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The article Do Superior teachers employ systematic instructional planning procedures? A descriptive study (1998) which is written by Young, Reiser, and Dick is an explanation of the study that they (the authors) carried out with the aim of determining if systematic planning procedures was being used by teachers. This study especially concentrated on teachers who have been labeled superior and they collected data through surveys and face-to-face interviews.
Instructional planning is one of the tasks performed by teachers that have been identified to be very vital and of high necessity since such plans greatly influence classroom activities, the objectives set, and styles of teaching. When students undergo training at the university they get introduced to instructional planning procedure through the pre-teacher programs such as the objective-first model sometimes referred to as rational planning model, a creation of Ralph Tyler in 1949. In this model the teacher is required to first give a clear delineation of the objectives they are planning to teach and thereafter establish the instructional activities that will work as the reinforcements to the objectives. The next step is that of executing the planned activities sequentially and then student evaluation on the basis of how they understand the objectives. Reiser and Dick also created another model in 1994 in which four key principles relating to essential planning are defined. The initiation of planning process must include clear definition of general goals and definition of precise objectives that should be achieved by the students. This is followed by the planning of the activities which will assist the students in attaining the defined objectives and then the measurement of the students' achievement through the appropriate assessment instruments which are created. For purposes of ensuring that students grasped the concepts relevant to the objectives, the instructions are revised after grading of the assessments. Grasping of this concept has been very good for pre-service teachers who have undergone the teaching and employ the process with excitement but enthusiasm is less in using the process while teaching. The systematic approach to instructional planning is rarely used by teachers while in classroom but rather base their planning on the planned activities. The use of this approach can only be increased by making it mandatory.
Through the study that the authors did, they came up with data that can be described as interesting while having very informative conclusions. Their study found that systematic planning was not employed by teachers with very few expressing concern about clear identification of objectives they were trying to teach and many not mentioning objectives when discussing their way of planning. Whenever the objectives were mentioned the feeling was that writing them down, as required by the planning model, is not necessary. The teachers involved in the study suggested that they did not consider objectives in the process of making instructional decisions and a huge part of the planning model that was not mentioned is the design of objective based tests. The other trend that was reported is that of instructional plans changing from day to day but this was never mentioned in systematic planning models. Two factors that most often led to such changes in the instructional plans were time factors and performance of the students.
The belief of the authors is that greater learning which is based on research and experience can be achieved through the employment of the above principles. Only two conflicting reports were cited with one suggesting that objective based systematic planning resulted in better learning while the other suggested that learning in classrooms that used systematic planning and those that did not use it was the same. The choosing of the superior teachers is done by their peers rather than by their way of planning instructional activities and academic achievement of their students.
This article was written with an aim of presenting the research that was done to find out if systematic instructional planning procedures were employed by 'superior' teachers. The fact that many training programs used in teaching pre-service teachers give students an introduction to systematic instructional planning is discussed by the authors adding further that this focuses on clear identification of objectives for purposes of planning for instructional activities and the related assessments. The article and the study had the purpose of observing the planning procedures of a group of 'superior' elementary and secondary teachers; these teachers got the label of 'superior' after being finalists for the Teacher of the Year award for the country. In order to determine the planning techniques of the teachers, questionnaires and surveys were used, a comparison of the data collected and the models of systematic instructional planning were then to be done.
This article presented the research on the 'superior' teachers and the use of systematic instructional planning among these teachers with a seeming proposition of this approach from the authors. A seven step planning process was actually developed by two of the authors; this was a modernization of the Tyler's rational planning model. Nevertheless, the main argument of this article was somehow lost within the paper, apart from the presentation of this research and background information. Teachers employ other methods in class even though systematic instructional planning methods are taught in most pre-service teacher programs. Even with the revelation that this method is not used by many teachers three studies are cited by the authors that indicate the contrary. A case study also indicated that many of the parents felt that teachers who used systematic instructional planning methods in their classroom were the best.
Discussion of conclusion
The conclusion of the authors was that the teachers who were involved in their study did not practice systematic planning methods and expressed little concern about the clear definition of objectives of the instructional time, furthermore, many never mentioned objectives when planning their classes. In case objectives were to be mentioned then the necessity of writing them down was ignored arguing that it was in their head. This directly contrasts with systematic planning models that dictate for objectives to be clearly written. The other aspect that was also contrary to the systematic instructional methods was the fact that teachers never specified if their objectives backed up the choices of instructional decisions. The importance of assessing students and ensuring that they base their learning on objectives is also stressed while observing that teachers failed to mention objectives when speaking of creating tests. When asked about the situations that would necessitate adjustments in their instructional plans, common answers were given which included time factors and performance of the students, however, the performance of students with regard to specific objectives was not in the list of the answers.
The authors believe that all pre-service teachers should be informed of the fact that systematic instructional planning methods are not used by all teachers and employing such methods is not a necessity to be branded 'superior'. However, exposure to these methods is important for pre-service teachers since it shows the correlation between objectives, assessments, materials, and activities. This also provides a foundation for the development of teaching style that would be personalized to match the personality of the teacher in their environment.
Despite the interesting nature of the article and the study, a few problems can be associated with them. The problems with the study itself seemed a bit obvious due to the limited number of participants considering that it was a scientific study, this limited the conclusions drawn. The questions the participants were asked were very open ended preventing the participants from discussing systematic instructional planning resulting into more generalized answers which have a possibility of differing from the facts sought for. The responses from the survey and interview were also coded which may be subjective and switching the person coding at any point can bring a great variation in the coding.
The other interesting bit of the article was the contradictory nature of the research that was used to support and explain why the study was done or the significance of systematic instructional planning to students; this either contradicted the arguments of the authors or was unsupportive of the same arguments. This complicated the paper making it hard not only to read but also hard to understand since the authors supported a statement but then state an exact opposite by referring to another research article.
Even though one is tempted to understand that some of the problems were not a making of the authors, including just nine participants in such a study was rather inappropriate. The appropriate step would have been following up the ten participants who never responded and thus would have been part of the study. The study would have also included questions structured differently, such as the Likert scale, beside the open ended questions which would have generated more objective answers from the participants. In correcting the problems related to coding, a standardized system could have been used with only one person followed by a recoding of the information by one of the authors to prevent incorrect coding.
Holding this paper waiting for more research on systematic instructional planning would have been a better step, this would have probably eliminated the contradictory nature of the research which brought the element of unprofessionalism. It is important for one to include research not supporting their hypothesis but it is more important not to undermine his or her argument.
Potential effects of the fixes
Including more participants in the study would bring a possibility of applying the findings to a larger group in society since increasing the number of participants widens the answers to the questions asked. Including a Likert scale in the survey can also enhance the responses given by the teachers and would reveal some information that was not previously obtained. Standardizing the coding system and making the process thorough would prevent wrong categorization of answers and also give the authors' arguments more strength.
In order to help the reader the article should include more research; this would reduce confusion and also eliminate undermining the authors' work. This would also make the paper more professional since the arguments of the authors would be clear.
Teachers and administrators would get more benefit from the publication of an edited version of this article. This article makes teachers believe that they can be 'superior' without employing systematic planning methods thus argue that ones they have the objectives in their head then there is no need of putting them down.