Lesson Design for Deeper Learning

2013-01-21_12-47-47_90 Mosque in Chico, CA

The striking difference between Lesson Plan versus Lesson Design is illustrated: As an undergraduate, my professor handily grasped his black binder of lecture notes (lesson plans) for each class, drearily reciting from it each day. After abysmally performing on his first test, I learned that he expected students to write notes of what he said verbatim, and then write back those exact words to him for answers on his exam. The absolute irony was that the course was titled “Learning Psychology,” and I don’t remember a thing!

Another professor from graduate studies tortured us the same way for a course in Learning Disabilities and Educational Law. Somewhat fortunately, I remembered from the previously described course to utilize 4×6 index cards for memorization, but what I recall most is that all the teachers in my cohort really hated the course (and him) because he relied on tricky multiple choice testing. Again, we probably chose to remember only the most relevant aspects, and would never want to pursue his content of our own initiative.

These instructors had lesson plans, but they did not reflect an inkling of understanding about their students’ needs, motivation, learning methods, or memory building tactics. In contrast, lesson design incorporates an understanding of all of these.

Educators should consider research-based aspects in their lesson design. Do be sure that students “know Why;” that is, do they understand the relevance and connect the learning to their previous knowledge? What can you do to design the lesson with their interests in mind? Can you incorporate some physical movement, rather than just sitting like stones in your class? Finally, ideally, can students actually DO something with the lesson content that demonstrates deeper understanding and acquisition of necessary skills to an acceptable degree of competency?

The “art” of instruction requires teachers to have mastery of their content, a repertoire of instructional methods that cultivate thinking and skills for students, and a degree of technology savvy in order to teach and track performance. As we quantify our students’ performances, so should teachers check on their own efficacy in matching teaching and lesson design to assessment results, with increasingly higher expectations cycled through modification and feedback.

Lesson Design
Simple Lesson Designs should feature
• Clear Learning Objectives
• Provides a Background Knowledge Base
• Teaches or Models
• Allows Guided Practice
• Checks for Understanding
• Independent Practice/ Assessment

Hopefully, the message is clear to recognize that any old patchwork of a lesson plan is grossly inferior to a well thought out lesson design. The preparation time is worth the investment because targeting procedures aligned with assessments yield vastly improved results in long term learning for our students.

As an update, ISNA has made the “Keeping Our Children Safe in School” webinar available. If you scroll back to my previous blog, you will see additional hyperlinks to it as well as a “motherlist” of crisis management resources.

This past Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend featured the ISNA Education Forum in Anaheim, CA, and it was a solid success! It was also very kind of Medina Academy of Anaheim to invite us, along with the other ISNA planning team members, to dinner after the conference. Thank you!

After that, Riad and I flew to San Francisco and drove north of Sacramento to Chico where we surveyed the area for a possible relocation. We really liked what we saw. It is home to Cal State-Chico, and seems very pleasant…even in January! Now we are seriously trying to find the way to make the logistics of hauling ourselves, our businesses, and four kids (some aren’t “kids” anymore) with us. InshaAllah, it is meant to be.

The Chicago based ISNA-CISNA Education Forum is slated, as always, for Easter weekend, March 29-31. ASCD will present a preconference on Common Core State Standards. See this link for program details. Several other projects (Ed Forum, creating customized PD presentations, drafting accreditation standards, accreditation visit, book collaboration, and cleaning my basement so I can move to Chico!) have me busy these days, but, the next post, we will delve into what it means to be “Educated” and High Performing Education Systems, inshaAllah!