Case Study: Session Plans

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For the purposes of this lesson plan, Young Learners will refer to students from the ages of ten to eleven.  The lesson plan is aimed at fifth class students to encourage them to read and write more and to choose a book by reading and viewing other class mate's reports. Book reports used to be regarded as evidence, nothing more. There are the hard-core proofs that you'd done your reading or completed an English assignment. There is now strong evidence that book reports can help students to structure and articulate their thoughts. They can provide a way to teach children to develop communication skills through speaking, listening, reading and writing. Therefore the designing of a book report "sandwich" is a good transition between discussion and writing. In Lesson Plan A: "The basic ingredients of a good book report", (Hopkins: 2009) the students can concentrate on learning to write coherent plot summaries, character sketches, theme analyses, and critiques. The students can practice giving opinions about different aspects of their books. The emphasis is on clear and expressive writing. But to keep the students motivated and their interest high and to appeal to a variety of students strengths there is a need to come up with good project ideas. Reading is an important skill to be developed in children. Developing a lesson plan that meets the needs of younger students can be a complex process but it can follow a prescribed pattern. The lesson plan will have to respond to the unique educational and social needs of this age group, based on content standards, and thinking skills, and promote collaborative teaching, learning, and assessment opportunities that will enable all learners to achieve high standards.

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There are a number of considerations in designing the lesson plan; these include the target audience and what they already know, the difficulty or complexity of the information or skill, the diverse learning styles of the participants, and the characteristics of younger learners. There is no right or wrong learning style most adults show a preference for one of the following basic learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic/ manipulative. It is not uncommon to combine the primary and secondary learning styles. Learning styles can be approached in vastly different ways that all have merit but a blending of these concepts is more effective than any one approach when it comes to children who are still developing their learning skills. Gardner, (cited by Smith: 2008) describes the younger learner as..

"....the most remarkable features of the young mind-its adventurousness, its generativity, its resourcefulness and its flashes of flexibility and creativity".

Implication for Classroom Practice

Younger learners are by nature curious and outspoken and therefore allowing them the freedom of choosing the design for their book report will suit their inquisitive and exploration nature. This will provide opportunities for self-expression from the learner which in turn will motivate the learning process. This is also related to Keller's (1983) determinants of interest and outcomes, in the sense that carrying out a task or learning in general, has to arouse some interest in the student and also have some positive outcomes in order to be motivating. When younger learners have learnt something new they like to have a chance to make something of their own from it. Younger learners like being active and by creating the book report "sandwich" they will learn by doing in other words a hand -on experience. Organising tasks to stimulate mental activity, adopting problem solving and using an investigational approach when ever possible will be priority on the lesson. Reading and writing is necessary for survival. The ability to learn about new subjects and find information on anything from health problems to more academic research or the arts depends on the ability to read.

Goals

Session development and teaching methods will be based on an understanding of the young learner as an intellectually capable, complex person who is responsive to challenges as much as the next person. It is essential that teachers or lecturers recognise that younger learners are not a standardized group. As with any other group of learners, individuals have very different needs, aptitudes and interests. They will come from a diverse background and have different learning styles. The first phase of the lesson plan development involves a humanistic philosophical perspective on what the lesson plan is designed to address. This is to create an interest in reading and develop the learners writing skills.

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Young learners and their differing abilities and needs are central to how planning and teaching will occur and the lesson plan will maintain and support this position. The lesson defines what knowledge is to be taught and learned in a way which reflects important priorities and understanding about how this knowledge works.

Prerequisite student skills

The lesson plan is designed so that the learner can expand and develop their prior knowledge and experiences in reading by connecting them to the new learning of summarising and describing plots and characters. Studies strongly suggest that a course developed as such will lead to a significantly increased in the learner's engagement and achievements. To achieve a successful outcome on the course the student must see the learning to be enjoyable. The more enjoyable the things they read are, the more they'll stick with them and develop the reading skills that they will need for access to information in their adults lives. Reading should be viewed as a pleasurable activity. Deciding on constructive alignment as the basis of teaching implies a personal commitment to focusing the learner's outcomes as the essential aims of the teaching and learning process. The Learners will become involve in their own learning experiences. This is achieved by clearly stating the outcomes learners are expected to get and at what level they should get them. Designing a learner's cantered learning environment recognize the importance of building on the conceptual and cultural knowledge that the students will bring to the classroom.

Principles

An objective view of the nature of knowledge and what it means to know something is governed by both Cognitivism and Behaviorism theories of learning. Therefore they both support the practice of analysing a task and breaking it down into manageable chunks, establishing objectives, and measuring performance based on those objectives. (Gagne, R. et,al: 1992). A variety of principles can be utilized by adopting both approaches in designing the lesson plan. These include information processing learning theories and operant conditioning. The designing of a lesson plan that is taught step by step in an inductive manner only as suggested by the behaviourists has advantages as well as some disadvantages. Learners can focus on clear goals and can respond automatically to the cues of the goals. The disadvantages is that the learners might find themselves in a situation where the "stimulus" for the correct response does not occur, therefore the learners cannot respond (Schuman, 1996). As mentioned by William Huitt (2009) using the principles of learning from an information processing perspective recognizes such limitations and provides more opportunities for the learners to connect their prior knowledge to the current learning. With this approach the learners will develop adequate thinking skills that will have more meaning to the learner with out the risk of trying to develop knowledge and skills that have no meaning to the learners at this time and are therefore more easily forgotten. Research into information processing theories suggests that there are limits to the amount of information that younger learners can attend to and process effectively.

Learning Objectives

Bloom's taxonomy of learning objectives is used within the behavioural paradigm to classify forms and levels of learning in lesson plan A. Domains of learning are identified each of which is organised as a series of levels or pre-requisites. Usually higher levels of domains are not addressed until those below have been covered in the lesson. This provides a basic sequential model for dealing with topics in the lesson. In this way it categorises levels of learning in terms of the expected ceiling for the course. Therefore the Cognitive domain, the most used of the domains, refers to knowledge structures is in the bottom level. In Lesson plan A the learners will cover knowledge, comprehension and application, but it is not concerned with analysis and above, which is more in keeping with higher level courses. (Bloom, B, S (ed.) : 1956). 

Principles for Differentiation

Schools and colleges have changed and what is deemed imported now maybe not been deemed as imported a number of years ago. Educational goals are different in many cases and challenges and expectations have changed dramatically (Bruer, 1993; Resnick, 1987). As quoted by Howard Gardner (Webster Groves SD RTDI. 2008-2010)

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" The biggest mistake of the pass centuries in teaching has been to treat all children as if they were variants of the same individual and thus to feel justified in teaching them all the same subjects in the same way."

The teaching objectives in lesson Plan A are adjusted according to the learning needs of the students and displays differentiation to cater to the different students outcomes. By placing the students into pairs or groups of literary skills and creative skills the different content, processes and products can be accomplished fairly. Therefore different student on varying paths of learning will end up at the same point of understanding of the same major concept. In the case of Lesson Plan A the major concept is the displaying of an understanding of the Book read for the report. One way to cater to the different learning of the students is the headings used when writing about the character in the book. For example:

How the character thinks or acts as opposed to

What the character really means to say or do or

Why the author gives these clues.

Groups also need to be changed to avoid becoming stagnant and to work with a variety of peers based on interests, readiness or just let them have the choice to select their own groups.

Objectives - To acquire knowledge and skills on the book report the students will have to achieve the following objectives.

Students' performance will be accessed during classroom times in groups and individuals.

Satisfactory attainment of the objectives will be judged by suitable assessment techniques that will determine if the student established 3 key points. Appropriate topic, not put too much information on any one "sandwich filler," Consistent in the report and drawings.

Students will demonstrate that they have learned and understood the objectives of the lesson by the presenting of their finished "sandwich" book report in a manner that is easily read or viewed by other students.

Summary:

Grouping students by ability for reading has the advantage of allowing advanced readers to push ahead. Reading groups make differentiation easier for the teacher and provides better instruction to individual students in each level. No two students are the same, which means that no two children learn in the same way. Meeting the need of every unique learning style can be difficult to manage in the classroom. Differentiated instruction provides strategies and ideas that make it possible to vary instructional methods, content, assessments and the classroom environment so that all the students are motivated to succeed.( O'Brien & Guiney:2006).

