OFFICE OF SCIENCE OUTREACH
DEPARTMENT OF BIOLOGY
A Guide to Lesson Plan Revision and Development
1. Identify the final understanding that you wish students to have.
- i. e. what is the really important thing that they need to know for future success?
- or, what is the fundamental Big Idea that the Standards indicate is important?
2. Identify the basic facts (i. e. observations, measurements, data, etc) that lead us to infer that this final understanding may actually be true.
- there may be a number of examples that will work equally well
- if you are uncertain what those basic facts are, contact us, and we will work with you on this project.
3. Develop a lead-in scenario, or "hook" that will get your students engaged in thinking about this issue.
- the "hook" will vary, depending on your particular group of students (rural, urban, geographical location, etc)
- usually, a "hook" works best if it relates the science to students' out-of-school lives. Students of all ages (including adults) put more effort into learning things that they perceive as relevant.
- Sometimes, wholly fantastic scenarios have also been used successfully to engage students--such as introducing geometry by asking students to think of themselves as living in Flatland, a 2-dimensional world where one's shape determines how one can move. Students' increasing familiarity with video games may make this approach effective for some students.
4. Follow the lead-in with an activity in which students acquire the basic facts of the example you have chosen, as they work through the scenario. Depending on the example, students may acquire these facts by:
- performing an experiment or investigation. The observations or measurements from this experiment are the data (i. e. basic facts) that students will need.
- searching books or online resources.
- the teacher giving them the data at appropriate points during the scenario. This is currently a commonly-used method--for example, simulating a fossil excavation, with students extracting "fossils" from an envelope containing paper representations or cut-outs of the specimens.
- NOTE: A well-designed lesson plan obtained online should provide the basic facts. One should be able to download files with the data, whether photographs, simulations of fossils, outcomes of biochemical experiments, etc.
5. Give students time to wrestle with the basic facts, preferably in small groups.
- At each step, their task must be very clear and discrete--e. g. to answer a specific question, or to decide between two choices, etc. It is important to avoid vague instructions, which will likely lead to non-productive activity.
- With appropriate guidance, students should be able to develop their own interpretations of the data.
- By discussing these issues in small groups, students who may be reluctant to "say the wrong thing" in front of the entire class will be more likely to participate actively in the discussion.
6. Open up the discussion to include the entire class, comparing what different student groups have proposed.
- This discussion should focus on how the data--the basic facts--lead us to the explanations that we propose.
- One should strive toward an atmosphere in which the discussion is about the data, not about students' opinions. In this discussion, there are no dumb questions. There are no wrong answers. [There also are no "right" answers, in terms of being absolutely true; scientific knowledge is the interpretation of data, not a process of matching data to some previously-known truth. ]
- To the extent that the overall lesson plan may be aimed at specific content knowledge identified in the Standards, it may be important to summarize the discussion by stating current scientific understanding. We would hope that the example chosen for the lesson, the specific data, and the teacher's guidance as students wrestle with the data, will lead students fairly close to this current scientific understanding. At least, it should lead students close enough to understand what the teacher's final summary means. Perhaps more importantly, it should help students understand where current scientific understanding comes from.
Contact J. Jose Bonner, OSO Director
last updated:August 25, 2010