Saturday, February 16, 2013

Plan Ahead: Effective Learning Design

Sometimes a spontaneous lesson direction is perfect and meets the needs of students with breadth and depth, but typically last minute lesson plans are not the best.

There's lots to think about as we design and plan learning endeavor for students, and there are many steps involved when it comes to that design, implementation, communication, revision and assessment.  The best learning endeavors are endeavors that are thoughtful and full-circle following Hattie's suggestion for moving students from unknowing to knowing by setting a responsive, success criteria, establishing strategies, revising as necessary, assessment and next steps.

Hence, to move systems and classrooms ahead, this is actually the time to think about next year.  Making plans and thinking about next year's teams, curriculum, schedule and supplies has the potential to optimize learning in the following ways:
  • time to connect and plan.
  • summer study, plan and organization.
  • optimized ordering processes (possibly saving money.)
  • a quick start to student services in the start of the new year.
  • curriculum assessment: what's working now and what needs to be changed to better effect student learning.
In a sense, the final months of school become a parallel platform.  On one hand educators are focused on the day-to-day efforts of implementing the current curriculum and meeting students' needs, and on the other hand they are looking ahead to better effect learning in the following year.

As educators look ahead, some of the issues they might think about include the following:
  • Roles and responsibilities: Do current roles and responsibilities best meet student needs. What are the direct service/planning ratios--could those ratios be changed so that more educators are spending more time in direct service to students in thoughtful, focused ways.
  • Scheduling: What scheduling efforts are working, and what scheduling efforts could be changed for the better.
  • Curriculum: Does the curriculum meet students' needs, interests and passions?  Is there room in the curriculum plan to teach well or are we rushing through units?  In what ways does the curriculum allow both apt skill building and project/problem base learning?  Where is there room for interdisciplinary and student-centered learning?
  • Communication: What are the best ways to communicate?  How does the communication stream work--who is in charge of what, and how will that be communicated in a timely manner?
  • Tools and Supplies: What tools are we currently using?  What tools and supplies do we need?  
  • Professional Development:  What areas are we well-versed in, and for what areas do we need greater professional development collectively or individually?  How will we meet these needs in-house, during the summer or out-of-house?
Traditionally, late August or September marks the start of the new year. The challenge with that is that once the year starts classroom teachers are mostly on task all the time with little time to think about, plan for or learn new strategies and schedules.  With a late spring start to the new year, there's a better chance that the new year will start with strength, and that initiatives will be implemented with care, full-circle attention and teacher voice--all attributes that provide the potential to teach children with greater effect.

How does your system plan ahead with care, team and communication?  How do you balance the efforts for today and tomorrow with intent, but not in overwhelming ways? In what ways do you include student and teacher voice in learning design and the evolution of ideas and action in schools today?  

Focused, thoughtful planning will direct the efforts of all educators towards meaningful attention to student learning and engagement, and also leave time to respond to unexpected events.  The best plans will acknowledge "success criteria," outline multiple paths, leave room for response and evolution, and prepare the learning environment (schedules, physical structure and organization) so that we can do our best work. 

Today is the time to start thinking about tomorrow while also teaching well in the present.  I believe this routine will create better effect in school systems.  What do you think?