Instructional Planning

Define what is to be taught and implement aligned learning plans. Set learning goals and objectives: Setting learning goals and objectives allow teachers to create pre-assessments in order to gauge students’ prior knowledge and inform instruction. Setting learning objectives, which address the behaviors, conditions, and criteria for learning, provides students with a purpose for their learning. When learning objectives are shared and communicated with students, they connect classroom activities to the desired learning outcomes. As students tap into their prior knowledge and attend to the learning goals and objectives, they are better equipped to set their own learning goals. This in turn leads to increased engagement and motivation (Hattie, 2009). Alignment: Instructional planning that ensures written, taught, and tested curricula are aligned both in content and cognitive level of rigor provides the necessary depth and breadth of learning. Alignment of learning goals, instruction, and assessment provides for the appropriate measurement of what has been taught.

Balance surface level and deeper learning experiences. The Standards of Learning may or may not provide for the balanced surface level learning and deeper understanding we seek. Teachers must use content knowledge to instruct for student acquisition of facts and skills, as this learning is essential for student meaning-making to occur. However, it is imperative to teach these facts and skills in the context of enduring understandings and essential questions. These contexts link learning to students’ experiences and interests, which in turn establish relevance and lead to motivation (McTighe and Tomlinson, 2006). Purposeful 8 planning that focuses on teaching for meaning making and transfer of knowledge and skills must occur in order to provide students with the skills, behaviors, and opportunities we desire.

Connect curriculum to relevant contexts and rigorous learning goals. When students can make meaning, they better transfer their learning. When students have the opportunity to transfer knowledge to new and authentic contexts, rigorous learning goals and deeper learning is revealed. This in turn leads to critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration and communication. Additionally, authentic applications reveal student proficiency and the varying degrees of their understanding (McTighe and Tomlinson, 2006), which allows teachers to address any gaps in student understanding and proficiency in meeting learning goals.

Select appropriate instructional materials. While expectations for learning of content standards, understandings, and expectations for transfer of learning remain consistent for all students; every student has different knowledge, skills, and learning needs. As such, teachers must ensure that instructional materials are relevant to student needs, readiness, interests, and backgrounds. Instructional materials must provide multiple means of content and concept representation and practice, as well as support the differences in learning preferences of the students. When instructional materials are varied and address the aforementioned student indicators, appropriate rigor is attended to and motivation and engagement are increased.

Align and select digital learning tools. While technology fundamentally improves nearly every aspect of our lives, it plays a major role in the teaching and learning process. Teachers must strategically plan, align, and select the appropriate digital tools that will maximize student learning experiences. Selecting trendy digital tools and resources does not come first as teachers plan their instructional units and lesson activities. A student-centered teacher is an instructional designer who utilizes data, frameworks, and curriculum and pacing guides to identify what he/she will teach, determines the strategies that will best meet his/her students’ needs, and finally selects and aligns the appropriate digital tools and resources to support the content and the strategies of that lesson and/or unit. One way to consider the best tool to use during the planning phase of instruction is to utilize the TPACK theoretical framework. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) attempts to identify the nature of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge. (Koehler, 2015).