Designing the learning experience we want our learners to have
Starting a new semester is always exciting: that feeling of starting over, but knowing a bit more and being able to make it a bit better! So I would like to start this year’s posts focusing our attention on our ability to design learning experiences as we shape our own journey as educators.
So let’s get started by looking at your semester as a whole and taking two very important steps:
1) Revisit the CEFR of your group so that you have a clear picture of where they are as they join the course and where they should be at the end of the course (for more information on CEFR, visit https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/exams-and-tests/cefr/ and https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/Images/126011-using-cefr-principles-of-good-practice.pdf )
2) Mark the start and end dates, holidays, long weekends, etc. on your Planner or Google Calendar (find out what works best for you!). Then break it down month by month, adding the most important milestones for learners and for you.
For instance, for a language course, twice a week, it could be something like (remember to adapt to your context):
1st FEB – Teaser Video introducing yourself + inviting learners to do the same
3rd FEB – Welcome email with reminder about start date
6th FEB – Day 1 (work on group cohesiveness and goals setting)
15th FEB – Day 4 (quick self-assessment + revisiting goals)
27th FEB – Day 7 Mini-test 1
I also like to look at the semester as a puzzle with different pieces, such as Needs Analysis, Learning Intentions, Success Criteria, Checkpoints, Real Life Chunks etc. that will be put together by teacher and learners as the course unfolds. Once you have a clear picture of what the semester will look like, it is time to think about what, when and how you will communicate that to your learners. Let’s take a look at some of these pieces.
We can use a needs analysis questionnaire to gather relevant information about learners. The key aspect about it is that it should be a useful tool for teachers to easily gather information that will inform decisions and actions taken by the teacher, helping him/her design the learning experience in a practical way. To get started, I like to ask myself ‘What do I need to know about my learners so that I can design the best learning experience possible?’ And then I limit myself to the number of questions I will ask, dividing it in two main sections: personal info and info for the course. I usually use Google Forms because you can automatically turn the answers into a Google Sheets and that can make it easier to analyse the answers. Here is a very interesting site with more information on Needs Analysis https://www.myenglishlanguage.com/teacher-resources/needs-analysis/
A Learning intention could be defined as “(…) a daily statement of what a student is expected to learn in a given lesson (1). According to Hattie (2012), when students know what they are supposed to be learning, they are three times more likely to learn it. It could be the “Lesson Objective” shared with learners at the beginning of the lesson, it could be a photo or short video that illustrate it and help learners come up with the Learning intention for that lesson together, as a group. And I highly recommend revisiting it as the lesson unfolds so that you make sure it is still relevant and clear to all learners – revisiting it can give you an insight about learners’ understanding of it! Wanna find out more about Learning intentions? Visit https://players.brightcove.net/268012963001/rJenILPQx_default/index.html?videoId=ref:cwn-fisher-inte-m3eli-BA01187
What are we learning today? LEARNING INTENTION → How are we going to learn it? PRACTICES AND ACTIVITIES → How do we know we learned it? SUCCESS CRITERIA. Once we have our Learning Intention and we choose how we are learning it, both teachers and learners should be able to gauge their progress and have clarity about their performance throughout the lesson. How do they know whether they are successful at learning the intended subject of that lesson? They should know what success looks like, and sharing with learners the success criteria will do just that! Let’s take a look at a simple example:
Learning Intention: 🎯 How to write a persuasive paragraph
Success Criteria: My paragraph will be persuasive enough if…
✅ I have a topic sentence that states my opinion clearly;
✅ I have a body that includes 3-5 reasons;
✅ I have a closing sentence that relates to my opinion.
But then… WHY do learners need to write a persuasive paragraph? That is when the RELEVANCE kicks in! We should always relate the learning intention to a real life purpose – if you can’t find it… well, I would either change it or adapt it enough so that it makes sense to both you and your learners.
The previous Learning Intention could be something like: 🎯 How to write a persuasive paragraph so that you can receive a refund / so that you can convince your principal to invest in your school gymnasium / so that you get your money back / etc. Learn more about Success Criteria and remember to adapt it to your teaching context: https://players.brightcove.net/268012963001/rJenILPQx_default/index.html?videoId=ref:cwn-fisher-inte-m4csc-BA01189
Plan ahead when, what, how and why you will revise content and let learners know in advance so that they too can prepare and be ready. It could be by using a quick test, a group guided discussion, a self assessment form, you name it! The thing is to have an opportunity to revise content and help learners perceive their own progress along the way.
Real Life Chunks
This is something extra… Whatever the lesson intention is, I always like to provide learners with some real life chunks so that they can immediately use or at least recognise it when watching TV series, reading or listening to content in English. It could be something culture-related or survival English-related… You will know what to choose by talking to your learners about it and also by using the information you gathered in the needs analysis.
I hope somehow you find a bit of inspiration to get started and design the best learning experience possible, while you develop yourself professionally and also do remember to have fun along the way!
Have yourself a marvelous new semester!
(1) Fisher, Douglas; Frey, Nancy; Amador, Olivia; Assof, Joseph. The Teacher Clarity Playbook, Grades K-12 (Corwin Literacy) (p. 20). SAGE Publications. Edição do Kindle.
Fisher, Douglas; Frey, Nancy; Quaglia, Russell J.; Smith, Dominique B.; Lande, Lisa L. (2017). Engagement by Design (Corwin Literacy). SAGE Publications. Edição do Kindle.
Almarode, John; Fisher, Douglas; Frey, Nancy; Thunder, Kateri (2021). The Success Criteria Playbook – A Hands-on Guide to make learning visible and measurable (Corwin Literacy). Fisher & Frey. Edição do Kindle.
Hall, Pete; Simeral, Alisa. Building Teachers’ Capacity for Success (p. 152). ASCD. Edição do Kindle.
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