Strategies for Lesson Design

Strategies for Lesson Design: Discussion, Collaborative Learning, and Lecture

A good class session does not just happen; instructors arrange for good classes to happen. Whether you are leading a lab, recitation, discussion section, or are in charge of a class, consider the following steps when designing a class meeting.

First, determine the main topic of the lesson and its place in the unit and the course. Second, identify the learning goal(s) of the lesson. Determine what you would like the students to understand or be able to do after the lesson is over. In some lessons, you might also have learning goals for yourself or for you and the students. Third, identify what terms and concepts are integral to the learning goal(s) of the lesson. Fourth, organize the class. This process is also called backward or understanding by design.

Classes usually include most of the following schema:

  • An opening activity in which the topic is introduced
    • Posing a provocative question
    • Taking a quick poll
    • Administering a quick experiment
    • Presenting a stimulating quotation from a stakeholder or expert
    • Solving a problem introduced during the previous meeting
       
  • Several different activities that support the learning goal(s), including
    • Lecturing
    • Breaking the class into small groups to work on problems or experiments
    • Using clicker questions
       
  • A concluding activity to tie the lesson together
    • Summarizing the topic and learning goal(s) of the lesson
    • Referring to the class’s opening activity
    • Introducing work to be done before the next meeting and linking it to the lesson
       
  • Activities to determine whether the goal of the lesson is being accomplished
    • Giving an end-of-class quiz
    • Listening to student dialogue when students are in small groups
    • Requiring that a spokesperson presents each small group’s findings
    • Posing questions to the class that require all students to answer

Students who are engaged and active in their learning are more likely to achieve learning objectives and to retain what they learn. Much current scholarship on teaching, learning, and assessment in higher education supports this belief. Below are a few resources addressing what student engagement is and why it is significant.

Resources: