Monday, August 17, 2015


In order to put together an effective lesson which promotes effective learning, we must begin with the end in mind and distill the purpose of our teaching. Why should our students give us their time? What is so important about this topic that they really need to know? How will it enrich their lives? The plan has to be conscious and deliberate in answering these questions, in order to ensure that the learning experience is meaningful and rewarding.

To this end, the concept of Enduring Understandings from Wiggins and McTighe gives us a useful starting point.

The Key Learning, or Enduring Understanding, has to be knowledge that is relevant and will stay relevant to the student long after they have left the classroom. How the learning is delivered, reinforced and assessed, must deliberately, consciously and purposefully, bring the student to the intended Key Learning.

After establishing the Key Learning, we then select the assignment which best allows the student to practice the skills learnt or apply the knowledge taught. It could be work done away from or in the classroom. It could be collaborative or done alone. Regardless, it has to allow a measurable performance of the knowledge or skill.

At the same time, we need to know that learning has effectively taken place. To achieve this, we need to be very clear about what has been taught. If it is a skill, the assessment must provide a platform to perform that skill. If it is content, the assessment must provide a platform that showcases the knowledge acquired.

Once we know what assignment and assessment we want to use, we can then select the activity which best allows for these to take place. Note that this is done only AFTER deciding what to teach, how to reinforce and how to assess. The activity chosen can allow for knowledge to be discovered or teacher delivered. Regardless of the form, the learning goals should determine the learning activity; the activity should never dictate the learning.

Finally, we need to make sense of the information derived from the assessment to help inform on the learning that has taken place. How do we know if the student ended up with the desired Key Learning? What does a score of 50 in a 100 mark test mean? Only by making sense of the results can we be sure that the learning has been accomplished.

In the end, teaching cannot be incidental. Students need to learn in a deliberate manner, receiving explicitly the value of what they are learning, seeing that their learning is meaningful to them. Only by so doing can their learning experiences be effective.

So what have you learnt? Has this experience been meaningful? Has your learning been effective?

Next up: The Plan

Understanding Education

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