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Running Head: LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

Lesson Plan Critique: Characteristics of living things and microscope introduction

Shannon Maion
University of British Columbia Masters of Educational Technology
ETEC 512

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

Learning theories are a source of verified instructional strategies, tactics and techniques
(Ertmer & Newby, 1993). As such, lesson plans should deliberately incorporate learning
theories in order to maximize the effectiveness of the lesson for its learners. Individual
learning theories do not need to be used as a one size fits all approach. Lesson plans
can take advantage of verified instructional strategies, tactics and techniques and
combine them to best suit the needs of your learners.
In this lesson plan critique, I will be examining one of my own lessons that I teach
in a grade eight science class which examines the characteristics of living things and
provides and introduction to the microscope. The lesson plan is critiqued through the
lenses of behaviourism, constructivism and situated learning.
Examining the learning theories
Behaviourism
The behaviourist learning theory emphasizes behaviours that are observable.
The production of observable and measurable behaviours results from the use of
positive and negative re-enforcers and punishments (Standridge, 2002). Behaviour
changes in students are achieved from stimulus-response associations where the
student would choose one response instead of another because of prior conditioning
(Parkey & Hass, 2000). These techniques can be effective in classroom management
and encouraging participation in the classroom.
Upon first visual examination of the original lesson plan (OLP) I noted one
behaviourist theory application was specifically made at the end of the lesson when
students were reminded that those who do not complete their homework will be

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

expected to stay in at lunchtime or afterschool the following day to do so. As I reflected


further on what this lesson looks like and how it plays out in my classroom another
behaviourists technique surfaced. This lesson includes interactive class discussions in
which I will use positive re-enforcers such as verbal praise to encourage participation.
Asking a student to spend extra time in the classroom during their spare time as a
consequence for not completing homework and using verbal praise are both examples
of how positive and negative re-enforcers can be used to elicit a desired response in
order for learning and behaviour modification to take place (Parkay & Hass, 2000).
In the revised lesson plan (RLP), I added behaviourist techniques to help with
classroom behaviour management as well as academic participation. In the OLP,
learning logs are filled out at the end of each lesson as a personal reflection on the
days learning and to ensure students are clear on their homework expectations for that
day, if any. The RLP, includes a homework check at the beginning of the class where
students are being rewarded with happy face homework stamp if their homework is
complete. This creates a visual reminder of the desired response. Behavior
expectations and safety expectations during a lab are also explicitly stated to be
reviewed with the students before the lab activity starts. This explanation also includes
informing the students of the negative response for any undesired behaviour. In order
for these behaviourist strategies to be effective they must be applied in a consistent and
daily manner. This consistency should lead to a well-conditioned class one that is
completing their homework and acting responsibly in lab situations.

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

Constructivism
Constructivism emphasizes student-centered learning through experiences and
the teachers role as the facilitator. The emphasis in learning shifts from the teacher to
the learner as knowledge is not a transferable commodity and communication not a
conveyance (von Glasersfeld, 1987, p.33). In constructivism a students prior
knowledge is activated and through self-directed experiences students will create
understanding. In the classroom, students are given more independence and freedom
to construct, communicate and evaluate their knowledge.
The OLP activities follow the constructivist theory quite closely. The activities are
student-centered and facilitated by the teacher. A good example of this is the brain
storming activity called a placemat. This activity starts with the student brainstorming
on their own and thus activating prior knowledge. Students then receive scaffolding
from their peers as they walk around and read other responses. In constructivism this
type of scaffolding is learning from the more knowledgeable other (MKO) (Vygotsky,
1978) as student who struggle to come with their own ideas in the brainstorming can
now gather information from others. This activity concludes with sharing amongst the
placemat group to come up with the top characteristics of living things. As students
construct new meaning through this constructivist approach, they are also partaking in
distributed cognition.
Driscoll (2005) states that knowledge is constructed by learners as they attempt
to make sense of the experiences (p. 387). The RLP includes a minor change to the
microscope activity to allow students to construct some of their own procedures and
meaning in the lab instead of following the activity like a recipe in a cookbook. Students

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

will create their own procedures for focussing a microscope, share it with a classmate
and collaborate with that classmate to come up with a final copy of a procedure for
focussing a microscope. This revised activity places the students as the drivers of their
own learning. As students complete the remainder of the lab it will be more meaningful
as they are following their own focusing procedures through the rest of the lab
investigation.

