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Why Do Expert Trainers Create Lesson Plans?

A lesson plan show the final shape and composition of a lesson or learning module. Here we look at the component parts.
Keyboard key with the words 'lesson plan'
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A lesson plan provides a solid foundation for training. It benefits planned learning whether face to face, online, immersive or experiential. Importantly, the creation of a lesson plan tends to discourage a trainer-centred approach, because any such one-sidedness is evident at the outset.

Although lesson plans are often written in a formal style, they should be sufficiently clear to be used by another trainer. In this way another trainer can deliver the same course to meet the same outcomes.

Lesson plans focus on what a learner does to achieve the outcomes. A well written plan preserves the integrity of the activities and outcomes, while allowing flexibility for the trainer’s personal style.

Start With The End in Mind

Expert trainers plan with the outcome in mind. In effect, they plan backwards, considering what the successful outcome will ‘look like’ and choosing activities which lead to its achievement.

We often hear trainers and learning designers say they ‘don’t have time to plan’. But planning often saves time. Just as with a storyboard, a lesson plan provides an objective view of training that is easily adjusted. If training has to be changed during a classroom session, or once an eLearning module has been built, it is likely to be more disruptive or require additional time.

Case Study: PowerPoint Course

The image below is taken from a PowerPoint course run over two half-days. Although too small to read in detail, you may notice the ‘Participant activity’ column (bottom right) contains the most text.

Image of lesson plan to show relative proportions - learner activity is largest section

The complete lesson plan is available in ‘Downloads’ below. Take a look at the full version. What do you think of the plan? If you’re familiar with PowerPoint, could you teach the course from this plan?

A blank lesson plan is also available below in the form of a Word document.

Although we don’t necessarily recommend this, we know of a senior lecturer for the UK Diploma in Education and Training programme who encourages his students to create lesson plans in which the ‘Trainer activity’ column is completely absent. His reasoning is that this encourages his students to focus on the learner.

Short Notice: ‘The 10 Minute Plan’

If there is little time to plan, perhaps because the training session takes place only hours away, we recommend at the very least that learner activities and trainer activities are clearly identified.

The image below is from a ‘10 minute plan’ for a half-day Time Management training session (the whole plan is available in Downloads below. The ‘Trainer activities’ are in blue and the Learner activities in red.

Image of a simple lesson plan which contains only blue text and red text

This trainer has a wealth of knowledge about time management techniques. She ‘brainstormed’ a list of helpful tips and techniques for the session. In order to prevent herself providing an ‘information dump’ of tips, she began to colour code the list. She is an expert trainer who knows the value of activities, and her aim was that there should be more learner activity than tutor activity.

What do you think of her plan?

Planning in PowerPoint?

Some trainers plan their lessons by writing their PowerPoint slides first. This method allows the sequence be easily rearranged if required. However, it can veer away from a learner-centred approach because the slides tend to prioritise what the trainer will be saying over what the learners will be doing.

This is not to suggest those who plan with PowerPoint don’t also create a written plan. But they are often made after the slides are complete. When lesson plans are made after the slides, the Learner activity column often contains line after line of:
‘Listen. Ask questions,
Listen. Ask questions

As observed by some participants in the Comments sections of this course, sometimes this just means:

Talking Point:

Consider sharing your answers to the following questions in Comments below:

  • What form of lesson plans do you currently use? Share a brief description of the design.
  • If you don’t use lesson plans currently, do you think they could help you?
© Creative Commons 4.0 International
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