plan serves as an initial map of ways to achieve desired learning outcomes. Using the syllabus course outcome(s) that are to be addressed, determine the overall goal of for your class meeting. Then come up with specific objectives for the day activities intended to accomplish these objectives, and checks for understanding. As you check for understanding during class, it is normal (and often expected) that you adjust the plan depending on the progress of your students. Nevertheless, with a lesson plan you will have a clear idea of what you want students to learn, how you will know that they are learning, and several ways you can get them there.
Here is a simple step-by-step guide to one approach you could use, from the University of Michigan. It also includes many helpful questions to consider as you plan:
Determining Learning Objectives
- What? A learning objective states what students should be able to do as a result of the learning experience. They are targeted to specific aspects of the learning.
- Why? Clear learning objectives help both instructors and learners. They help instructors keep the activities and assessments focused on the goals. Learners benefit by having a clear picture of what they need to do.
- How? Learning objectives should be S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Attainable, Relevant and Results-oriented, and Time-bound.
The following video explains these criteria in detail. Creating Learning Objectives (John Cline):
Keep your activities focused on the student-centered learning objectives. Here are a few techniques and principles known to create effective learning experiences. We discuss them in greater detail in the Teaching Methods section.
- active learning
- direct vs. guided instruction
- considering situational factors (and real-world contexts, career-related topics)
Checking for Understanding
As you will likely agree, we cannot be sure that students are learning unless we check for understanding. This step is essential for learning because when we do “formative assessments” (formal or informal checks for understanding), we find out if students really “get it” so that we can give feedback and adjust our teaching.
Check out this video, as thought leader Rick Wormeli explains the importance of formative assessment and why learning cannot happen without it.
The General Education department has created a template that instructors can use to help in class planning. Download it here (use your O365 credentials).
Bloom’s Polygon provides suggestions for verbs as they relate to categories of student learning, which helps to keep outcomes student-centered. It can help you write measurable objectives that align with learning goals, as well as create relevant assessments.
Click to download a printable copy, available from St. Edward's University.
The following interactive tool from West Virginia University.