Lesson Plan B: Famous Irish Women from History.

Web-Based Instructional Environment

Medium used: Webquest (Webquest: 2010)

Introduction

Enabling learning technologies can make the learning experiences in all types of setting more effective and accessible to the learner. In this web-based instructional environment for students the internet is used as the main medium for the delivery of the information and the support of communication. The Internet itself is not the key factor in the success of e-learning, according to Clark (2003) the pedagogical design used in conjunction with the features of the medium is accountable for the accomplishment of the lesson. The quality of the pedagogical design and its relationship to the possibilities of the internet is the message used to accomplish a suitable outcome in Lesson Plan B. For a web-based learning environment to be successful, it is also important that the learner can effectively facilitate with the learning environment. An effective web-based learning environment is important because it determines how easily the learner can focus on the learning material without having to make the effort to figure out how to access them ( Lohr, 2000). Having the information or knowledge available to learners online is not enough; the knowledge has to be learned. The majority of learning does not come from knowledge resources but stems from the activities of learners solving problems. It is the activities of the learners into the learning environment which is accountable for the learning.

Profile of the Learner

An understanding of the learner is needed to appropriate learning environments. The characteristics of the learners' profile which might affect how the learner interacts with a particular learning environment are prior knowledge of the learning domain, learning styles, age, gender etc. The instructions can then be presented in a manner that will most suit the learner. Lesson Plan B is aimed towards transition year students/senior cycle students or mature students who lack internet skills in level 4 ( low level adult) to help them become familiar with a web-based learning environment as well as improve their researching and literary skills.

The Task

This course in women studies offers students the opportunity to study a broad range of writings on Women from Irish History. The end result of the learners' activities will be a creative work on a female character from Irish History that will be submitted and published on the class website. There are three central elements of the course that are required by students. The first is that all these women are interesting; at the very least they are women who broke the rules in days when rule-breaking was riskier than it is today. The second criterion is an Irish connection. Lastly, since this is a historical collection, none of the women is living. The student will have to choose one woman who fits all three criteria for their final assignment. This course will introduce students to the variety of articles that comprise a typical Web-based instructional environment. Students will have to complete their assignments by submitting their essays into a class website which will reflect their research and literary skills in the topic previously mentioned. By having students design their own sections of a Web-quest, students will develop a thorough and applicable understanding of this particular form of media, as well as literature. Additionally, through creating their own Web-quest section as a class, students will be able to visualize the variety styles of writing and each article's individual significance to the entire literary work. They will combine their different articles into suitable sections of the class Web-quest website that will be accessible online.

Assessment:

Assessment is judged by publishing the essays online into a section of the class web-quest website based on a character from Irish women in History of the students' choice

Objectives - To acquire knowledge and skills on the Web-based course the students will have to achieve the following objectives.

Students' performance will be accessed by accessing a website and read its contents

Satisfactory attainment of the objectives will be judged by their literary skill and research skills

Students will demonstrate that they have learned and understood the objectives of the lesson by the publishing and designing a web-quest of their essay on their chosen character.

Materials:

Computer with Internet connection.

Suitable reading material to be researched as well as suitable websites.

Reading material examples: Erin's Daughters in America: Irish Immigrant Women in the Nineteenth Century (The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science) (Paperback) by Hasia R. Diner.

The Irish women's history reader By Alan Hayes, Diane Urquhart

Wild Irish Women Extraordinary Lives from History by Marian Broderick

Online recourses: http://www.nationalarchives.ie/wh/index.html

Differentiating Implementations for the course

Students varying background knowledge, readiness, language, preferences in learning and interests are recognized. Three elements of the course are differentiated: Content, Process and products. Students have flexible opportunities for demonstrating their skills. Requirements and expectations for learning and expressing knowledge and the degree of difficulty are fully supported. Throughout the course organized choices help diversify the available learning contexts: Students can select from a variety of methods to respond to the research. Students can work independently or with a partner during the assignment completion portion of the lesson i.e. creating of the web-quest. Or Students can select the right character based on difficulty and / or interest.

