7 Planning for Effective Instruction

Amber H. Rice and Matt Mars

Setting the Stage

Robin looked around the classroom. They had just received their keys to the new agriculture program and they were overwhelmed by the piles of papers, textbooks, and equipment. The last agriculture teacher had taught in the school for over twenty years and was beloved by the entire district. Robin felt excited to embark on this new professional journey mixed with pressure to live up to the expectations of the students, school, parents, and community. As they opened the computer, Robin found no lessons plans, curriculum maps, or reference materials from the previous teacher. They thought,

I am not sure I am prepared for this. I have to teach a course on animal science, plant science, and agricultural engineering. I have some content knowledge in animal science, but I don’t know enough about plant science or agricultural engineering to create lessons from scratch. How can I create curriculum for three courses with the school year starting in just three weeks? I don’t even know where to start!

Robin’s excitement for their new position quickly devolved into panic as they viewed the first blank document to appear on their screen. They became overwhelmed and disheartened by the enormity of the task at hand: creating curriculum for their students.


By the end of this chapter, learners will be able to:

  • Explain the purpose of curriculum planning.
  • Discuss the role of sociological and pedagogical theory on instructional design.
  • Develop measurable learning objectives to guide instruction.
  • Design curriculum maps for agriculture courses.
  • Create comprehensive lesson plans.


As experienced by Robin, knowing where to start when planning for effective instruction can sometimes be overwhelming. There are many factors to consider when crafting curriculum to meet the unique needs of your program and the students it serves. As you read through the chapter, we encourage you to begin with the end in mind. What skills, understanding, abilities, and behaviors do we intend for your students to gain at the conclusion of your class session, course, and agriculture program? How can we create curriculum that will lead to these outcomes and serve as the roadmap for highly effective instruction? What sociocultural and pedagogical factors influence how we go about the planning process? This chapter will address these important questions, and in doing so, provide a working guide for instructional planning.

What is Curriculum?

Curriculum planning is a vital and potentially daunting task. It first involves carefully thinking through what we need (and want) to teach as well as the best strategies for implementation. Second, it involves creating meaningful assessments that demonstrate student mastery of the content. Planning lessons is a critical component to being an effective educator. These instructional decisions inform and lead to what we call our curriculum.

Curriculum is defined as the sum of educational experiences in a course or series of courses (Merriam Webster, n.d.). It involves both the three-thousand-foot view of planning (i.e., curriculum maps) and the day-to-day planning (i.e., lesson plans). Curriculum encompasses all the courses we teach, how these courses build upon one another, and the content competencies we intend for students to learn. But before we can delve into the details of curriculum planning, it is important to consider the many factors, both internal and external, that can influence the decisions we make as educators when designing curriculum for our students.

Primary factors that influence curriculum:

  • Disciplinary culture and field-based assumptions
  • State and national education standards
  • College and career readiness skills
  • Employment opportunities and trends
  • School and community context
  • Facilities and resources
  • Learners’ age, prior knowledge, and background
  • Scope of the course and program

Many factors influence curricular decisions. To begin, we must carefully consider the disciplinary culture of our subject area and field-based assumptions. Disciplinary culture can greatly impact not only the content we teach, but the lens through which we present that content. The section “Theoretical Considerations: From the Sociological to the Pedagogical,” on theory related to planning, will dive more deeply into exploring the culture of our discipline.

Other relevant factors that influence curriculum include our state and national education standards. Each state sets standards for content differently. These standards are developed and disseminated at the state level and often include an outcome assessment to ensure students in every program are developing the identified competencies. In agricultural education for example, these state education standards may include technical agriculture content and professional skills or employability standards, and there are often have direct connections within the standards to leadership skills (FFA) and work-based learning outcomes (Supervised Agricultural Experience) (see chapters 10 and 11 for more information). In addition to state education standards, there are national education standards as well. National education standards are often adapted for use at the state level. These national standards are an excellent starting place if your state’s standards provide less detail and direction than other states. As an example, the National Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (AFNR) Content Standards are divided into career pathways that represent groups of skills, knowledge, and interests related to an area of industry (The National Council for Agricultural Education, 2015). In agricultural education, career pathways can include agribusiness systems; animal systems; biotechnology systems; environmental service systems; food products and processing systems; natural resources systems; plant systems; and power, structural, and technical systems (The National Council for Agricultural Education, 2015). These career pathways are most often served through a series of courses at the secondary level.

