Many teachers use lessons plans in order to effectively guide their classes through a lesson. They allow the teacher to outline the subject, highlight key points and build a robust curriculum that allows for a well-rounded and easily understood lesson.
However, in order to be an effective use of time, a lesson needs a purpose. This is often the first part of a lesson plan and gives a reason why the lesson is important and what students can expect to learn from it. Once the ideal learning outcome is determined, the plan can be more easily formulated to address it.
The point of a lesson is to learn something new or develop a new skill based on the topic of the lesson. Without establishing goals or learning outcomes, there is no way to assess whether the lessons were beneficial or not.
When a goal is set for a lesson it will be clear what the student should know or be able to do at the end of the lesson. This will make the lesson more focused, helping keep students interested and engaged.
The newfound knowledge or skills that should be gained from a lesson is called a learning outcome. A learning outcome in a lesson plan tells what development will be accomplished by a specified amount of time in the classroom, such as a day or week. This demonstrable knowledge or skill can be evaluated through tests or other demonstrations. Being able to demonstrate the skill or knowledge shows that the student has made progress and learned something new.
How to Formulate and Use a Learning Outcome
An effective learning outcome should primarily answer the questions, “What will I learn from this?” and “Why do I need to know this information?” This helps to assign a purpose to the lesson. Once a student knows why or how the information will be useful, they are more likely to pay attention and care about it.
It also makes it easier to create the lesson plan with the sole purpose of accomplishing that outcome. Depending on the educational level, these developments could be something as simple as being able to perform basic math for children or reciting the bones in the human body for older students.
To create a learning outcome for a lesson plan, you should:
Identify the skill or knowledge you are trying to teach
This is the first step in determining how to approach the lesson. The lesson plan needs to have a topic that is being taught to distinguish it from other lessons, and the topic should be the primary point or idea of the content being taught.
For example, if you are teaching a health class, a topic could be the human body, the food pyramid or puberty. There will be a variety of different subtopics and other points, but the overall message conveyed should be related to the main topic. The skill or knowledge can be vague, with the level of understanding being the determining factor of how it is being taught.
Determine the level of understanding you want them to attain
In the examples from step 1, there are a wide variety of learning outcomes that could come from the topics of the human body, the food pyramid or puberty. The second part of formulating a learning outcome is determining the level and form of understanding the students should be able to demonstrate.
The level of understanding you can expect from your students depends on the grade level of the class. For example, younger children will not have the ability to deeply deconstruct and question how the human body works the way a college student would. Be sure to tailor the learning outcomes to what can be considered a reasonable expectation.
Some examples of learning outcomes are:
- Memorize the food groups of the food pyramid
- Compare and contrast puberty between boys and girls
- Identify the senses related to certain body parts
Create an evaluation to determine the level of understanding
Once you determine the level of understanding you are aiming for, being able to evaluate and check for that understanding is important to determine how effective your lesson plan was.
For example, if your learning outcome is to identify which part of the body each sense comes from, you could create a worksheet where the nose, eyes, and mouth are blankly labeled and ask the student to put the sense there. This would show that they understand the topic enough to be able to label the senses, surpassing the minimum learning outcome of being able to identify the body parts linked to different senses.
A learning outcome is like the destination on a vacation. The lesson plan helps to guide the journey, but without a destination, the trip is for nothing. By setting realistic expectations, you can tailor the content and activities to help reach the desired level of understanding. This makes for an effective lesson plan and offers a well-rounded education for your students.