This one’s for all of you pracademics out there – teachers, tutors, lecturers, workshop facilitators – who don’t have a go-to lesson plan yet. By this, I mean a basic plan for learning that works for all teaching situations, no matter the discipline, unit, classroom, audience, or specific learning outcome/s. This is particularly important for those of us called on to teach in classes, units and across areas of expertise, that are not necessarily our own.
Like many of us who teach at university, Phil Duncan, Aboriginal Cultural Training Coordinator, doesn’t have a degree in teaching. But he has an abundance of experience in teaching, training, and communication, as aptly demonstrated in the Aboriginal Cultural Safety Training workshop he recently led for the Learning Innovation Hub.
Phil’s lesson plan below, which doubled as the workshop agenda, has all the elements of a practical lesson plan that works anywhere, anytime.
- Welcome and acknowledgement – Always welcome those present, because you are the ‘host’ in this learning space, and hosts welcome people. Relatedly, acknowledge those who are here now and those who have gone before.
- Ground rules – Try to take the time, particularly in the first class and in longer workshops, to discuss and agree on ground rules and/or expectations, with the group, and for the session. Dedicating even a little time everybody getting on the same page saves hassle down the track.
- Introductions – Introductions are a key component of every class. Every. Single. Class. If you’re not introducing yourself and the rest of the group to each other in that first class, you’re introducing ideas, concepts and issues. So it’s worth thinking about how to do introductions – for people and ideas – well.
- Definitions – I’d (happily) argue that definitions, like introductions, are a key component of every class. Again, it’s a matter of getting everyone on the same page, before exploring concepts further.
- Group learning activities – Plan these to allow for maximum coverage. By this I mean, work towards everyone in the group participating and engaging in some way, whether in smaller groups, or together with the whole group. Also – plan these to make sure you’re not doing all of the talking / typing / demonstrating / applying at the group all of the time, which nobody wants, but is what always happens when there are no other planned activities.
- Use a range of media – Plan different uses of media to allow people switch gears, particularly in longer, face to face sessions. (Confession: as soon as a video comes on in a class, no matter the content, my brain goes into Couch Potato Mode. Luckily, my brain can still learn in this mode, honed from years (decades) of the rest of its body sitting on the couch with laptop, erm, on its lap.)
- Break/s – Wherever possible and feasible, because when are these not a good and useful thing?
- Food/s – see 7.
- Action plans – Otherwise known as where to from here? Letting people know what’s coming next is a given in any class room but Phil’s plan went that bit further in asking learners what they want to do next: what they can and will commit to (and what they won’t) as a result of be-ing and participating in that session. It’s a vital part of meaning-making, which is essential to learning.
- Content – Otherwise known as the subject matter, the substance, the point/s of the class, the why-we’re-all-here. It’s what’s going to be poured into the vessel that is the lesson plan so you want to make sure that your go-to lesson plan vewwel fits different occasions and different types of beverages. Think sturdy, handled mug, rather than delicate champagne flute.
I wanted to end on that bubbly note but there is, however, one more thing to the go-to lesson plan that is essential (and that also ruins my neat 10 point plan to lesson plans!)
11. Close well – It’s neat; it’s provides – well, closure; and it marks the end of one stage of this particular learning (and teaching) journey and the beginning of another. A good host knows how to welcome but an excellent host knows how to gracefully send guests on their way, feeling well-provisioned and satisfied and that they would like to come again, and not just because they have to.