In addition to state and national education standards, there is an emphasis in many disciplines on college and career readiness skills. These skills are embedded throughout curricula with the intent of preparing all students to graduate from high school ready for college, careers, and life. Emphasis on these skills should be included throughout the entire curriculum. In addition, your state may have specific metrics for student attainment of these essential skills. For example, in agricultural education, college and career readiness skill attainment includes employment opportunities that match trends within the agricultural industry from a national, state, and local community perspective.

As educators, we also need to carefully consider our community context. Curricular decisions are influenced by the specific community in which an education program is located. It is important to develop an awareness of the unique characteristics in our communities, such as employment, history, and the influence of relevant stakeholder groups. Creating a curriculum group is one way to seek input from the community, industry professionals, leaders, and stakeholders unique to your specific location. We also need to consider our school context. School context includes the type of school in which we are employed (e.g., public, private, or charter school) and if the school is located in an urban, suburban, or rural environment. Each of these characteristics plays a role in our curricular decision-making.

We must also take into account the facilities, equipment, and other resources that are at our disposal for influencing student learning. While additional resources can sometimes be acquired, taking a careful inventory of the available items can aid in making purposeful curricular decisions. For example, if your school has a greenhouse, you may wish to include science content related to seed germination as a means of encouraging active learning. The facilities and equipment need not dictate the content we choose to teach but can serve as important factors in how we deliver content to our students in meaningful ways.

We must also consider the learners themselves. Learners’ ages, backgrounds, needs, interests, and prior knowledge are critical to curriculum development since our students are our audience! The backgrounds and abilities of our learners can guide how quickly we move from one content topic to another, the depth of knowledge we desire to teach, and the teaching methods we use to properly align with the developmental levels of our students. Additionally, we must carefully consider the needs and interests of our learners to ensure our curriculum is adequately preparing them for their future.

Last, it is imperative that we recognize and remain attentive to who we are as educators and the perspectives and potential biases our own backgrounds inherently bring to the curriculum planning process. The role of the educator is to expand the knowledge levels and enhance the capacities of learners to prepare them to critically think for themselves. Therefore, it is our responsibility to take appropriate measures in minimizing the influence of our own values and agendas throughout the planning and content delivery process.

Each of these factors plays an essential role in curricular decision-making. To be effective, educators need to continually update their knowledge about each of these factors as they change over time, keeping pace with innovation, cultural, and economic shifts in our profession and in our communities. Keep each of these influential factors in mind as we further consider with greater specificity the development of curriculum maps, unit plans, and lesson plans for instruction.

Planning provides a thoughtful blueprint to guide our instruction. However, remember the learning environment is dynamic and ever-changing. Sometimes the best laid plans must be adapted to meet the unique and fluid needs of individual learners, specific learning environments, and distinct communities in real-time. Take planning seriously and with a willingness to deviate from the script when needed.

Background: Theory and Research

Theoretical Considerations: From the Sociological to the Pedagogical

We all bring a range of academic and personal perspectives and biases to our professional practices. We were socialized to view disciplinary content through field-based lenses that are specific to the programs of study that prepared us to be educators. Every discipline is anchored in its own culture with consequent socialization being enacted through established moral orders (Harré, 1983). Moral orders dictate what is valued and considered to be on one hand acceptable and desirable and on the other hand objectionable and improper. In the academic context, the moral orders that underpin disciplinary cultures heavily influence how we as practitioners come to view what is credible knowledge, what worthwhile learning looks like, and what desirable outcomes are in terms of how students make sense of and apply what is being taught (Shotter, 1994). These orders are so deeply embedded within disciplines that they are passed on and enacted as basic assumptions (Schein, 2010)—cultural elements that are taken for granted and, over time, practiced with little to no awareness. They become the “it’s just what we do” of practice. The insidiousness of moral orders confines the imagination of practitioners to disciplinary-based boundaries of what is acceptable practice and legitimate positions and viewpoints (Ylijoki, 2000).

Conflicts and disconnects between the disciplinary cultures and moral orders of educators and the worldviews of learners can compromise productive and meaningful learning. Sometimes obvious and other times not-so-obvious barriers to learning can arise as learners are forced to reconcile conflicts between their worldviews and those of their families with those of their educators. The results can be a breakdown in their learning or complete disengagement from the course and its content.

One approach to proactively minimizing such unintended fallout of moral order bias is to embed routine reflection and self-discovery in the curriculum planning process. As educators, we often promote the importance and value of fostering critical thinking among our learners. We, too, should be actively engaged in critical thinking as a matter of routine practice. Lai (2011) identified the fundamental elements of critical thinking as “attitudes or habits of mind, [that] include open and fair-mindedness, inquisitiveness, flexibility, a propensity to seek reason, a desire to be well informed, and a respect for and willingness to entertain diverse viewpoints” (p. 2). Consistent with this understanding, educators must identify the influence of their own biases in their curriculum and, through doing so, include strategies for creating constructive spaces in which students are able to make sense of content relevant to their own worldviews. Such strategies might include reflective journaling, debate exercises, and diversified readings that make it clear there is rarely one correct way of seeing and understanding the phenomena being learned. Management and industry consultants often say culture eats strategy. Indeed, curriculum planning inherently involves strategy. Without considering the influence of the cultures that shape our worldviews as educators, the strategies we build into our planning will be incomplete and detrimental to the openness and inclusivity of our learning environments.

Complementary to the sociological considerations, we must also consider pedagogical theory and how it applies to our curriculum design. Our own beliefs as educators heavily influence and shape the content we choose to develop and how we choose to deliver that content (Rice & Kitchel, 2017a). Our integrated beliefs systems that shape our pedagogical content knowledge (i.e., knowledge for teaching) include our beliefs about the purpose of our discipline, our beliefs about specific content areas, and our general beliefs about teaching and learning. These beliefs interact and inform one another, creating our personal integrated beliefs system (Rice & Kitchel, 2017a, 2018).

Educator beliefs about the purpose of our discipline can include career preparation, college preparation, literacy, life skills, and learner individualization, which encompasses the other four belief categories (Rice & Kitchel, 2017b). Educators may hold multiple beliefs about the purpose of their discipline simultaneously. These beliefs impact a variety of instructional decisions that influence learning outcomes. For example, if an educator holds the belief that the purpose of their discipline is career preparation, they may incorporate more manual skill learning outcomes into the curriculum and may emphasize hands-on learning applications. Conversely, if an educator holds the belief that the purpose of their discipline is literacy development, they may incorporate more discussions and assignments that focus on developing knowledge for informing consumers.

Educator beliefs about specific content areas also shapes our planning and practice (Rice & Kitchel, 2017a). Within plant science education, for example, educators may believe the purpose of a school greenhouse is to serve as a laboratory for plant science experiments and may treat the greenhouse as an extension of the classroom to aid in developing science knowledge and skills. Conversely, educators may believe the purpose of the school greenhouse is a production facility, and consequently, they may focus instruction on the viability of the plants produced in the greenhouse and may engage in lessons related to marketing and sales.

