The Many Faces of Lesson Planning: Part 2 of 2

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In part 1 of this blog, I provided some of the context to why it is important for beginning teachers (those engaged in ITE programmes, NQTs and RQTs), engage in the lesson planning process.  In this second part I will unpack the ways in which we try to take a middle way to the lesson planning/ workload conundrum, and explore a few of the ‘many faces’ of lesson planning we, along with our partnership mentors, support our student teachers to experience and adopt during their training year. 

Our rationale for the preparation of beginning history teachers is the focus of our approach, rather than our concern for the immediate outcome of getting the student teacher to be effective as quickly as possible in managing the classroom and ‘delivering’ subject knowledge.  This approach takes time, and it requires patience on the part of supporting colleagues as the beginning teacher develops into an independent, critically engaged and practically competent professional thinker. It also demands a range of approaches to balance learning from experts, learning through experience and managing workload.

The many faces of lesson planning

  • Teaching ‘off the shelf’ plans.  To support workload and to ‘model’ approaches to structuring lessons and placing learning in effective sequences, there will always be a place for trainees to draw upon and use established schemes of work.  With this approach though, comes the need for the student to adopt and ‘own’ the lesson for themselves.  Beginning teachers need to get their head around the rationale of the lesson creator and to understand how the lesson contributes to the big picture of the enquiry and the development of substantive and second-order concepts over the unit and over the entire programme of study. If they do not engage at this level they need to be supported to understand the limitations this poses for developing the ‘map’ of pupils’ deep historical understanding. It is important they are guided away from simply viewing the PowerPoint as an expedient ‘sat nav’ to get them through the next hour of teaching.
  • Joint planning with experienced colleagues.   It is a real privilege for beginning teachers to have their mentor spend time modelling the careful thought processes and professional wrestling (to borrow a phrase!) required in planning effective historical enquiries and the individual lessons of which they are comprised.  It is also a good way for trainees to see practically where ‘short cuts’ can be taken, and pitfalls avoided as they learn from the expertise of an experienced colleague.
  • Planning for someone else so you can see the plan in action.  I am never more aware of my own mistakes or misapprehensions than when my own thought processes are being reflected back to me by someone else.  The process of super-externalisation – creating a plan for someone else to teach before observing your own plan in action – is incredibly useful for any teacher.  Beginning teachers especially benefit from the opportunity to evaluate their planning processes without the added complication of reflecting on their own classroom performance.  
  • Planning using established resources, but not plans. Established resources such as activities on the shared departmental workspace, textbooks, HA teaching resources or activities from Thinking History, for example, can cut down workload considerably.  If supported effectively by the teacher educator to move beyond treating lessons as an hour to be filled with activity, utilising resources without their original plan forces the student teacher to develop their own historical rationale.  It helps them to identify how individual activities create a sense of purpose and direction in building historical understanding throughout a lesson.
  • Reflective Planning. Planning, teaching, reflecting and immediately re-planning for teaching to a second class is a very useful tool for beginning teachers.  It allows them to engage in the reflective planning cycle immediately and to consider the difference between designing a scheme of work and planning for the variation in approach required to tailor specific plans to the individuals you teach.  It helps them to distinguish between the what and the how and understand the interplay of pedagogy and practice.
  • Planning from ‘scratch’ and planning in sequence. I would question whether anyone truly plans from ‘scratch’, however it is important for the long-term health of our profession and the curricular challenges of the future, that beginning teachers are furnished with the experience of crafting and creating their own historical enquiries.  In 2000, with the introduction of a new National Curriculum for History, Riley articulated the challenge facing history teachers at a time of required curriculum change He concluded that ‘structuring enquiry-questions for the new national curriculum should be an intellectually challenging and creative process.’ (Riley, 2000).  It is so vital that our beginning teachers are exposed to the deep tradition and debate of curriculum planning that has taken place in the history community.  They need to understand how to sequence historical understanding and build coherent enquiries which connect into prior and future learning to create fulfilling webs of curricular understanding.  They need to be exposed to the ways in which historical academic scholarship can shape and influence enquiries in the classroom, and be given the opportunity to experience putting this into action practically.  They need to be equipped to lead historical learning into the future, moving beyond a delivery model.
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A planning ethos

I want my trainees to thrive in the long term and to inspire their pupils to love history and to love learning. The teacher training year is demanding, but it is ultimately about laying down patterns of thinking which become so innate that they allow for confidence in adapting a plan as you cross the threshold of the classroom.

These approaches are tools for developing deep rooted understanding of the lesson planning process, and often need to be returned to at various points in the teacher training year in a spiral curriculum approach.  The many faces of planning contribute to an understanding of the whole. 


References and Further Reading

Foster, R. and Goudie, K. (2016) Shaping the debate. Why historians matter more than ever at GCSE, Teaching History, 163.

Riley, M. (2000) Into the Key Stage 3 history garden: choosing and planting your enquiry questions, Teaching History, 99

Riley, M. and Byrom, J. (2008) Professional wrestling in the history department: a case study in planning the teaching of the British Empire at key stage 3, Teaching History 112


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