Lesson planning? “A complete waste of time.” Discuss.

“We all know that teachers spend a lot of time preparing lesson plans rather than focusing on how well they deliver those lessons. This is a complete waste of time.” So says Lord Nash, schools’ minister and chair of the Future Academies chain of schools. Well, this is one hell of a statement.
So what are the underlying messages?

1. A one-size-fits-all lesson plan can accommodate all the learners because of course every learner is the same;
2. A teacher is merely a cog in the machine whose sole responsibility is to deliver content;
3. And by the way, there is money to be made. There are serious commercial possibilities for producing off the peg lesson plans.

I sometimes feel my life in education is best illustrated by Munch’s ‘The Scream’. And this is a quintessential Munch moment. How can anyone working with schools possibly believe that teaching can be reduced to a conveyor bank of lessons, laboriously rolled out by teachers with no consideration for the individual needs of the pupils? When did education become just a process?

At an open morning event in our Junior School, I found myself sharing with prospective parents the impact one teacher had on me and my life chances. My History teacher at Sixth Form College made me believe in myself. She went out of her way to help me overcome my shyness and to feel able to contribute to class discussion. She encouraged me to aspire to a future previously closed to me. I am sure others in the class felt the same. This was no accident – the teacher understood that sitting in front of her were a group of individuals. She knew that the lesson had to be nimble enough to address the needs of all the learners. She certainly didn’t just deliver a standardised lesson plan.

Sir Ken Robinson, a global education guru, is on record as commenting that teaching is an art form and not just a delivery mechanism. The implication of this statement is that the teacher has a critical role to play. The lesson plan is the preparation the teacher undertakes to ensure everyone in the class is engaged in the learning. It is crucial that everyone in the lesson accesses the learning. And it is vital that the teacher engages with the youngsters in a way which is meaningful to them.

When we decide that the teacher’s creativity, empathy, and understanding of pupils is secondary to a financial modelling system with standardised lesson plans, then we have arrived at a dystopian understanding of the purpose of education. Our young people are worth more. Shame on those who think otherwise.

3 thoughts on “Lesson planning? “A complete waste of time.” Discuss.

  1. Sway Grantham (@SwayGrantham)

    I guess it depends on how laborious you are about it.

    My school teachers a skills-based curriculum and changes the context to suit whatever LOs we have to cover in accordance with the National Curriculum e.g. in History we might be ‘using historical sources’ in year 5 when they found out about Vikings and in year 4 when they find out about the Romans. To this end, we have a set of ‘bare bones’ lesson plans that cover the skill needed – this is a starting point and then the teacher adds to it to personalise it and make it fit the class and topic.

    I don’t think planning needs to be a huge thing, if you know you’re learners it’s just a means to an end. A lot of school-planning spends the majority of the time on what the teacher will be doing/saying and loses focus of the learners anyway – it almost becomes a script…ask this question, want this answer, now move to this etc. And if not the lesson plan then often the accompanying resources do that. I found that the ‘5 minute lesson plan’ stops this from happening and focuses you specifically on the needs of the learners – without being something that takes up loads of time.

    Overall, I guess I agree – having an amazing lesson plan does not make you an effective teacher. The delivery of that lesson (which two teachers may do incredibly differently) is what makes an effective teacher.

  2. Pingback: Planning Planning Planning by @SheliBB | UKEdChat.com - Supporting the #UKEdChat Education Community

  3. anniamma peter

    Does planning encourages or discourages creativity? Just would like to know the early family life of immigrants to America is well planned or the family life of the present day Americans. Being an Indian Christian I keenly observed the well planned and longest living examples of life of Jews of west and Brahmans of east. And why holocaust visited Jews but not Bahamians. Life encourages intuitive planning. In my class room students represents different regions, religions, family economic, cultural,ethical backgrounds. Ignoring all these differences, if subject is only considered ……I become a bit too much official, switch to be more personal. So lesson planning with sprinkle of intuition, especially for beginners, is what I practice in my own pace, style and situation.


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