Finally, educator beliefs about teaching and learning beyond the scope of a specific disciplinary context also influences our curriculum development (Rice & Kitchel, 2017a). Educator philosophical beliefs about teaching and learning in our discipline include believing that it is the educator’s responsibility to be a lifelong learner, believing in the importance of educator reflection on the learning process, believing that students play a role in determining the content to be delivered, and believing that students learn best through real-life applications of concepts (Rice & Kitchel, 2017a). As educators, we must engage in meaningful reflection about our beliefs as they have the power to shape curriculum planning and instruction at the micro and macro levels.

Cognitive Levels and Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a common educational framework that guides curriculum development through the creation of measurable learning objectives relevant to hierarchical levels of thinking (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Bloom & Krathwohl, 1956). Bloom’s Taxonomy focuses on the cognitive or knowledge-based learning domain and contains the following levels of cognition, beginning with the least complex and scaffolding upward: remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). Each level can be associated with various action verbs to guide measurable development of learning objectives and the subsequent pedagogical approaches and techniques. In addition to the cognitive domain, education theorists have also outlined levels for the affective or emotion-based learning domain and the psychomotor or action-based learning domain (Bloom & Krathwohl, 1956; Harrow, 1972; Krathwohl et al., 1964). All three domains of learning (cognitive, affective, and psychomotor) are equally important in curricular development. We will focus on the cognitive domain as we delve into writing learning objectives.

Writing Measurable Learning Objectives

The first step in curriculum planning is crafting measurable learning objectives to guide instruction. These learning objectives provide direction for the educational process and the standards by which learner performance (i.e., competence) can be assessed (i.e., evaluated). Heinrich et al.’s (1996) model for writing learning objectives provides a concrete process for creating each component (A, B, C, D) of an objective.

“A” is the audience in the ABCD learning objective model. The “A” component answers the question “Who is the learner?” All learning objectives are learner-centered as your desired outcome is the for the learner to be able to accomplish the objective. Whether explicitly written in the learning objective or not, all our objectives should begin with “The learner will be able to …” In addition to guiding your curriculum planning as the educator, objectives should be shared with students as they are your audience.

“B” is the behavior in the ABCD learning objective model. The “B” component answers the question “What should the learner be able to do?” All learning objectives provide a clear and concise statement of the performance required of the learner. This aligns with the competency or expected outcome of the lesson. The behavior is written as a measurable action verb. Example action verbs include describe, identify, explain, differentiate, synthesize, calculate, and create. These verbs are chosen to align with the cognitive levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

“C” is the condition in the ABCD learning objective model. The “C” component answers the question “Under what conditions do you want the learner to be able to do it?” The condition contains the settings or circumstances within which the learner is to perform or demonstrate the behavior. Example conditions include information that the learners may be provided that will direct the action; the environment in which the performance must be demonstrated; or the equipment, supplies, or materials which the learner is provided. The chosen conditions directly align with our teaching methods used to deliver the content.

“D” is the degree in the ABCD learning objective model. The “D” component answers the question “How well must it be done?” The degree indicates the basis upon which the performance will be evaluated and is used to assess how well the learner must perform to be judged as competent. Example degrees include percent accuracy, maximum number of errors, standards for excellence, reference to other materials (e.g., rubrics) which identify specific criteria, or a combination of multiple factors.

Some example objectives that contain all four components of the ABCD objective model for a lesson on soil texture include:

  • Following the lecture, learners will be able to identify the three sizes of soil particles, with 100 percent accuracy.
  • Following the discussion, learners will be able to describe the importance of soil texture, including all four factors.
  • Given the soil texture triangle, learners will be able to calculate the soil type, with 90 percent accuracy.
  • Following the demonstration, learners will be able to demonstrate the soil ribbon test, including all components on the teacher provided checklist.

Clear, concise, and measurable learning objectives are the cornerstone for efficient and effective planning. Think of learning objectives as the road map for curriculum design.