Situated Learning
Situated learning theory states that there is interdependency between activity,
concept and culture, and that all three of these aspects need to be present in a lesson
(Brown, Collins & Duguid, 1989). This means that teachers need to teach concepts in a
way that makes them relevant to the student and use these concepts in an authentic
culture. Brown et al (1989) states that students are too often asked to use the tools of
a discipline without being able to adopt its culture (p.33). Teachers need to provide
authentic activities where students can use their tools. These authentic activities are
defined by Brown et al (1989) as the ordinary practices of culture (p.34). Using
situated learning creates useable knowledge for the student; therefore, providing
context and meaning to what they are learning.
The OLP does incorporate situated learning by providing authentic activities for
students to apply new information. The microscope lab provides a small amount of
background information on the parts and functions of microscopes. Students are
required to label their own diagrams of the microscope to correspond with the real

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

microscope and its labels on their lab bench and not just copy the diagram in the
textbook. The microscope lab then takes the tools of focussing a microscope and
applies them in the culture of science as students perform authentic tasks of focussing
and examining specimens under the microscope.
The bell work and review activity at the beginning of the class was reworked in
the RLP to provide a more authentic activity for student to apply their knowledge of
safety rules and safety equipment in the classroom. Instead of students using rote
memory to write down functions of safety equipment, student will analyze a lab scenario
and apply their knowledge of safety rules and equipment to create safety procedures for
each lab experiment scenario. This revised activity takes potentially abstract concepts
and requires students to apply them in an authentic scenario thereby creating more
meaningful connections to their learning.

Conclusion
The adjustments made to the RLP create a more genuine and enriched learning
experience for the students. These changes came at cost of additional class time but I
believe that the additional affordances of the RLP are a worthwhile benefit. The addition
of the behaviourist techniques will add time to lesson as the teacher needs to follow
through with the responses which could initially mean staying in at lunch time or
afterschool with the students. Overtime this extra time should decrease as the students
become conditioned to the appropriate behaviours. Looking at constructivism and
situated learning theories in my lesson plan made me realize that meaningful learning

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

and true understanding takes time. Setting up authentic learning environments and
constructing knowledge takes time for the teacher and for the students. Knowledge is
not a transferable commodity and communication not a conveyance (von Glasersfeld,
1987, p.33) but something that is obtained with effective strategies in constructivism and
situated learning.

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

8
References

Brown, J.S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of
learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 3242.
Bednar, A.K., Cunningham, D., Duffy, T.M., & Perry, J.D. (1991). Theory into practice:
How do we link? In G.J. Anglin (Ed.), Instructional technology: Past, present, and
future. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Driscoll. M.P. (2005). Psychology of Learning for Instruction (pp. 384-407; Ch. 11 Constructivism). Toronto, ON: Pearson.
Ertmer, P. and Newby, Y. (1993). Behaviourism, cognitivism, constructivism: comparing
critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance
Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-72. Retrieved from
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/piq.21143/abstract
Jonassen, D.H. (1991b). Objectivism vs constructivism: Do we need a new
philosophical paradigm. Educational Technology Research and Development,
39(3), 514.
Parkay, F.W. & Hass, G. (2000). Curriculum Planning (7th Ed.). Needham Heights, MA:
Allyn & Bacon.
Standridge, M. (2002). Behaviorism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on
learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from
http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/index.php?title=Behaviorism

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

Von Glasersfeld, E. (2008). Learning as a Constructive Activity. AntiMatters, 2(3), 33-49.


Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?
doi=10.1.1.458.7301
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind and society [PDF]. Retrieved from
http://www.cles.mlc.edu.tw/~cerntcu/099-curriculum/Edu_Psy/EP_03_New.pdf

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Appendix A
The original lesson plan (OLP)

Unit: Cells and Systems

Lesson # 1

Topic:
Characteristics of living things
Introduction to the microscope
Reference:

Setup / Safety (if any):


Chart paper, felts, microscope and e-lab
bucket lab

BC Science 8 Textbook pg. 8-17

- Review where the broken glass container is


in case a slide breaks
- Review the procedure for dealing with broken
glass and the location of dust pan and broom
Bell Work / Question of the Day:
Review from last day list 4 pieces of classroom safety equipment and describe how to
use it
Time

5 min

3 min

5 min

Activity

1. Placemat brainstorming activity


- groups of 4, in each students part of the placemat they
are to brainstorm what they think the characteristics of
living things are (prompt with All living things have or do
____). This is to be done quietly on their own.

Next, students are to do a walk about the classroom


and read what other students have written down. After
2 minutes, they are to return to their group and add any
additional ideas to their own brainstorm. (1 minute)

Finally, as a group they are to now discuss each others


ideas and come up with their top 5 characteristics of
living things and write these in the middle of their
placemat (5 minutes).

Materials / Aids

Chart paper and


felts

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

5 min

11

Each group will then write their top 5 ideas on the


whiteboard for the class to see. The teacher will then
guide a discussion comparing all the answers written on
the board and guiding the class to the conclusion of the
5 characteristics of living things:
- living things respond to their environment
- living things need energy
- living things grow
- living things reproduce
- living things must get rid of waste
Worksheets

10 min

2. Hand out characteristics of living things


worksheet
Students are given a list of objects or living things and
must check off which of the 5 characteristics each of
these things have and then make a conclusion as to
whether or not that thing is living or not

3:40 min

3. Watch Characteristics of life intro video


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juxLuo-sH6M
(by Frank Gregorio)

4. Hand out microscope parts and function


worksheet
10 min

Saved under
science 8 playlist on
tweedscience
YouTube account

Microscopes at
student tables and
e lab supplies

Students will use microscope on their desk and pages


11-14 in textbook to label the parts of a compound light
microscope and describe the function of each part.
Students may have a prepared e slide at their table to
use to help them investigate the function of the parts of
the microscope.

5. Focussing on the Microscopic World

Textbook p. 16-17

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

12

Investigation

25 min

Students can start this investigation once they have


finished the microscope parts and function worksheet.
The teacher will give the students permission to start
once they have checked over the worksheet.

Observation sheets

Students are to complete all investigation procedures


and observations in class. Analyze and conclusion
questions can be completed (full sentences) for
homework if they run out of time in class. Any students
not done the questions for homework will stay in at
lunchtime or afterschool to complete them.

3 min

6. Learning Logs
Remind students to complete their daily learning log
- main idea of the day, important word of the day and
record the days homework

Learning logs

Evaluation:
Learning logs and p.17 analyze and conclude questions
Homework:
P.17 analyze and conclude questions
Notes to Self:
Bell work questions for tomorrow Is a peach pit a living thing? Why or why not?
Is a lighted match a living thing? Why or why not?

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

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Appendix B
The revised lesson plan (RLP)

Unit: Cells and Systems

Lesson # 1

Topic:
Characteristics of living things
Introduction to the microscope
Reference:

Setup / Safety (if any):


Chart paper, felts, microscope and e-lab
bucket lab

BC Science 8 Textbook pg. 8-17

- Review where the broken glass container is


in case a slide breaks
- Review the procedure for dealing with broken
glass and the location of dust pan and broom
- Review lab behaviour expectations
Bell Work / Review from previous lesson:
Review from last day Lab safety scenarios
- students will watch 3 short video clips showing students performing lab experiments
- videos access on maionscience YouTube account under science 8 playlist
- each student will come up with proper safety precautions and possible safety equipment
needed for each scenario
- students will then form three groups. Each group will be assigned a scenario and
students will share their ideas and come up with a safety plan for their scenario
- these plans will then be uploaded to the classroom website for all students to access and
comment on
Time

