The Australian education curriculum and assessment has been credited as being among the best in the world and one of the most allinclusive curriculum in terms of producing well-rounded and global citizens(CIEB, 2012). The Australian history curriculum has several central objectives. These include: developingstudents’ curiosity in and exuberance of historical studies;advancing student’s learning, understanding and positive reception of the past and the forces that shape societies; and many other reasons (ACARA A. , 2014). It is upon every teacher to ensure that their lesson plan are organized in a manner that facilitates student learning and understanding of key historical concepts that are in synch with the aims established by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority and which are harmonious with the specified curriculum content that is corresponding with students in that age group.
In this paper, this essay is going to present a critique of the attached lesson sequence in assignment three. To achieve this, the paper will first present the strong points of the lesson sequence, specifying the particular segments of the lesson sequence which are congruent with a typical lesson sequence that is proposed by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, and which will assist the teacher in putting across key historical concepts in the particular topic in a manner that will facilitate easy learning for the students. It will also highlight the elements of the lesson sequence which meet the standards of generally agreed characteristics of a lesson plan for teaching history The second part of this paper will involve identifying issues related to the lesson sequence that are more questionable and which when assessed against the standard provided by the curriculum fall short. The final part and conclusion will present a brief recap of the main points while giving suggestions of worldwide accepted standards for a good lesson sequence for teaching history to year 6 students.
Teachers, educators and other instructors make use of lesson plans to strategize on what they will teach their learners. In addition to providing written information on what will be instructed, lesson plans itemize how the material will be presented and how students’ learning will be assessed after the lesson. The lesson sequence attached is a 60 minute lesson sequence designed to introduce students to the subject of Experiences of Australian citizenship and democracy, as well as the status and rights of Torres Strait Islanders and the Aboriginal people, migrants, women, and children
Positive Features of the Lesson Sequence
The lesson sequence presented, exhibited some attributes which are in conformity with both the requirements of the Australian curriculum and international lesson plan accepted standards.
First, according to theAustralian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (2014), a good history lesson plan should enable the student to develop conveyable competences, for example, the ability to ask relevant questions, critically analyze and construe sources, cogitate context, respect and expound different evaluations, develop and corroborate interpretations and communicate effectively. This has aptly been achieved by the lesson sequence. The lesson plan has been designed in a way that stimulates questions and debate by the student, and at the same time makes use of various tools such the SCIM-C inquiry as in lesson One. Lesson Two has been designed in a way that it provokes the students to think critically, and in the long run assist the students in understanding a particular historical event by placing them in that particular historical context. This enhances students’ appreciation of Australian history.
Secondly, Cunningham and ASCD (2014), state that a good history lesson plan should have a set of purpose describing the overarching reason for the lesson, introduce key concepts, topic and main ideas, pull students into the excitement of learning through the use of a challenge, an amazing fact or mind tickler and make the learning relevant by extending the lesson past learning and leading to future learning. The lesson plan presented has the characteristics of a good lesson plan. It has specified the goal of the lesson, and introduced important concepts, topics and main ideas. It has pulled students’ attention through the use of historical examples and artifacts and by the use of debates that provoke the student and therefore elicit a reaction. This is especially in lesson four, where the teacher’s action to group students into those who can vote and those who cannot, and the subsequent rights that he places on one group of the students and denies the rest in trying to put across the subject of democracy and lack of. The lesson plan has also made use of challenges throughout the lesson plan. For example, the challenge to design a coin that shares something they learnt that particular day in lesson one.
Lesson One presents an opportunity for historical inquiry. The inclusion of a historical coin in the lesson and the corresponding questions regarding the information presented in the coin presents an avenue for examination. The lesson goes ahead and provides a website that would provide historical information on the subject of the coins requiring the student to skim through the website and find a date that might be pertinent to the coin. This is a suitable and effective element in teaching history as it facilitates historical investigation.
The lesson plan has also included the perspectives from aboriginals and TorresStrait Islanders as specified by the Queensland Studies Authority (2007). This has been achieved in lesson Five where guest speakers, Mary Jones, granddaughter of Able Jones, Pacific Islander rights campaigner, Barry Rose, daughter of Martha Rose, Aboriginal rights campaigner and George Green, descendant of John Green, anti-suffrage campaigner have been invited to speak to the class. This step helps both the student and teacher understand Indigenous knowledge, build respectful relations, learn from collective unitsand preserve and pass on cultural knowledge.