Mapping Curriculum: Overview

When mapping curriculum, the order in which content flows from one topic to the next is important. We must think about our curriculum from a variety of perspectives including across our total program (i.e., multiple courses) and across a single course (i.e., units of instruction). If you are employed in a single teacher program, this may be largely an individual effort at the program level. If you are employed in a multi-teacher program, you must collaborate with other educators in your program to ensure the curriculum flows from course to course. Finally, if you are engaging heavily with other content areas within your learning environment (e.g., biology or mathematics) you will be collaborating with those educators when designing curriculum.

From the program perspective, it is important that your courses build upon one another. For example, we may have an introductory level course geared toward novice learners that introduces a variety of content. From there, we may offer a course that is geared toward intermediate learners, or we may have various specialty courses open to students across learning levels. The course scope and sequence are school, program, and learning environment dependent. For example, you may consider the career pathways for AFNR (National Council for Agricultural Education, 2015) when creating courses and paying attention to the content topics that are included in each specific course. We may decide to introduce some content topics in one course and build upon those topics in subsequent courses. Depending on the size of our programs and the number of educators collaborating, we may offer a variety of courses in which learners can engage. Keep in mind, each of the highlighted factors are influential when making programmatic curricular decisions.

Mapping Curriculum: Across a Single Course

For each course we teach, we will create a curriculum map that outlines the following components of the course: individual units of instruction, individual lessons for each unit, time frame for each unit, and time frame for each lesson and topic. Our curriculum maps are our guide to instruction for that specific course. We create a curriculum map before designing individual units of instruction or lessons plans.

Units of instruction are the building blocks for our curriculum map. These units encompass various content topics that hang together and will lead us to individual lesson plan creation. Using content standards as a guide, consider the broad areas of instruction you would introduce within an individual course to meet course goals. For example, in an animal science course, we may have units of instruction that include, but are not limited to, introduction to animal science, animal science careers, animal breeds, animal anatomy, animal nutrition, animal husbandry and behavior, animal health and diseases, and animal reproduction.

After deciding the broad units of instruction to include in the course, we will outline the time frame for each unit. Consult supervisory personnel for length of time expected per course when making curriculum decisions. Units of instruction can span various lengths of time, but two to six weeks in length is common. The length of a unit depends on the overall time we have to teach within the course as a whole, how in-depth we plan to go with content topics, the prior knowledge of our learners, and the learning objectives we must accomplish within that unit.

For each unit of instruction, create a unit outline illustrating the individual lessons that encompass the unit. A single unit will consist of a varying number of individual lessons. For example, within an animal anatomy unit, we may include lessons on external anatomy, circulatory system, endocrine system, nervous system, and skeletal system. For each of these lessons we will create learning objectives to guide the lesson plan creation.

In addition to the previous considerations, we must also account for additional time factors within our instruction. We may have ongoing activities that span various units of instruction, time allotted to utilize facilities like a land lab or greenhouse, field trips planned within the course, large projects with authentic assessments, or time for traditional assessments. It is easy to overestimate the instructional time needed if we do not take into consideration the time it requires to incorporate these activities. We should also consult necessary calendars for dates, such as holidays or other events, that can impact time for instruction.

Curriculum Map Template

This template will serve as a guide for creating curriculum maps for each of our courses (see table 7.1). Adapt this template as needed to address the unique aspects of our learning environments.

Week Unit Lessons (Instructional Periods)

Table 7.1: Curriculum map template.

Context and Time Length for Lessons

For each lesson plan created, we must consider the context of that lesson and the length of time needed for delivery. These curricular decisions are guided by our curriculum map, unit outline, and the learning objectives we have outlined for each lesson. Some lessons will be fully taught within a single session, while others may last multiple sessions. Within each lesson, consider how the content connects to previous and future lessons. Facilitate students making connections between content topics from lesson to lesson and from unit to unit to establish meaning and relevancy. Content should build within and between lessons, units, and courses.

