Considering lesson plan quality

My students gave themselves an assignment based on their desire to write “good” lesson plans. They went on a hunt for both the best and worst art lesson plans via the internet in order to analyze the characteristics of both, and asked me to compile our conversation. 


Here is the result. What would you add? What would you change?

 Thoughts about “Good” and “Bad” Lesson Plans
Ideas of ART 325 students Daniel Clarke, Alexandra Fleming, Marie Freiselben, Samantha Gehman, Amber Hile, Kyla Kirby, Katie-Marie McLean, Danielle Noll, Ashley Talamantez. 
Compiled by Leslie Gates, Ph.D., Spring 2014

Is the term lesson plan inclusive of the physical document and the ideas? One student noticed we were initially using the term to describe more than one thing. For instance, some lesson plans are written clearly, have goals, instruction, and assessment that is aligned, and includes necessary components. However, the projects/activities described in the lesson plan may not meet our expectations of quality. So although the lesson plan is written sufficiently, we realized that when we talk about “good” lesson plans, we are often referring to the quality of the activities more so than the technical aspects of the way the lesson was written. As a result of our analysis of lesson plans, we described “good” and “bad” lesson plans in the following ways, fully aware that lesson plans rarely fall neatly into one or two columns:
Good Lesson Plans…
Bad Lesson Plans…
are sufficiently challenging for students. Difficult concepts are scaffolded so that students are not overwhelmed.  are not developmentally appropriate – the most frequent offense within the lesson plans were reviewed were activities that were far too simple and underestimated the abilities of the student to generate their own ideas.
include a final project that provides students with an open-ended prompt that requires them to synthesize and apply knowledge they’ve gained from previous lessons or activities to a new concept. The project is acceptable evidence of both technical and conceptual goals.  include a final project that requires students to complete a step by step process outlined by the teacher, which demonstrates a child’s technical craft and ability to follow directions but fails to demonstrate a child’s understanding of non-technical goals. 
provide students with opportunities to use their diverse ways of knowing and life experiences to interpret prompts in particular and meaningful ways. They allow for authentic explorations of both students’ and others cultures.  assume a homogenous body of students that all celebrate the same holidays, and have similar cultural knowledge and life experiences. Bad lesson plans are conceptualized around one holiday or experience (often with a step by step craft).
present a theme or concept important in the work or one or more artists, and asks students to create their own work about that theme or concept without requiring students to adopt/copy the artist’s formal style/characteristics.  reduce a famous or exemplary artist’s work to purely the formal properties and then ask students to make a work like _____ in look only, and fail to engage students with artist’s concepts and process. 
provide in-depth information about the concept, artist(s), or technique being studied. Good lesson plans demonstrate a well-researched and knowledgeable instructor. provide little or narrow information about the concept, artist(s), or technique being studied. Bad lesson plans can be limited by “creating lesson plans that only go off of what you [currently] know.”
the goals, instruction, and assessment are aligned. The final project or activity demonstrates whether students’ have meet the goals of the lesson. Instruction supports student’s work toward the goals.  the goals, instruction, and assessment do not work together; the students’ final works may not demonstrate whether the students have met the goals of the lesson. 
include opportunities for students to learn information on an as-needed basis.  assume each student requires the same knowledge/demonstration.
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Ode to My Graduate Students

Dear Graduate Students,

I think it’s somewhat unfair that you pay to take classes that I get paid to teach given the the amount of things I learn from/with you. The group of you in our M.Ed. program right now are some of the most generous people I know. You are curious, and eager, and reflective. You work hard. I want to be with you, look forward to our classes, and find myself thinking about our conversations may times over. I wonder about you, and your students. I suspect that our conversations are making a difference. I am delighted by your stories: you tried something new that made a difference for that distant student, you are mentally well despite your taxing schedule and roller coaster personal life, you approached your administrator because you were no longer willing to do something that you knew wasn’t the best for students.

I applaud you. I tell everyone who considers our grad program that if they met you, or sat in a class, they would know that there was a place for them around our table.

Leslie