Monday, August 17, 2015

HOW TO PLAN EFFECTIVE LESSONS (PART TWO C – STUDENTS WILL BE ABLE TO)

Once we have established what we want our students to learn and the path we want them to take, the next step will be to establish evidence of learning – what we would need to see in order for us to be convinced that the learning has successfully taken place.

To this end, it is important to be very deliberate about ensuring that what we want to see from our students matches the Key Learning that we want them to acquire.

‘Students will be able to’ – Evidence of Learning
If we go back to the story of my teacher and the suffix ~able, his desired student outcome was probably for his students to be able to complete the worksheet. However, he did not check to see if completing the worksheet actually helped his students acquire the intended Key Learning. So how do we do this?

We first determine if the Key Learning is knowledge or a skill. Then we craft an outcome that is tangible and measurable.

If the Key Learning is knowledge, we should find ways to showcase that knowledge, either by allowing for a presentation of the information acquired, or by allowing for the knowledge to be applied to different scenarios. The latter is preferred as it gives our children an additional avenue to see relevance of their learning in their lives and therefore increases the possibility that it will be committed to their long term memory.

But if the Key Learning is a skill, then we should find ways for the skill to be performed. Knowledge and skill are mutually exclusive entities and we should not mistake one for the other.

Here is an illustration.

Study Fig. 1 and answer the question that follows.

Food Consumption graph

Fig. 1 Food Consumption in Japan, USA and China

Question: Describe the changes in food consumption between 1990 & 2005.

This question checks for the student's ability to describe a graph, essentially the performance of a skill. So if used to compliment a lesson where the answering skills to Data Response questions was being taught, it would work perfectly.

However, if used in a lesson where the teacher wanted to check if students understood the reasons why food consumption varies from country to country, essentially knowledge, the command word will have to be changed from ‘describe’ to ‘explain’. This would then require the students to produce reasons for the phenomena, which should reflect the extent to which the knowledge was acquired.

Once we have established the nature of the desired product, we can then craft the student outcome.

When phrasing the desired student outcome, we should take care to express it with tangible and measurable terms like ‘complete the worksheet’, ‘give 3 examples of volcanoes’, ‘state the steps to bake a cake.’. We should avoid intangible terms like ‘understand’ and ‘know’. The more tangible and quantifiable the product is, the easier it will be to assess the success of learning.

Here is a simple illustration.
‘Students will understand why volcanoes erupt.’
‘Students will be able to describe the eruption process.’
Here are 2 statements pointing to the exact same knowledge, but it is much easier to determine the success of the latter.

One added advantage of making your student outcomes tangible and measurable is that your activities become much easier to plan.

When planning lessons, many of the teachers that I work with start by selecting the activity to be used in the lesson. Many neglect to establish the Key Learning nor do they chart out the course which they would like to take the students on, before deciding what tools they would like to use to help them on that journey. The end result is an activity, or a series of activities, that achieve little learning.

Through this discussion, I hope you see the importance of identifying the desired results we would like to see from our students BEFORE we look at activities. As long as you take deliberate action to understand your audience and then purposefully set out your desired goals, pathways and performance from the students, you will be able to construct effective and meaningful learning experiences for your students that will reside in their long term memory.

Next up: Using Assignments and Assessments

Jump ahead to Enduring Understandings
Jump ahead to Essential Questions
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