Utilizing Lesson Planning Resources

Utilizing our resources effectively is vital when developing curriculum. It is likely that another educator has already developed a lesson for the content we are preparing. Take advantage of existing resources to avoid recreating the wheel. Lesson planning resources can include textbooks, human resources, digital resources, curriculum groups, national organizations, educators in various disciplines, and social media groups, to name a few. For example, in agricultural education, communities like the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) facilitate the sharing of lesson plans and activities between agriculture educators at the national level through communities of practice (NAAE, 2021).

There are also curriculum packages available in most disciplines. For example, in agricultural education, there are curriculum packages available within iCEV and Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE) (CASE, 2021; iCEV, 2021). Curriculum packages can be excellent resources when creating curriculum. For each curriculum resource we utilize, carefully consider the validity of the information presented. Do not assume the information is accurate and current just because it is made available or created by another educator. Adapt any resources utilized to meet the needs of your specific learning environments.

Creating the Lesson Plan

When creating lesson plans, it is important to include key components that will appear in every lesson we deliver. Use a lesson plan template to organize instruction (see table 7.2). In the following section, we share common components of a lesson plan template and provide an example template that can be adapted for individual use. Keep in mind, many learning environments may provide a unique required lesson plan template.

Lesson Plan Template

This lesson plan template is a guide to creating lesson plans. Adapt this template as needed to address the unique aspects of the learning environment.

Lesson Plan
Unit Title:
Lesson Title:
Estimated Time:
Standards Connections:
Enabling Objectives: Learners will be able to…
1. [List here using ABCD format]
Materials and References:
Tools, Supplies, and Equipment:
• [List]

Handouts/Digital Materials:
• [List]

• [List]

Key Terms:
• [List] • [Define]
Bell Work: Estimated Time:

Interest Approach: Estimated Time:
Felt need to learn:
Transition to content:
Overview of lesson objectives:
Objective 1: Estimated Time:
Instructor Directions / Materials / Teaching Procedure Brief Content Outline
Idea for Review:
Formative Assessment:
Objective 2: Estimated Time:
Instructor Directions / Materials / Teaching Procedure Brief Content Outline
Idea for Review:
Formative Assessment:
Objective 3: Estimated Time:
Instructor Directions / Materials / Teaching Procedure Brief Content Outline
Idea for Review:
Formative Assessment:
Summary / Conclusion Estimated Time:
[Insert summary here]
Formative (for each objective):


Table 7.2: Lesson plan template.

Lesson Plan Components

The first component of the lesson plan template is the background information. This includes the educator’s name, the course or session title, the unit of instruction title, the lesson plan title, the audience served, the number of learners served, and the estimated time allotted for the lesson.

The second component of the lesson template is the standards connections. Where applicable, connect the content of the lesson to any oversight standards. This may include a state’s disciplinary-specific content standards, professional skills or employability standards, or other core content standards beyond the discipline (e.g., biology, mathematics, economics, social studies, and English). When adding standards connections to a lesson plan, be sure that the lesson is addressing the specific standards outlined. If at first it appears that no standards apply to the lesson content, we may need to rethink the content depending on our content oversight agency. Some lessons may connect to multiple content standards.

The third component of the lesson plan template is the enabling objectives. This is where we outline the objectives we have created for the lesson, using the ABCD format discussed previously in the chapter (see “Writing Measurable Objectives”). Enabling objectives will build upon one another, be written for the audience, and scaffold across various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Enabling objectives serve as the roadmap for our content delivery throughout the lesson.

The fourth component of the lesson plan template is the materials and references. This is where we identify all materials, tools, supplies, and equipment needed for the lesson. We will also list all handouts or digital materials needed for the lesson. Creating the list of materials will assist in organizing the needed supplies for successful delivery of the lesson. Use this list to prepare for the session by purchasing materials, making copies, and uploading digital resources. Within this section, identify all sources of information used to create the lesson. This includes, but is not limited to, websites, lesson plans from other sources, curriculum packages, and textbooks. By outlining sources of information in a reference list we can easily return back to the original source at a later date to ensure current and accurate information for content delivery.

