Learner-Center Educational Plan

With abundance of information regarding teaching and learning, it might reasonably be expected that education planning would be a quick and easy process. Teachers still have a vital role to play within planning; the guidance and frameworks provides information on what to teach, the teacher will decide how best to interpret this information for the particular children within their class. Proctor et al (1995, p.39) discusses the requirement for planning, and opens with the idea that no planning can take place without a clear idea, on the part of the teacher, of what the children in the class are going to learn.

The planning process requires the identification of the learning objectives in detail; in reality, meeting the criteria of the curriculum and even the more detailed key objectives in the teaching strategy will require a series of lessons and usually a return to the subject at a later date. Planning over different time frames allows teachers to meet the desired outcomes and provide a coherent progression.

Long term plans will detail the expectations within a curriculum area over an academic year; these plans will identify themes to be used and the subject areas to be covered they will be expressed in terms of the key concepts that children will need to understand and the knowledge and skills that they should be acquiring. Medium term planning will usually be for a unit of work – generally one item from the program of study – and cover a term or ½ term. The medium term planning phase is when teachers are required to link the long-term plans to the curriculum key objectives. The medium term plans will outline a series of activities and the approach that is to be taken; these plans are the first level at which the teaching/learning approach is considered and the methods and criterion for assessment are decided. (Platz 1994)

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It implies issues of what and how the student is learning, the conditions under which the student is learning, how current learning positions the student for future learning, and whether the student is retaining and applying the learning. (Weimer, 2002 XVI).  In this paper we will try to cover up a cognitive aspect of learner-center education planning. Cognitive aspect of learner-centered education involves some following factors. These are the nature and goals of learning process, the construction of knowledge and higher-order thinking.

In order to identify children’s individual learning needs the teacher should observe the children and their work. Factual information can be obtained from previous teachers, schools etc. The Standard Assessment Tasks (SATs) provide essential information about the level of attainment a child has reached and may possibly show levels of progression over time. According to Proctor et al (1995 p.129) assessment provides an accurate picture of an individual child’s achievements.

It measures a child’s achievements from that child’s own baseline and as it is non-comparative to other children it shows what a child is able to achieve regardless of what other’s can do. Individual Educational Plans (IEPs) show evidence of any special needs, which may be physical such as poor sight and hearing and any learning difficulties. It will also identify children who have behavioral problems or particularly able and gifted children.

IEPs will also show any strategies and teaching approaches used to meet these children’s needs. It can also highlight any particular resources that facilitate the children’s learning. A previous teacher can provide valuable information on how these strategies and resources were employed and the success or failure of them. It is important to keep in mind when discussing children with other teachers that their views and opinions are unlikely to be impartial. Conversations with parents/carers allow them to raise any issues they have about their interpretations of their children’s needs and progress in learning. It can also be useful to look at children’s ages to gain a better understanding of the level they are working at.

Once this preliminary information has been collected the teacher can plan diagnostic work, which will further identify children’s abilities and needs. Teachers should plan broad topic work at a variety of levels where children have a reasonable opportunity of success and which provides some challenges. The teacher’s prior knowledge of the children should enable him/her to pitch the work at the correct levels. If not, the assessment of the children’s difficulties or ease will provide clues as to how to alter it. From this point onwards the teacher should have a fairly coherent idea of the needs of the class as a whole and the individual children within it. (Hamilton 1999)

When planning to meet children’s individual needs, a teacher is planning for inclusive education, which provides all children with an equal opportunity to reach their potential.  While planning, teachers must set up a learning activity, which effectively achieves the learning outcomes for each individual child. Teachers must structure learning within their classrooms in order to move each child forward, this can include differentiating appropriately, using appropriate resources and implementing various teaching and learning strategies inclusive of all children.

Teaching Strategies
Education planning will use a variety of strategies described by Minton (1997, p.117). It is appropriate to use ‘lecture’ to begin the session to explain what is to be covered, to find out how the students have found the work in the previous session so there will be some ‘questions and answers’. There will be a ‘group discussion’ as we go through the assignment and this will give the students the opportunity to ask any questions and familiarize themselves with the work. A ‘question and answer’ session will follow and then depending on the outcome, there be the opportunity for ‘demonstrations’. These strategies are outlined below.

§  Question and answer to review work from last lesson

§  Lecture to explain unit assessment

§  Group discussion while criteria for assessment are discussed

§  More question and answers as appropriate

§  Demonstration of previous practical work if necessary

Using Q and A to start the lesson as this gives an immediate feedback of progress. The disadvantage of this is that the ‘quiet’ students may be reluctant to ask questions, There is need to be aware of this, and perhaps ask those students questions that they can answer to build up their confidence. A lecture strategy is then used to explain the unit assignment, as this is an effective method of broadcasting the information. Then a group discussion will involve teacher and students discussing criteria, this allows everyone to ask questions and give opinions but it may allow ‘loud’ students to dominate the group. Certain time to demonstrate practical work to the students on the computer allows the student to see what the final product should be of any particular exercise and gives them confidence in their own work.

