There are two separate lesson-planning philosophies from which instructors may choose, and which can yield some very different results. One of these philosophies asserts that the instructional time should flow freely, without the inhibition caused by strict lesson planning. Proponents of this methodology assert that lesson planning restricts the creative energy of the learning process, and thus should be avoided.
The second philosophy, in direct contrast to the first, maintains that well-planned lessons are instrumental in effective instruction. According to this school of thought, implementation and utilization of effective lesson-planning is a key component to a learning environment that is functional, informative, and stimulating to the students’ reception and retention of knowledge.
In order to fairly assess the merits of either philosophy, it would be necessary to check the facts and the lesson’s goals. However, for the limited scope of our online eLearning approach, it can be safely assumed that only the second approach is going to provide the desired results.
In e-Learning, failing to plan is planning to fail
As the modern-day proverb says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”, and this is exemplified and underscored in the realm of instructing others. Regardless of whether the classroom environment is a small group study, an eLearning website, or a formal classroom, the period of time devoted to this instruction is a segment of time that the students have set aside for learning the subject matter.
The instructor’s planning, or lack thereof, may very well determine whether the student’s investment of time has been useful, or wasted.
There are distinct advantages to well-planned lessons, including (but not limited to):
- It helps the instructor to stay focused on the objective, which is that which he/she wishes for the students to gain from the lesson.
- It helps the instructor to be adequately equipped for the unexpected. For instance, a classroom teacher with good lesson plans in place is prepared in the event that unforeseen circumstances mandate that he or she be absent from teaching on a particular day. A substitute teacher would be able to step in and teach the material as planned, keeping the learning momentum in motion.
- It provides a foundation – something to which the instructor can refer to when distractions arise, to stay on target.
- It fosters an aura of professionalism and credibility in the instructor. It is difficult to take subject matter seriously if the instructor obviously does not.
Five Components To An Effective Lesson Plan
In order to prepare effectively for a well-planned lesson, there are five tried-and-true components that should be carefully incorporated into the process:
Each component is described in greater detail below.
It is very important that the manner in which the material is covered is done in a way that will meet the different learning styles of the students. Some students receive and retain information better in a visual environment, while others do better with printed data. Some students are amateur theorists, while others may lean toward the pragmatic. The lesson plans should speak to all learning styles.
The well-planned lesson follows a logical path, or is coherent. It provides a smooth transition between subject matter in the class by such methods as using an activity at the end of the instructional segment of the class. Such activity can be used to reinforce what was just learned, and provide the basis for moving to the next topic.
The well-planned lesson also provides a good balance between instruction, classroom discussion, and activities that support the subject matter being taught. These items must be well-balanced in order for the students to receive the correct amount of each, and thus enjoy better retention of material learned.
There are two areas in which the well-planned lesson must have flexibility:
a. It must allow for more than one technique of instruction, and not rely solely upon a single method;
b. It must allow for a change to the plan in the event that it is deemed necessary.
In planning lessons, instructors should take into account that their students are intelligent people who bring a certain level of prior knowledge to the class. In order for the learning process to function, the instructor must present new information that is advanced beyond the students’ prior level of knowledge.
The lesson will not motivate if it does not challenge. Yet, this requires quite a balancing act, because it’s easy to fall on the other side and make the learning curve too steep.
Putting It All Together
As shown above, devoting the time and energy into well-planned lessons does not need to make the instructional time dull, boring, and lifeless. Quite to the contrary, a well-planned lesson can provide spark, energy, and pique the interest, attention, and knowledge retention of the students. Plus, the instructor has something solid that he/she can use for future reference if the need arises.