The popular saying goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.”
Planning is essential for a school teacher. Well planned lessons ensure that time and resources aren’t wasted and that students progress as they are supposed to. Every teacher education programme (such as a BEd) teaches teachers to plan their lessons. However, often when teachers find that the particular format they were taught isn’t applicable or helpful for their context, they may stop making lesson plans.
But there are various approaches to lesson planning. The three most popular approaches are — forward planning, central planning and backward planning. The different approaches to lesson planning differ in how they order the different elements of a lesson plan. And therefore, before looking at each of these approaches, we must first understand the different elements of a lesson plan.
Elements of lesson planning
The three important elements of lesson planning are — content, process, and outcome.
This is the most popular and common approach to lesson planning, especially in our Indian contexts. Forward planning begins with the content, then proceeds to the process and finally looks at the output. It is very linear in structure.
For most Indian contexts, the content is already provided in the form of the syllabus prescribed by the Board that the school belongs to (SSLC, ICSE, CBSE, etc.). The teacher takes the existing syllabus and first selects the topic or the chapter to teach. Then the teacher plans out the activities, explanations, and exercises that would help the student to understand the content. After the content and the process are finalized is when the teacher finally moves to planning the output. The teacher might prepare a test or a quiz to check whether the students have understood the content.
Forward planning is not the only available approach to lesson planning. Central planning is a non-linear approach that begins with the process. This is an approach that places the focus on students.
The teacher begins by considering what activity would engage the students and catch their interest. The teacher may also consider what is the current need for the students.
After the process is first determined, then the teacher plans out the content and the output based on the process. Let us take an example. A teacher who wants his/her students to collaborate with each other may first decide on the process — a group project. Then the teacher may find the content that would be appropriate for such an activity. Considering that the students could together on a group gardening project, the teacher may decide to use that activity to teach about ecosystems.
The teacher may then develop criteria for measuring the learning of the students. This could have a few criteria, such as how well the garden was maintained, whether there was equal participation of all members and a final viva or presentation where the students share what they learnt through the project. Thus, the teacher first decided the process, then moved on to the content and product.
The final major approach to planning is backward planning. In this approach, a lot of importance is given to the output. In fact, the backward planning approach begins with determining the learning needs of the students and formulating the learning objectives. After the learning objectives are formulated, appropriate content is selected, the optimal process is determined and assessment instruments are developed.
Let us once again take an example to understand backward planning. A teacher may decide beforehand that the students need to be able to develop a simple static webpage. That would be the output. Once the objective or the output is clearly expressed, the teacher then has to decide the best way to achieve this objective. This would include the content and the process.
For instance, the teacher may decide that the student would need to learn HTML and CSS to be able to develop a website. So the HTML and the CSS would be the content. And the process could be through a lecture using slides.
How do I use this in my classroom?
Knowledge of different approaches to lesson planning can help teachers be more intentional with their lessons. Not all subjects and environments would be conducive to all types of lesson planning. And so, if you experiment and try out different approaches, you may find out the best approach that suits your subject and your class. Remember, the best plan is the one you implement!