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Teacher perspectives: the importance of planning for learning

We’re looking at planning to enable each of your students to progress their understanding.
AMY: I think if you’re planning for covering tasks, you tend to stick to this is what I’ve planned. I’m going to cover it in my lesson. And you tend to lose some of the children’s learning. I think if you take into account what they already know, where you want the children to get there, you start to think, well, how am I going to get there? How will this learner get there? How will this learner get there? You’ll know all the different types of resources you could put in place.
It’s about knowing where your children are at coming into the lesson, and how are you going to get them to the next step leaving the lesson so none of the children get left behind.
ASHLEY: My advice for planning for learning is to make sure that your lessons aren’t rigid. I would make sure that what we call fluid lessons were. It’s all well and good having a lesson plan with timings, this, this, this, this. But if you set yourself those really high expectations of meeting those timings, it’s not something that is realistic. Every lesson’s different. Every student’s different. Every group that you put together is different. There’s some people today who spent a lot longer on that task compared to other groups, even though there were mixed groups. You have to be ready to adapt your timings.
And if you can’t get something in that particular lesson, it’s not the end of the world if it runs onto the next lesson or it runs into a homework task or anything like that. I think you’ve got to be prepared for things not to go as slick as you think. And when they don’t go as slick as you think, don’t panic about it. So always expect the unexpected, because what you think is going to happen is very different from what actually happens.
GEORGE: If you just plan to cover everything and take it off a list, then the children are unlikely to have learned in the same way as if you plan based on what they actually know already. It might mean breaking it down into key steps, but it will allow them to understand far better. Key pieces of advice are be brave enough to listen to the children and not think they have to talk all the time, to plan for misconceptions, so what might come up that the children have a misunderstanding about or a mistake that’s quite common, and then to be flexible in your planning.
So we have a plan for the week, and we know where we would like to go, and we generally stick to that. But normally by Wednesday, we’ve sort of gone off pace slightly, and that’s fine because that’s the nature of working with children.
CAROLINE: So for me, when I was doing my training, I loved it, but it was all about how am I going to fill the time? What am I going to get them to do? And still there are some lessons where you end up doing that. You think, what am I doing here? My top tip would be you don’t have to tell them everything. So I feel I definitely look back at my very first lessons the first year I became a teacher, and I was saying everything they needed to know. And if they didn’t know it, I was thinking, I need to explain it better, or I need to talk more. And my whole opinion on that’s totally changed.
I hardly tell them anything if I can. I really don’t want to tell them the answer. If they ask me a direct question, I try and dodge it as best as I can, just so they’ve got to find out themselves. My year twelves, I always get them to do, when we do a new topic, they all have to do a starter or a bit of a presentation first. And it’s always the topic that they’ve had to go introduce and research themselves. It’s the one they know best when it comes to the exam. So try not to tell them anything. Don’t’ just give them the information. Because giving them the information, the answers isn’t giving them an opportunity to learn.
It’s you’re testing if they can memorise stuff, which isn’t really learning.
DREW: Obviously, we’ll look and we say, right, this is what we want them to learn. This is what I want them to know. But I think it’s just also having the confidence, and I don’t know if this just comes with doing it for a longer period of time now, but being able to say, well, that’s in the scheme. But that’s not going to suit my group. And it’s not suiting what I want them to be able to understand by the end all of the unit, so I’m going to do it this way. I’m going to branch off from that.
I think particular for NQTs and relatively inexperienced teachers, it’s sometimes a bit daunting to go away from what’s in the scheme. But I would definitely say probably just through natural progression of myself being a teacher for longer, you’re happier to say, that’s what I want them to know. I think this would be the best way of getting them to understand that. I’m going to deviate from the scheme a bit.
LAURA: So I think planning for learning is important, because we need to think not just about what they can do in the next two weeks, but how that’s going to help them in the future when they move on to future topics, and they’re not just doing it this year, but they need to be able to do this in the following years. It’s just getting them to understand what’s going on and prepare them not just for this little bit that you’re learning now. But the next step as well. So I now tend to plan things as topics rather than individual lessons. So it’s not just about what we’ll do this lesson.
It’s just about building them up ready for those tougher questions that I know the new exams are bringing in and preparing them for learning later on in their student life.
Why should we, as teachers, take the time to plan for learning and what benefits will it bring our students? To be clear, we are not talking about planning in the sense of having a series of activities in a lesson. We’re looking at planning to enable each of your students to progress their understanding.

Insights from other teachers

Throughout the course you’ll be watching real classroom footage to help you consider how to take ideas from the course back into your own teaching practice. We’re incredibly grateful to Clifton Green Primary School, Harrogate Grammar School and Sandbach School, their teachers and students who allowed us to film their lessons. Without these brave teachers allowing us to film their teaching, we would not be able to create this course.
In this video our teachers provide their insights as to why planning for learning is important. You may share some of their ideas or have your own. You might also have different circumstances which make planning for learning a challenge. Through this course, we hope to support you address these issues.

Learning together

As well as the insights from our filmed teachers, we hope you will learn a lot from each other in the course discussions. To get the most out of the tasks, we encourage you to take the time to think and reflect on your understanding. When you post you can:
  • Share your experiences of learning and teaching.
  • Explain how the course content relates to your own teaching practice.
  • Reply to others on this course to provide an alternative perspective from your own context.
  • Question how to do something or if you are not sure about the course.
  • Support others on this course by responding to their questions and make suggestions that could help.


What limits planning for learning?
Our teachers have shared why they think planning for learning is important, but also suggested some of the issues in their teaching contexts that they have to overcome.
What are the barriers you encounter when planning for learning?
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Planning for Learning: Formative Assessment

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