Implication for Web-Based Instructional Environment

Using the web brings with it both new opportunities and new concerns. The possibilities for designing web-based lesson are endless. However it is important that no matter how exciting the site looks, educational goals are the priority in the lesson, not the web site itself. The structure of students' time on the website plays a critical role in the success of the web-base lesson. Students need to be pointed in the right direction and not allowed to aimlessly surf the web. Technology is altering the structure of education according to Shank (2000) by disregarding institutional walls and developing new ways to access information, solve problems, and work together.

The software used for the e-learning medium is Web-Quest. The applications of text organisation principles in the design process make sense of directions in the page easier and contents are mentally structured in a proper manner. An appropriate degree of attention to the text aesthetics and it is presentation in a form which is accessible to the learners is a major objective.

The philosophical/theoretical orientation of the plan

The mature student is highly motivated and self-directed and assumes responsibility for learning and self-development (Knowles 1975; Brookfield 1990; Candy1991). Mature students and their differing abilities and needs are central to how planning and teaching should occur and the lesson will maintain and support this position. The lesson defines what knowledge is to be taught and learned in a way which reflects important priorities and understanding about how knowledge works. For mature students we have to assume a certain amount of life experience and need for relevance in the subject examples and context of the course. Individuals' prior learning has to be taken in to consideration in the subject matter being presented. Lecturers will provide relevance to ones life and draw upon life experiences wherever possible. The students develop ownership of what they learn since the learning is based on the students' questions and explorations also the students have a hand in designing the assessments. Constructivist assessment engages the students' initiatives and personal investments in their project. Another advantage of using the constructivism learning in the web-based lesson is that it promotes social and communication skills by creating a web-based environment that emphasizes collaboration and exchange of idea. Therefore the student must learn to "negotiate" with others which are essential to the success in the real world (Vygotsky, L.S: 1978).

The lesson examines the learner's active engagement in the context of aligned curriculum and instructions in conjunction with Bigg's (as cited in Walsh: 2007) notion of constructive alignment. The lesson is designed so that the student can expand and develop their knowledge and experiences by connecting them to the new learning. To achieve a successful outcome on the course the student must see the learning to be important, in other words it must have value to the learner. In a Constructivism learning environment Students learn more and enjoy learning more when they are actively involved rather than passive listeners. Learning involves making meaning of experiences and thus the knowledge constructed by each learner is unique (Jonassen, et al, 1995). In constructivist environments students create organizing principles that they can take with them to other learning settings. According to Dewey (cited by Jorda, M, Campbell, S. 2009). Education has to be grounded in real experiences. He wrote, "If you have doubts about how learning happens, engage in sustained inquiry: study, ponder, consider alternative possibilities and arrive at your belief grounded in evidence". Inquiry is a key part of constructivist learning.

Creating a Learner Centred environment

Many students have preconceptions about the nature of teaching and learning which can be in contrast to the demands of the constructivist learning environment in Lesson Plan B. First year college students according to William Perry's (1970) Scheme of Intellectual Development, has a dualistic view of knowledge, believing that the right answers for everything exist in the entire and that the role of the instructor is to teach them. In an effective student -cantered learning oriented environment requires different perspectives from both instructors and students. The content does not become priority rather the goal of the instruction is the intellectual development of the students. Students have to change their thinking and be encouraged to confront what they believe in light of facts and evidence. The student must alter their views of knowledge, roles of instructors and of themselves as learners in lesson plan B. The student will view their own role as learning to think independently and the instructor as the facilitation of the process. (Rhem, J & Associates, Inc.1996-2001). 

Bloom's (1984) taxonomy represents a tool for planning and implementing Lesson Plan B. It gives clear guidelines on the intended outcomes as expressed in terms of student learning. By specifying outcomes that display different levels of learning, it offers a refinement over the behavioural objective alone. Coupled with behavioural objectives, cognitive levels allow the course to mark out for students a path to the student learning outcomes expressed at various levels of Bloom's taxonomy. Bloom's taxonomy has proven itself to be a flexible and enduring structure to help define the parameters of the constructivist learning environment. It can lend rigor to the teaching of critical thinking skills and guide purposeful learning in the Web-based learning environment. Therefore using Bloom's taxonomy in the web based environment reflects not only the importance of acquiring information, (level 1 knowledge), but also the intellectual process of application and analysis as meaningful student learning outcomes.

References

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