Activity

Materials / Aids

* homework check, safety symbol worksheets, to be


complete while students are doing their brainstorming
activity. Use the happy face homework stamp to stamp
learning logs of students who completed the assigned
homework
Chart paper and
1. Placemat brainstorming activity (assessing prior

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE


5 min

knowledge)
- Students are split into groups of 4. In each students
part of the placemat they are to brainstorm what they
think the characteristics of living things are (teacher will
prompt with All living things have or do ____). This is to
be completed by students quietly on their own.

3 min

Next, students are to do a walk about the classroom


and read what other students have written down. After
2 minutes, they are to return to their group and add any
additional ideas to their own brainstorm. (1 minute)

5 min

Finally, as a group they are to now discuss each others


ideas and come up with their top 5 characteristics of
living things and write these in the middle of their
placemat.

5 min

Each group will then write their top 5 ideas on the


whiteboard for the class to see. The teacher will then
guide a discussion comparing all the answers written on
the board and guiding the class to the conclusion of the
5 characteristics of living things:

14
felts
Placemat set up

Reference textbook
pg. 10

- living things respond to their environment


- living things need energy
- living things grow
- living things reproduce
- living things must get rid of waste

10 min

2. Hand out characteristics of living things


worksheet
Students are given a list of objects or living things and
must check off which of the 5 characteristics each of
these things have and then make a conclusion as to
whether or not that thing is living or not
- teacher will facilitate class discussion so students can

Characteristics of
living things
worksheets

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

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share their answers

3:40 min

3. Watch Characteristics of life intro video


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juxLuo-sH6M
(by Frank Gregorio)

4. Hand out microscope parts and function


worksheet
10 min

25 min

25 min

Students will use microscope on their desk and pages


11-14 in textbook to label the parts A-L of a compound
light microscope and describe the function of each part.
Students may have a prepared e slide at their table to
use to help them investigate the function of the parts of
the microscope.

Saved under
science 8 playlist on
tweedscience
YouTube account
science 8 playlist

Microscopes at
student tables with
labeled parts A-L
Microscope parts
labeling worksheet

5. Students will create a procedure for focusing a


specimen at low, medium and high power.

Microscope e lab
supplies

- students will use the information gained in the


previous activity as well as the microscope and
prepared slide at their tables to create a detailed step
by step focusing procedure.
- when students are complete they will trade focusing
procedures with another group. Each group will follow
the other groups procedure and give feedback on its
effectiveness. Each group will make revisions, if
required, to their procedure and hand in when
completed

Textbook p. 16-17

6. Focussing on the Microscopic World


Investigation

Microscope lab
observation sheets

- teacher should review appropriate lab behaviour and


safety expectations and review the consequences for
not following these directions

Students can start this investigation once they have


finished the microscope parts and function worksheet

LESSON PLAN CRITIQUE

16

and handed in their focusing a microscope procedures.


Students are to complete all investigation procedures
and observations in class. Analyze and conclusion
questions can be completed (full sentences) for
homework if they run out of time in class. Any students
not done the questions for homework will stay in at
lunchtime or afterschool to complete them.

3 min

7. Learning Logs
Remind students to complete their daily learning log
- main idea of the day, important word of the day and
record the days homework
- homework will be stamped in learning logs next day

Learning logs

Evaluation:
Learning logs and p.17 analyze and conclude questions of microscope lab
Homework:
P.17 analyze and conclude questions
- students who do not finish are expected
to stay in at lunchtime or afterschool to
complete them
Notes to Self:
Bell work questions for tomorrow Is a peach pit a living thing? Why or why not?
Is a lighted match a living thing? Why or why not?