4.4 Content Knowledge – Designing Coherent Instruction in the area of Lesson and Unit Structure
Throughout the course General Inquiry and Teacher Assessment Methods (EDU 6150) I have been challenged to change how I approach the process and components of lesson planning. In the past, I had been more concerned with creating engaging learning activities than developing assessment tools for my students. Learning the ‘backwards design’ method where educators carefully consider assessment before designing activities along with studying the edTPA requirements has equipped me with a structured approach lesson planning for my future classrooms
According to Figure 5.1, focusing on assessment methods in the second stage of backwards design creates a “unit anchored in credible and educationally vital evidence of the desired understanding” (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998, p. 64). By identifying the ways in which I expect students to display understanding, I can better anticipate scaffolding opportunities and provide my students with clear learning targets.
In Figure 5.4, Wiggns & McTighe (1998) lay out 6 Facets of Understanding (p. 69) in which students can show progressively deeper understanding of content. In the past I had considered learning targets only a restatement of learning activities, not an expression of what I actually expected students to know or process. With clearer, assessment driven, learning targets students can clearly anticipate what they will be learning and I can hold students accountable to their progress.
EdTPA also influenced and added components to my lesson planning. Looking at the End of Quarter Lesson Design project, I had to include a preassessment portion and account for academic language, student voice, or differentiation. While somewhat aware of these components I had never explicitly or consciously planned them into lessons, setting expectations for myself as a teacher to address and help students address learning issues. While I’m still learning how to incorporate these plans into practice, the exercise of looking outside of simply the content or method and considering my students’ needs is a powerful reminder of my role as an educator.
Rather than viewing assessments, formal and informal, as required, high stakes, performance tests I see that they are actually tools for teachers, and students, to use in evaluating their progress. Incorporating informal assessments where students can preview, practice and review what they have learned helps break up learning activities and provides students time to process new information. By providing least 3 opportunities for assessment throughout a lesson, after each practice or teaching activity, I can keep track of my students’ understanding processes, making adjustments based on their feedback and questions. I can also incorporate informal self-checks during learning activities so that students can express how confident they feel while learning. Encouraging and using a metacognitive reflection time in lessons helps students, and teachers, to be more aware of their learning needs and resources.
Wiggins, G., McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.