Building an excellent lesson

One of the many things I love about my school is that they are giving more CPD time to departments. Before we start the term 6 frenzy of lesson planning, I wanted to spend some time exploring what we felt would make an excellent lesson and to record our ideas so that we could explore how they changed over the year. 

We started with Prof. Rob Coe’s point on poor proxies for learning and the problem with not being able to see learning taking place and  the need, therefore, to have a clear idea about what methods or components of a lesson would be effective. We have to base these ideas on what works for pupil progress over time and not on observation. 

Dawn Cox (@MissDCox) shared an example of something she had found and used with her own department and I based our activity on that. I drew up a matrix based on two continuum – one from Effective to Not Effecitve and the other from Frequently to Never. I then created cards of things that could be part of a lesson – many of them things that observers had looked for in the past as well as ideas picked up from Twitter, blogs and books.  In hindsight there is some confusion over aspects of a curriculum and aspects of a lesson and the former would have made a useful separate activity for another time. 

We sat around together and discussed each in turn before deciding whether, firstly, it was effective and secondly whether it was something we often did. I tried not to get too involved in making the decisions as I wanted to get a feel for their ideas and for where there were differing opinions. The discussions that were triggered by the activity were very useful as everyone shared what was working for them and, more importantly, what wasn’t. 

This is what we ended up with.

I am not quite sure what it tells us but my initial thoughts are;

  • At heart we are quite “traditional” in our approach to teaching and we all seemed to have that in common. 
  • We don’t find project based learning very effective and find discovery learning inefficient. 
  • We don’t tend to do the things that we don’t think work – we teach like nobody’s watching. 
  • We think that many things can be somewhat effective but are still looking for what is most effective. 
  • There are many things that we agree are effective but are not doing.

At the end of the activity one person in the department asked if my own version of the grid would look very different and I suspect it would. In fact I think if we had all done it separately first we may have got very different results. 

If I were going to do something similar again I would go for fewer items that were more carefully defined and would do it as an individual task first – perhaps as a rating from 1 – 10 on a survey. It would have been an excellent activity when meeting a team for the first time and it is going to be fascinating to see how the department’s view changes over the next year as we continue to research effective and efficient practice. 


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