8. Designing a Lesson

Ecucators designing a Communicting Science lesson


In this session of the course, participants focus on applying some of the insights and understandings they’ve gained as they plan lessons for students. The lessons they design are focused on addressing a common alternative conception regarding photosynthesis. During the first part of the session, participants observe a video that shows students grappling with the concept of photosynthesis in individual interviews and classroom activities. They look at a few common alternative conceptions, and discuss the possible origins of these ideas. Then participants are given a handout to guide their development of a lesson to address a specific photosynthesis-related alternative conception while keeping the framework of the learning cycle in mind.

Designing instructional materials is challenging and requires different skills than teaching. The goal of this session is not to create curriculum developers or even great lessons, but to engage participants in considering the important elements that good instructional materials embody. While few educators will engage in full-scale materials design in their careers, most educators will need to adapt and modify their instruction according to feedback about students’ level of understanding, and experiences like these can help to inform this process.

That leads to the final message of the session—a reminder that one experience, no matter how compelling and memorable, is not necessarily sufficient to enable students to transform deep-seated alternative conceptions. As they witness in the video, students often come up with quite ingenious and clever ways to retain their older ideas at the same time as they adapt some aspects of more accurate conceptions. Monitoring students’ changing ideas and engagement through repeated experience, over time, are part of the path to building more accurate understanding.

It should be noted that in designing the Communicating Science course as a whole, we have tried to "practice what we preach." The course seeks to exemplify a flexible model of how people learn. In that sense, this session can be seen as the application phase for the entire course, as students apply what they have learned about learning and teaching to the task of designing a lesson.


Session 8: Designing a Lesson (as a PDF)

Session 8: Designing a Lesson (PowerPoint, supplemental)