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Reimagining Lesson Plans for Classrooms

By G. Balasubramanian

Lesson plans have been one of the sacred duties of a teacher working in a school. The essentiality and the relevance of the lesson plans to the real-time teaching situations in the classroom have always been a matter of debate. Though theoretically no one would underplay its importance as an effective instrument for implementation of the pedagogy in a classroom, several of them treat it as a document for submission to their seniors to prove their truthfulness to their content and pedagogical deliveries. In many cases, the lesson plans prepared elsewhere and put on the web are copied entirely to different ecosystems least realizing the damage it could do, if followed – while no one denies the possibility of new learning the teachers could get while trying to understand the spirit of such documents The format of the lesson plans which have not undergone major changes over decades since the implementation of Bloom’s taxonomy covering cognitive, affective, and psycho-motor domains. The revised format of Bloom’s taxonomy does take cognizance of some current issues including the elements of analysis and creativity. Nevertheless, it appears that with the fast-changing knowledge dynamics and the tools for assimilation of knowledge and its processing, it leaves much to be desired.

Further, for decades the process of learning was unipolar, thanks to the industrial model ushered into the process of learning through schooling. Currently with technology playing a significant role and the access to information and skills through information gateways, there is a huge opportunity for self-learning and time-space free learning. These opportunities for informal learning have made the learner more vibrant, alert, agile and informed; hence the learning through classrooms conditioned to the pages of textual materials is becoming increasingly less important, less interesting, and non-motivating. All these and more, call for a fresh look and consideration to make the lesson plans more responsive and relevant to the dynamics of changes. The argument that technology is just an instrument and need not be taken seriously in the conceptual framework of a classroom delivery is not totally valid. Technology has impacted the power of the knowledge and its reach in its enabling validity, usability, and its role in making knowledge productive, innovative and creative.is undeniable. Therefore, there is a case for re-engineering the lesson plans contextualizing them to the emerging needs of a classroom which are larger than the scope, extent and contextuality of the content printed in any textbook.

The lesson plans need to be drawn keeping in view the geo-cultural context where it is being used apart from the diverse needs of social emotional, economic eco-systems in which they operate. While this flexibility needs to be granted both at the macro level and at the micro-level, it also needs to take care of some of the essential processes that need to be integrated in the classroom transaction. Some of these essentialities have already been listed in the National Policy of Education.

The normal architecture of a lesson plan includes content, pedagogical instruments, learning objectives and assessment indicators. Quite often teachers tend to reproduce the lesson plans they had authored in their previous years of work or get inputs from the web world least realizing the scope of their being implemented in their own classroom.

While I would not like to prescribe any design that is most valid for the reasons cited, I think some essential inputs that should go into the design of any lesson plan immaterial of the subject being handled are as under:

1. Experiential learning

The NEP has emphasized the need for experiential learning as vital to any discipline. Its role in triggering and promoting skills cannot be underplayed. It is important for any teacher to examine how every single concept that is being explained, illustrated, or expected to be learnt is associated with certain number of experiential inputs. Such inputs need not be designer-made or purchased on cost from external sources. Teachers need to understand that the experiences are linked to cognitive and affective level too apart from psychomotor domains. Emotional engagement with concepts often lends a fair opportunity to import experiences top the learners at least at the fundamental level. Further it needs to be understood including demonstrations, practical work in a lesson plan as components of experiential learning has only a limited purpose. It is vital to take the experiences beyond the classrooms to integrate the concepts with real time experiences in the external world so that the ability of the learner to use the power of knowledge becomes relevant significant and effective. To add, any thought that experiential learning is limited to subjects which have a science base is a mistake All subjects facilitate experiential learning.

2. Peer learning

Among the most popular theories of learning both constructivism and connectivism have played a significant role in the recent past. The fact that knowledge can be accessed by anyone however far one is or wherever be the location of learning has immense opportunities for both self-learning and collaborative learning. Social construction of knowledge plays a key role both in validation of knowledge and using it for newer perceptions for construction of new knowledge through collaborative efforts. Further, the reinforcement of knowledge and skills becomes more easy, stress-free and less time consuming through peer learning. Therefore, the teachers need to design the lesson plans with adequate opportunities for peer learning. Planning for peer learning to be incorporated into a lesson plan is indeed a demanding mental exercise for the teachers. They, in turn, can develop such activities through their own peer engagements.

3. Socio-emotional learning

Over the years, the focus of lesson plans has been to bring home conceptual clarity to the students to facilitate them with focused learning that would improve their achievement levels in each set of circumstances and in each cohort. This aspect of learning is vital to human development and cultural integration and appreciation. Social consciousness that brings home love, peace and cohabitation in diverse situations has been lost sight of with priorities leading to self-emancipation. The importance of education on human rights, gender sensitivities, social imbalances, right to justice and social emotional health are some vital issues that need to be brought home through brain storming, group discussions, debates, and other modes pedagogical interactions. Lesson plans should accommodate and enlist such dimensions of learning.

4. Critical thinking

The draft of lesson plans indicates and support top-down approach letting knowledge flow unidirectionally. Oftentimes such approaches advocate acceptance of knowledge inputs as they are and do not encourage questioning or re-examination/revalidation of knowledge in different situations. Further they inhibit critical and other forms of thinking and force the learner to play a second fiddle to established facts and myths. They call for support of institutionalized knowledge systems to create and force a followership. Evolution of knowledge and cultures do not occur such ways. Critical thinking is supported by development of a scientific temper, and mathematical and logical thinking. They should also trigger intelligent approaches to problem solving and the ability to reject pieces and practices of knowledge which are not authentic. Lesson plans, as advocated by NEP, should include opportunities for mathematical thinking and scientific temper with vibrant opportunities for challenging existing knowledge.

Re-engineering lesson plans to futuristic requirements would be an academic necessity for the future sensitive schooling. Educators, school administers, and pedagogues would do well if they can consider and put in place a format that suits their individual ecosystem, however keeping in mind the national and global sensitivities listed in the policy. Any delay in reconsidering this essential requirement would be an unimaginable loss to the health of the future schooling.