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Lesson Planning


Careful lesson planning can help to insure the successful running of your courses. Incorporating best practices in teaching and learning into the design process will help students meet learning objectives for your course.

What is a lesson plan and what should it contain?

There are many different styles of lesson planning, but most contain similar elements, based on what is known about promoting student learning:

  • 3-5 measurable and observable lesson objectives (connected to the broader course objective). The students will be able to...

  • Content to be covered

  • Instructional Strategies/Activities (lecture, group work, problem-solving, case studies, think-pair-share, etc.) For a comprehensive list of good instructional strategies see: http://www.beesburg.com/edtools/glossary.html

  • Resources and materials needed (including technology)

  • Timing

  • Out of class work and assessment

Read below to find out more about three classic lesson planning models: Gagne, Hunter, and the 5 E's of a constructivist lesson plan.

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Gagné's Events of Instruction GO

Educational psychologist, Robert Gagne, identified nine instructional events and corresponding cognitive processes that can be used to support learning. They are often used as a framework for instructional development when the acquisition of intellectual skills is the goal of instruction.

The nine events of instruction are:

  • Gaining attention
  • Informing learners of the objective
  • Stimulating recall of prior learning
  • Presenting the stimulus (content)
  • Providing learning guidance (telling students the best way to learn the material you are presenting)
  • Eliciting performance (opportunities to practice)
  • Providing feedback (information about how to improve)
  • Assessing performance (exam, tests, quizzes, papers)
  • Enhancing retention and transfer (activities to help students remember and to extend the learning, transfer it to other scenarios)


Madeline Hunter's Seven Step Lesson Plan

These seven steps to lesson planning are often associated with the direct instruction method as well as the behaviorist school of educational practice. Notice the similarities between Gagné's events of instruction and this plan.

The seven steps fall under four categories as follows:

Getting Students Ready to Learn
1. Review
2. Anticipatory Set - focus attention, gain interest - the "hook", connect new to known
3. Stating the objective

4. Input and modeling

Checking for Understanding
5. Check for understanding
6. Guided practice - provide feedback without grading

Independent Practice
7. Independent practice - usually for a graded assignment

Read more at the websites below:

5 E's of Constructivism

Constructivism is a theory of learning stating that learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge (GO). It is a very open type of planning. Faculty design instruction around a learning objective, gather resources, and provide students with an opportunity to explore, build, and demonstrate their learning. It shifts the learning environment from one which is very instructor-centered to one that is very learner-centered.

The 5 E's Lesson Planning Model is most often associated with constructivist learning design:
(excerpted from Miami Museum of Science. Retrieved August 9, 2006 at http://www.miamisci.org/ph/lpintro5e.html )

  • Engage - students encounter the material, define their questions, lay the groundwork for their tasks, make connections from new to known, identify relevance
  • Explore - students directly involved with material, inquiry drives the process, teamwork is used to share and build knowledge base
  • Explain - learner explains the discoveries, processes, and concepts, that have been learned through written, verbal or creative projects. Instructor supplies resources, feedback, vocabulary, and clarifies misconceptions
  • Elaborate - learners expand on their knowledge, connect it to similar concepts, apply it to other situations - can lead to new inquiry
  • Evaluate - on-going process by both instructor and learner to check for understanding. Rubrics, checklists, teacher interviews, portfolios, problem-based learning outputs, and embedded assessments. Results are used to evaluate and modify further instructional needs.

Read more about Constructivism and the 5 E's of lesson planning:

Constructivist Theory

Constructivist lesson planning in a science classroom GO

5 E's Lesson Planning explained GO

The 5E Model of Instruction


It is appropriate to mix and match lesson planning styles as needed. Choose the style that best supports the type of learning that is going to occur in your class that day.

Remember to consider these important elements for any style you choose:

1. write clear and specific lesson objectives that align with course objectives
2. inform students of lesson objectives
3. promote recall of prior learning
4. use activities and assessments to promote learning and to meet lesson objectives
5. give students feedback on their progress
6. gauge your timing for each activity
7. keep a record of the materials needed to complete the lesson
8. incorporate student activity and interaction into the lesson
9. record your own reflections on the success of the class

What are some benefits of using lesson plans? Using lesson plans for each class can help you:

1. incorporate good teaching practices in every lesson
2. efficiently prepare for the next time you offer the course. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel each semester
3. be critically reflective in your teaching. If a class goes particularly well (or badly) make notes on your plan so you can adjust the next time as needed
4. share teaching ideas with your colleagues

More Resources

Honolulu Community College GO

Instructional Design Basics

Penn State Learning Design Hub GO
Critical Thinking Community GO

Teaching with Technology: Planning a Lesson GO
Instructional System Design GO
Instructional Design Models GO
Dr. Dabbagh's ID links from George Mason University GO

EZ Lesson Planner

EZ Lesson Planner GO

Subpages (1): Good vs Bad Lesson Plans