Learning Resources
For IT classes, for example, a variety of resources are used in the high school. The most common ones used in the IT department are computer-based resources, OHT’s and computer generated slides, and printed materials. The most common types of media resource are the PC/projector combination and printed materials, to accompany whiteboard work. In the IT department it is critical that students have individual access to PCs with relevant software installed on them, and also access to a printer to enable them to obtain hard copies of work produced.

There is need for a room to seat all students, we do not need PCs for each student in this case, we need them all to see a whiteboard so we can explain the topic we will supply unit assignments in hard copy to every student, including the marking criteria and the moderator’s comments. It is becoming common practice to write all forms of work on the PC, and we would expect them to word process their work whenever the facility is available.

There is need to evaluate the group of students at the beginning of a course to determine if any had special requirements, for example disabled access or if any had hearing or visual impairments. It is necessary to develop intranet to include study aids for the students. For example, to put previous lecture notes and practical exercise handouts on the intranet to enable students to go over past work and also allow absent students the opportunity to catch up.

Arrangement of the desks in the classroom is a common horseshoe of computer workstations with a small number of tables in the center of the room. The central tables can be moved freely although this is a suitable position for the classroom discussion. The computer workstations will be used towards the end of the lesson. The white board is at the door end of the room, it is a new smart board, and although is smaller, it can be seen from all positions in the room, if the students move their chairs round. This will be used for demonstrations of PC work and is available for the question and answer section. The acoustics are adequate for a teaching environment. The room is always light and warm enough, and windows can be opened to provide additional ventilation.

Goals of learning process
On reflection, education planning goals are following:

Timing· Allow enough time for each phase. Be aware of how long it takes to complete tasks and allow some leeway in each lesson for dealing with any class management issue. Be wary of being overambitious in what can be achieved in a lesson. Allow enough time for discussion and be aware of allowing too much time for starter and plenary activities.

Content· Teacher should not try to cram too much in – don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘one topic per lesson’ and be prepared to spend more than one lesson on a topic

When to collect in/hand out homework· Have a clear idea of when you are going to do this and how. Keep it consistent so the pupils know when to make a note in their contact diaries, and when to hand their homework into me, and allow time for this to be done.

Differentiation.  Although there has been minimal need for differentiation in teaching particular class, teacher should be aware that other classes might require more differentiation and he should always ensure that lessons are tailored to the class he teaching.
Pupil-led activities.  Make sure to include enough pupil-led activities. Remember that these types of activities not only engage learning but are also very useful in settling a lively class.
Strengths
Planning lessons around the five different phases of a lesson, using starter and plenary activities. This enables to focus on the different stages of a lesson and therefore how best to achieve the learning objectives as well as concentrating on what either myself as teacher, or the class or individuals should be engaged in at any point during the lesson. However, flexibility is also a key factor in delivering effective lessons and it is able to adapt the lesson plan (for example by omitting certain overheads or allowing more time for discussion of a topic) to accommodate the learning.

Being creative. This a useful skill in planning and meant that it is appropriate to present what is for most pupils a familiar topic in a new and interesting way, therefore engaging more higher order thinking and facilitating learning (and minimizing disruptive behavior) at the same time.
Being able to plan around what resources are available. This to a certain extent is also a creative skill although it must be taken into account when planning a series of lessons.

Linking lessons with each other and with the pupils experiences. Using everyday examples, images that the pupils can relate to, and referring back to the concept map of the whole picture at every lesson enabled the pupils to put their learning (and the objectives for each lesson) in context. If the pupils can relate to what you are teaching them, you are more likely to succeed in your learning objectives.

Weaknesses
Overestimating what can be achieved in a lesson. Certainly to begin with, underestimated how long it would take to complete a worksheet or copy something from the board. In addition, it had not taken into account during first lesson plan, the time that would be spent on dealing with minor off-task behavior which can lead to you running five minutes late by the end of the lesson and therefore running out of time for the clearing and exit phases, which for example can mean you run out of time to explain the homework task properly.

Spending too much time on one phase. The pupils enjoyed this so much that they would ‘plead’ for another round and on more than one occasion complied, meaning that although the pupils had a ‘great’ time, teacher run out of time to handle the clearing and exit phases as well as he should and the lessons ended a bit ‘rushed’. This is as a ‘new’ teacher who was anxious to ensure that the pupils viewed my lessons as a ‘positive’ experience

References:

Hamilton, P. J. (Fall 1999). Perceptual learning & lifelong Montessori. Montessori Life, 11(4), 41-42.

Minton, D. (1997) Teaching skills in further and adult education 2nd edition, Macmillan

Proctor, A. Entwistle, M. McKenzie-Murdoch, S. (2001) “Learning to Teach in the Primary Classroom” London : Routledge

Platz, Donald L., (March, 1994)  Student directed planning: fostering student ownership in learning. Education, 3

Weimer, Maryellen. (2002) Learner-centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice. Jossey-Bass

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