So, my class went really bad, and the students hardly participated in the planned activities. The thing that irritates me is not why students didn’t engage with the planned activities. Instead, this catastrophe happened now after spending more than a year teaching online classes. While reflecting on this class, at least clarifies one thing that a successful lesson plan, especially for online classes, requires more than the pedagogical and technological strategies that include a consistent course design that enables students to engage and make meaning out of the taught content.
In synchronous or real-time class setup, students travel through class materials and activities with the help of their instructor’s real-time guidance. The Learning Management Systems (LMSs) do little to help apart from disseminating the tasks and activities to the larger student’s strength. These platforms have great potential to facilitate interaction and learning, but they are not insightful environments yet. To make sure that students learn about facts and make the meaning out of the facts, the teacher needs to assess their knowledge during the classes. Therefore a lesson plan must resonate with how and what a teacher will be assessing their students’ knowledge. This process requires a framework or a model to help us to create equitable online classes.
One of such frameworks that teachers and schools, including me, widely use in their curriculum planning is the ‘backward design framework’ or Understanding by Design (UBD). The UBD model was introduced by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins in 1998. The design describes an intentional course planning process ‘whereby we consider what we need our students to know and be able to do by the end of our class, then work backwards from there to plan assignments, tests, activities, and assessment materials to help students reach the desired destination.’
This is where, I believe, my lesson plan failed me when I design activities keeping only the content that needs to be transferred in mind instead of thinking of the ‘student learning evidence – how students make meaning out of that content’.
I reviewed the course materials (curriculum). I set the learning objectives for the class accordingly, which makes me to planned one breakout room (BORs) task before the break and one after the break where students interact with the content and connect their learning with their personal experiences (personalisation). What I observed in the BORs activities works like a charm before the break. But the BORs failed after the break as students were tired and unable to cope with the instructions. Instead, the activities after the break should include the knowledge assessment tasks like students’ personalisations where they can apply their pre-break learning to a real-world or with their self-experiences. In this way, they might be able to explain the reasoning of their application. For example, I might have asked students to explain a historical event (crusades) from different perspectives in history. The views can be contemporary and their own as well.
Instead of doing this, I bulk my post-break time with another BOR activity that didn’t go well.
- keep the audience in mind while planning activities like the context and the background of the students
- Keep the activities precise with some prompts. This will let students go into enquiry mode and helps them to explore multiple perspectives of the topic
- Include one personalisation task at the end of the lesson, re-emphasising the topic learnings.