Purposeful planning

Planning is a key ingredient for effective teaching. But why is it so important? What is ‘good’ planning? How do we make our planning purposeful and focused? Let’s delve further into planning, and what it encompasses.

Curriculum is central to planning. It guides what we teach. The other crucial factor is to know the needs of your students. Effective planning begins with finding where these two elements meet.

The Purposeful planning podcast has been developed to complement the Explicit Teaching in Maths professional learning modules. In this podcast, Dr Emily Ross from The University of Queensland uses the analogy of planning being like a road trip. Dr Ross explains that the curriculum (the knowledge and skills taught) is the destination of this road trip. It’s where you want your students to get to by the end of the lesson or topic.

The road trip itself includes the places you see and the stops on the way to your destination, and this is likened to the teaching and learning. It’s the steps in the lesson or unit plan that enable your students to reach their destination.

Using this road trip analogy, we can ask ourselves two big questions in terms of planning: where are we going? and how will we get there?

Let’s breakdown this analogy further.

  • Some people like to be very well planned and outline the detailed steps required to reach the destination.
  • Some people like to make a more general plan and they outline the main signposts required to travel past to get to the destination.
  • Sometimes you may need to take some detours along the way depending on the needs of your learners. Listen to your learners: Are you moving too slowly? Are you going too fast? Or are you on the wrong road? There are different ways of getting to your end destination, and understanding your students and their needs will determine the path you take.

The process of planning

Planning involves interpreting the curriculum and working out how we can support our students to learn knowledge and develop skills. So, what might ‘good’ planning look like?

Start with the learner

What do your students know about the topic? What prior knowledge do they have? This isn’t always straightforward as students in your class will bring a range of skills and knowledge to each topic, and your planning needs to reflect this.

The curriculum

Use your curriculum knowledge and understandings and know exactly what you want your students to achieve.

The steps

Break the learning into small steps. Think about the chunks of knowledge and skills the students need to learn and build upon this throughout the lesson and topic.

Learning sequences

Build authentic teaching and learning sequences to support students to learn knowledge, develop skills, and understand and apply concepts.

Learning intentions and success criteria

Planning is enhanced by including purposeful learning intentions and success criteria.

A learning intention states the goal of the lesson. What will you learn?  The success criteria outlines how the students will know they have succeeded. How do you know you have learnt it? How do you know you can now do it?

Learning intention (LI) and success criteria (SC) checklist

  • Share the LI and SC with your students.
  • Make the LI and SC explicit so that students know exactly what is expected.
  • Make the LI challenging, but not too difficult. Students need to be learning new knowledge and skills, and experience success in doing so.
  • Make the SC measurable so students can easily see if they have been successful or not.
  • Provide feedback to students throughout the lesson, so they know what to do next to achieve the learning intention.

Good planning is essential for quality maths teaching and learning. If you’d like to know more about planning:

  • sign-up to The Maths in schools: Explicit teaching in Maths learning modules. This self-paced, professional leaning course offers five modules that are designed around the seven components of explicit teaching. The modules are aligned to the Australian Institute and School Leadership (ASITSL) professional standards, and they include lessons and activities you can use to teach maths concepts from the Australian Curriculum.
  • listen to the Maths hub podcast, Episode 1: Purposeful planning. This engaging and informative podcast is hosted by Allan Dougan, the CEO of the Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT). Allan chats to expert Dr Emily Ross about planning. The podcast provides practical ideas you can readily use as you plan your maths lessons. A highlight is the discussion on how to incorporate learning intentions and success criteria in creative and flexible ways.
  • watch the Explicit teaching in mathematics: purposeful planning webinar. Associate Professor Helen Chick, University of Tasmania, discusses purposeful planning when thinking through and constructing maths lessons using the explicit teaching model and how careful planning of lessons is just as important as teaching the lesson and can enable explicit teaching to be successful.