Planning ahead to identify a course of action that can effectively reach goals and objectives is an important first step in any process, and education is no exception. In education, the planning tool is the lesson plan, which is a detailed description of an instructor’s course of instruction for an individual lesson intended to help learners achieve a particular learning objective. Lesson plans communicate to learners what they will learn and how they will be assessed, and they help instructors organize content, materials, time, instructional strategies, and assistance in the classroom. Lesson planning helps English as a second language (ESL), adult basic education (ABE), adult secondary education (ASE), and other instructors create a smooth instructional flow and scaffold instruction for learners.
The Lesson Planning Process
Before the actual delivery of a lesson, instructors engage in a planning process. During this process, they determine the lesson topic (if states have implemented content standards, the topic should derive from them). From the topic, derive the lesson objective or desired results—the concepts and ideas that learners are expected to develop and the specific knowledge and skills that learners are expected to acquire and use at the end of the lesson. Objectives are critical to effective instruction because they help instructors plan the instructional strategies and activities they will use, including the materials and resources to support learning. It is essential that the objective be clear and describe the intended learning outcome.
ABCD of Writing Objectives
Objectives can communicate to learners what is expected of them—but only if they are shared with learners in an accessible manner. Instructional objectives must be specific, outcome-based, and measurable, and they must describe learner behavior. Heinich, Molenda, Russell, and Smaldino (2001) refer to the ABCD’s of writing objectives:
Audience – learners for whom the objective is written (e.g., ESL, ABE, GED)
Behavior – the verb that describes what the audience will be able to do (e.g., describe, explain, locate, synthesize, argue, communicate)
Condition – the circumstances under which the audience will perform the behavior (e.g., when a learner obtains medicine from the pharmacy, he or she will be able to read the dosage)
Degree – acceptable performance of the behavior (i.e., how well the learner performs the behavior)
Learner assessment follows from the objectives
Learner assessment follows from the objectives. Based on the principles of backward design developed by Wiggins and McTighe (1998), instructors identify the lesson objective or desired results and then decide what they will accept as evidence of learners’ knowledge and skills. The concept of backward design holds that the instructor must begin with the end in mind (i.e., what the student should be able to know, understand, or do) and then map backward from the desired result to the current time and the students’ current ability/skill levels to determine the best way to reach the performance goal.