Another positive aspect of this lesson sequence is that the teacher always begins by letting the students be aware of what that particular lesson will involve and what will be expected from the students. For example lesson two begins with letting the students know that the class is going to learn about democracy, it goes ahead and discusses the features of a democratic system and involves the students by brainstorming ideas. This structure not only passes new knowledge to the students, but also engages the students in activities which enable the teacher know whether the students have understood and also fills the students head with ideas, concepts and allows them to expand and clarify their thinking.
According to Aggarwal (2009, p. 294), an effective lesson plan should provide a plan for assessmentthat consists of a test, a quiz or a written essay. The lesson sequence attached has provided a plan for assessment, including a final assignment, group tasks as well as individual homework. These assessment methods allow the students to convey their knowledge and give the teacher an avenue to test their knowledge in the situation. The lesson sequence has also provided a performance grading criteria, which is a key element of any lesson sequence.
Singh (2008, pp. 154-155), states thata good lesson plan should be related to the previous works or lessons to allow for a logical flow of the topics covered in previous lessons and the subsequent lessons. This allows students to build on the knowledge that they have acquired in previous lessons. For example lesson one gives a brief introduction of suffrage and democracy, lesson two, defines democracy and brings its application into perspective by the use of an activity in the class setting, lesson three, educates the students on the importance of democracy, lesson four prepares students for historical guest who present more information to the students on the history and importance of democracy. Therefore, this lesson sequence has a logical, flow which therefore, allows for easy understanding by the students.
The lesson sequence through the use of class activities such as working in groups, discussion and debates, asking of questions and sharing of meals with guests offer opportunities for the students to develop general skills, such as time management, group work, relationship development and friendship. This is in line with the Australian curriculum which expects students to draw on their growing understanding and knowledge of family, school and the broader community to develop their understanding of the world.
A good lesson plan should indicate the teaching techniques to be used by the teacher, how the lesson is to be organized, what modus is to be followed, what questions are to be examined and what illustrations are to be used (Singh, 2008, p. 155). Pathak (2012, p. 198), adds that the lesson plan should clearly state the various steps that the teacher is going to take and also the various questions that he will ask. The lesson sequence attached reflected most of these aspects of a good lesson plan. All the lesson plans, except lesson six highlighted the teaching techniques to be employed, the specific questions that were to be asked in each lesson and the illustrations to be used such as artefacts, class activities and guests.
The lesson sequence also makes use of historically accurate and appropriate resources in its lesson plans. The use of the historical coins in lesson One is one such key historical resource, the other is the inclusion of guests to come to speak to the class in lesson Five. The historical relevance of the guests is the fact that they are all descendants of notable figures who were involved in campaigns that were fighting for the rights of the aboriginals and pacific islanders, a topic which the students have been learning in class. Therefore, their inclusion in the class lesson plan makes it possible for the students to relate what they have read in the history class with the people who personify what they have learnt.
Negative Featuresof the Lesson Sequence
While the lesson plan is well thought out, and containsa lot of very good and useful information, it could stand some improvement and reorganization.
First, although the lesson sequence has provided opportunities for engagement with the Australian Curriculum requirements andhas been able to achieve most of the curriculum requirements specified by the Australian curriculum on the subject of Experiences of democracy and citizenship in Australia, consisting the status and rights of the Torres Strait Islandersand Aboriginal people, migrants, children as well as women(ACHHK114). It failed to address the subject of the significance of the 1962 right to vote and the 1967 referendum, and the experiences of democracy and citizenship of children who were placed in orphanages, homes and other institutions as specified by the Australian curriculum. This lesson sequence is superficial and incomplete when compared to the content description which has been provided by the Australian curriculum for teaching history for students in year 6 (ACARA, 2012).
Most of the lesson plans lacked objectives or the provided objectives suffered major problems. According to Singh (2008, p. 154), a good lesson plan should have objectives, both general and specific and which should be clearly stated. In the lesson sequent, most of the plans do not have criteria for fulfilment, and the only form of objectives which have been specified come in the form of questions:what could ‘suffrage’ mean? What does ‘centenary’ mean? How can we find out? What does that mean? How can we find out? Lesson objectives help both the student and the teacher to be aware of what to expect and assist in keeping the timing of activities in control.
