Updated: Apr 14, 2020
Lesson planning is mostly an individual task. It is likely that this is due to the fast pace of a school day, the need to get things done quickly and the fact that everyone has their own unique way of delivering similar content. Lesson planning at the moment has significantly changed, with a shift towards providing independent learning tasks perhaps it is time to collaborate. I am suggesting that with some of the time that we have gained, we could make better use of individual teacher's strengths and areas of expertise through a team approach to planning and reflecting on lessons. In the current situation, there is a real need to ensure that tasks are creative- and achieving this really lends itself to collaborative planning. In this article, I will discuss the research around collaborative planning and reflection and provide some practical tips.
According to Thousand & Villa, 2000 it has been found that co-planning and teaching leads to better academic performance. They concluded that while this is in part due to having an extra teacher around and less waiting time for students needing help, collaborative planning allows us to utilize unique and specialized knowledge of more than one teacher. While it is not always possible to have two teachers in front of a class, it is possible to utilize the knowledge and ideas of multiple teachers when planning. It is well documented that lesson planning is the key to effective lessons, and we know that individual teachers have unique strengths in the classroom, it seems logical that collaborative planning should be a more regular occurrence (Jones, 1998).
Further studies have looked into the use of online tools to collaborate when planning. Research has found that teachers using 'Wikis' to plan lessons together provides a time-saving, beneficial and effective way of teaming up to plan lessons (McCann & Rashford, 1993). Wikis are just online documents or websites that more than one individual has editing rights to. Technology has changed since then and I would suggest creating lesson slides using Google Slides and having more than one teacher able to access and edit the content and tasks. Teachers could share ideas through comments and create lessons that are influenced by the expertise of more than one professional.
It is also beneficial for teachers to reflect on lessons collaboratively (Duffy and Bruns, 2006). However this should be done with a focus on student engagement and the structure of the lesson rather than making judgement on individual teaching ability. It would be a good idea for teachers to team up and discuss how a previous lesson went, as well as working together to plan the next one.
The limitations of such an idea are mostly due to time constraints. I am aware that it is difficult to gain common planning time with other teachers.(Vandeweghe & Varney, 2006). This is why I would suggest that now is a good time to explore the potential of collaborative planning and preparing of independent learning tasks. If this can be done remotely, using technology such as the Google applications, it could improve creativity of planning without having such an impact on time. When schools re-open it would be great to see more of them providing time dedicated to collaborative planning- and where possible, teachers should seek opportunities to do so in order to improve the quality of lesson planning and delivery.
Use Google slides and Google docs, providing access to other teachers to get their input. Even if this is just in part, or for one specific aspect of the planning. Make use of the expertise of other teachers around you.
Also if collaborative planning is done remotely, it does not necessarily need to be limited to teachers working in the same school. Teachers can connect through social media and have an input into planning. Even if this is done once or twice a year, we can learn a lot of new ideas.
Try to focus any collaboration and reflection on lessons or lesson planning on student engagement. This means that rather than identifying weaknesses in other teachers, just suggest additional ideas that improve planning. As we already know that lesson planning is the key to a good lesson.
Attempt to get out of the normal routine, planning as an individual task is more likely to reduce creativity. I know that there are many time constraints and challenges to overcome, but now may be a good time to collaborate remotely when planning independent home learning tasks.
The research shows that collaborative planning can be beneficial to improving the quality of lessons. I'd like to hear your thoughts- please comment below with your own experiences and whether you'd try any of our research informed tips.