4: Planning Instruction
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"If you don't know where you're going, you could end up someplace else." - Casey Stengel
Casey Stengel, a much-admired baseball coach, was talking about baseball when he made this remark. But he could easily have been speaking of teaching as well. Almost by definition, education has purposes, goals, and objectives, and a central task of teaching is to know what these are and to transform the most general goals into specific objectives and tasks for students. Otherwise, as Casey Stengel said, students may end up "someplace else" that neither they, nor the teacher, nor anyone else intends. A lot of the clarification and specification of goals needs to happen before a cycle of instruction actually begins, but the benefits of planning happen throughout all phases of teaching. If students know precisely what they are supposed to learn, they can focus their attention and effort more effectively. If the teacher knows precisely what students are supposed to learn, then the teacher can make better use of class time and choose and design assessments of their learning that are more fair and valid. In the long run everyone benefits.
This chapter is about instructional planning, the systematic selection of educational goals and objectives and their design for use in the classroom. We will divide this idea into four parts, and discuss them one at a time. First is the problem of selecting general goals to teach; where can a teacher find these, and what do they look like? Second is the problem of transforming goals into specific objectives, or statements concrete enough to guide daily activity in class; what will students actually do or say into order to learn what a teacher wants them to learn? Third is the problem of balancing and relating goals and objectives to each other; since we may want students to learn numerous goals, how can we combine or integrate them so that the overall classroom program does not become fragmented or biased? Fourth is the challenge of relating instructional goals to students' prior experiences and knowledge. We have discussed this challenge before from the perspective of learning theory (in Chapter 2), but in this chapter we look at it from the more practical perspective of curriculum planning.
- Lesson 4.1: Selecting General Learning Goals
- At the most general or abstract level, the goals of education include important philosophical ideas like "developing individuals to their fullest potential" and "preparing students to be productive members of society". Few teachers would disagree with these ideas in principle, though they might disagree about their wording or about their relative importance.
- Lesson 4.2: Formulating Learning Objectives
- iven curriculum frameworks and guides like the ones just described, how do you choose and formulate actual learning objectives? Basically there are two approaches: either start by selecting content or topics that what you want students to know (the cognitive approach) or start with what you want students to do (the behavioral approach). In effect the cognitive approach moves from the general to the specific, and the behavioral approach does the opposite.