A confession: as a classroom science teacher, I was a planner. I prepared, scripted, modeled and even practiced lab activities to ensure that I met desired objectives–hopeful that what I was doing would be meaningful to my students. Planning was generally a process that began with what I visualized as the desired outcome and involved working backward to develop an appropriate learning sequence.
I was walking a fine line.
Planning and preparation can be about effectiveness, efficiency and relevance. Or, it can be about control. The former can obviously have a positive impact on student performance, while the latter can decimate student engagement, creativity and enthusiasm. As I reflect on my time as a teacher, I sometimes cringe when I think about the constraints I may have unknowingly placed on my students by over planning.
Being prepared is a good thing and as educators we have an obligation to plan the instructional time we have with our students. However, it is also very easy for us to impose our desired outcomes for projects, discussions or activities on students–thus limiting their freedom to explore concepts and utilize innovation and creativity to solve problems. Our teaching should encourage divergent thinking. Our planning shouldn’t restrict students to a narrow set of results.
Maybe we should begin more classroom activities with no end in mind–allowing students to guide the learning process and determine appropriate outcomes.