Another key shortcoming of the lesson sequence is the failure of the teacher to allot time for each activity. According to Pathak (2012, p. 198), a good lesson plan should indicate the duration of the periods and the period itself. Time allotment involves specifying how much time will be spent with each lesson phase, such as the introduction, the body of new information or the time that a particular class activity should consume. Time allotment allows for complete coverage of a particular lesson within the allotted time.
According to Pathak (2012, p. 198), a lesson plan should not let the lesson remain an isolated lesson. It should have its basis on the previous knowledge background of the class. That is, it should grow out of what the students already learnt. The lesson plan did not check on the student’s previous learning especially in lesson one. This involves verifying what the students already know or think and clarifying key points of upcoming lessons and building a background knowledge of the lesson. Instead lesson one lurchdirectly into the new topic without prior background of what the students know.
A good lesson plan should take into consideration the specific composition of the students in terms of their background, personalities and reaction to particular teaching styles. Pathak (2012, p. 200) states that a lesson plan is a means and not an end, and it is wrong to follow it without reasoning. Ateacher should be prepared to change his teaching methods from those refered in the plan, if need requires. Taking into consideration these dynamics will allow the teacher to adjust the teaching strategies to ensure that it gels with the students. In the lesson sequence, there was no allowance to allow for such variations or adjustments.
Finally, a good lesson plan cannot be thought of without appropriate assignments for the students. Assignments can take different forms. It should also have a suitable plan for self criticism (Pathak, 2012, p. 201). The teacher should put some questions to himself and find out the answers and thereby judge the effectiveness of the lesson. However, in the lesson sequence no room has been left to allow for this self reflection. The questions included in the lesson plans are all meant entirely for the students to answer.
A well detailed lesson plan goes a long way in ensuring the students learn. Although years of experience can shore up less-than-complete planning, it does not compare or parallel well-planned lessons. All-inclusive plans increase the likelihood that the lessons run smoothly, as it facilitates students to receive quality instruction, which are passed in a systematic way. Therefore, it is imperative that a particular lesson plan not only meets the syllabus scope requirement specified by the respective curriculum, but also meet internationally accepted standards of setting a lesson plan.
In conclusion, while the lesson plan is well thought out, and contains a lot of very good and useful information, it could stand some improvement and reorganization. First, it could be drafted in manner that it is all inclusive in terms of coverage of the Australian curriculum; secondly, the general and specific objectives of individual lesson plans should be specified before every lesson begins; thirdly, every lesson plan should be allotted a specific amount of time and if possible every activity should have a specific time frame within which it should be completed. Fourthly, the lesson plan should also consider the composition of the students and make allowance for changes to be made to make it more responsive to the needs of the students; and finally, in addition to the inclusion of group activities and debates and a final assignment, the lesson plan should take into consideration continued assessment of the students and allow for self reflection for the teacher. However, it is worth noting that in general the lesson sequence attached was good by ordinary standards.
ACARA. (2012, August). Experiences of Australian democracy and citizenship, including the status and rights of Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islanders, migrants, women, and children. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/humanitiesandsocialsciences/history/Curriculum/F-10#cdcode=ACHHK114&level=6
ACARA, A. (2014). History across Foundation to Year 12. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/humanitiesandsocialsciences/history/history-across-foundation-to-year-12
Aggarwal, J. C. (2009). Teaching Of History. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd.
CIEB, C. (2012). Australia Overview: Teacher and Principal Quality, Instructional Systems, System and School Organization, Education For All, School-to-Work Transition. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from Center on International Education Benchmarking: http://www.ncee.org/programs-affiliates/center-on-international-education-benchmarking/top-performing-countries/australia-overview/
Cunningham, G., & ASCD. (2014). Lesson Plans and Unit Plans: The Basis for Instruction. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/109051/chapters/Lesson-Plans-and-Unit-Plans@-The-Basis-for-Instruction.aspx
Pathak, R. P. (2012). Educational Technology. New Delhi: Pearson Education India.
Queensland Studies Authority. (2007, December 12). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives support materials. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from Queensland Studies Authority: http://www.qsa.qld.edu.au/3035.html
Queensland Studies Authority. (2013, January 14). Year 6 History curriculum. Retrieved June 4, 2014, from Queensland Studies Authority: http://www.qsa.qld.edu.au/yr6-history-curriculum.html
Singh, Y. K. (2008). Teaching Practice: Lesson Planning. New Delhi: APH Publishing.
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