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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is a Ph.D candidate at the University of South Florida, where he also works as a teaching assistant, supervising and teaching pre-service teachers. Steve holds a master's degree...
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The Real Reason for Lesson Planning

When learning how to lesson-plan, pre-service teachers I work with often notice their mentor teachers rely on shorter, more condensed lesson plans. These student teachers wonder why they are required through coursework to develop lengthy, detailed plans.

I usually fall back on analogies such as learning to drive a car—at first, it takes much thought and conscientious practice to drive, but after gaining experience, the act of driving becomes unconscious.

Similarly, with lesson planning, the process of planning effective instruction becomes ingrained or second-nature.  Experienced teachers don’t have to sit down and draw up long plans because they have mastered the process.

But pre-service teachers seem to miss the point of lesson planning. It is not to produce perfect, elaborate plans or to please one’s principal.

The real reason for lesson planning is to train one’s thinking process. By writing and articulating plans, a beginning teacher learns how to think like a teacher. They learn to mentally formulate learning objectives—to have a point to their teaching. They learn to contemplate how to evaluate these learning goals, and their mind entertains various strategies and techniques for accomplishing their objectives. They consider how to reasonably sequence instruction as well as what resources they need to make it happen.

If they plan thoroughly, then their mind also reflects on how to accommodate certain students in their classroom, those with learning disabilities, those who learned English as a second language, and those who need more challenge.

The teaching mind sees all the parts and how they are connected to the whole. They see the end and how to get there. But these mental processes are generally not automatic, and teachers must spend time learning to map out these channels.

The process of writing and re-writing lesson plans is what develops the teaching mind. It’s comparable to what psychologist Dr. Jordan Peterson teaches about the purpose of writing an essay. It’s not to show how much you know or learned; the reason for writing is to develop the ability to think, to formulate and articulate ideas and arguments.

Similarly, lesson-planning develops a teacher’s ability to formulate sound instruction then deliver that instruction. Thus, thereason experienced teachers can operate without extensive plans is because they have honed their mind to think effectively in the classroom.