The fifth component of the lesson plan template is the key terms. This is where we identify all vocabulary terms and their definitions as they appear in the lesson. Incorporating vocabulary within the lesson is an important consideration as we prepare learners to correctly use common terminology related to the content.

The sixth component of the lesson plan template is the accommodations. This is where we outline any accommodations that will be made to serve learners. This can include changes that will be made during the lesson for students with IEPs, 504s, as well as any needed accommodations for all learners. Completing this section while carefully considering the needs of your unique learners is a critical component of the lesson planning process.

The seventh component of the lesson plan template is the bell work (commonly referred to as a bellringer and various other names). This is where educators outline a short engagement activity for learners to complete prior to the formal start of the session. Bell work can be in the form of review questions, questions to elicit prior knowledge, quotes to respond to, or additional ideas. The purpose of bell work is to activate learners’ minds immediately upon entering the learning environment. Providing learners with bell work also allows educators the necessary time to take attendance or attend to other required tasks. Bell work is typically five minutes or less of the total instructional time.

The eighth component of the lesson plan template is the interest approach. This is the formal start to the lesson. The purpose of an interest approach is to create in our learners a felt need to learn the content. A typical interest approach will hook the learner, establish motivation for learning the content, and transition learners’ minds to the content, and it often ends with an overview of the enabling objectives. Interest approaches are typically five minutes in length but may vary depending on the lesson and the interest approach content. Designing interest approaches after our lesson content is planned allows for effective connections between the interest approach and the rest of the lesson.

The ninth component of the lesson plan template is the content. This is where we describe the outline of our lesson content that corresponds to each enabling objective. In the example template (see table 7.2), each content section is listed with a place to enter the enabling objective and an estimated time for completion. The template is divided into two columns. The left-hand column is for the educator to outline any directions, materials, and procedures. Educators should identify the teaching method being used to deliver the content and the formative assessment being used to check for understanding at the end of the content delivery for each objective (see the twelfth component of the lesson plan template related to assessment). The right-hand column is for the educator to outline the content delivered. Educators should include visual slides, questions to be asked of learners, and directions for learning activities. At the end of each content outline, we surface an idea to review the content taught for that objective. The content section of our lesson plan template will contribute to the bulk of the lesson plan. We encourage educators to carefully think through the content, method(s) used for delivery, visual aids, engaging questions and activities, assessments, and reviews of the content for each enabling objective.

The tenth component of the lesson plan template is the application. This is where educators design instructional activities for learners to apply the content that has been taught. This is not a stand-alone section on the lesson plan template, but instead should be incorporated into each content section corresponding to the enabling objectives. Students learn best when they have an opportunity to practice and apply content, so designing meaningful applications throughout our lessons encourages students to move past “remember” (in Bloom’s Taxonomy) to reach higher cognitive levels. Facilities such as land labs or greenhouses may be utilized to purposefully apply content but are not required for quality instruction. For in-depth lab application integration, see the additional lesson plan considerations section on lab applications.

The eleventh component of the lesson plan template is the summary/conclusion. This is where we wrap-up the lesson and engage learners in meaningful reflection on the content. The summary/conclusion should review the most salient points of instruction and allow for learners to process the content. Discussions and short journal reflections are strategies we can use to engage learners in summarizing the content. Effective summary/conclusions tie directly back to the interest approach that was used to introduce the session.

The twelfth component of the lesson plan template is the formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments are designed to check for understanding of the content as the lesson unfolds. We include a formative assessment at the conclusion of each enabling objective. Formative assessments allow us as the educator to determine learners’ comprehension of the content in real time, so we can make adjustments or reteach as necessary. Formative assessments include peer discussion, mini-reflection papers, learners’ self-rating procedures, polling, discussions, and example problems, to name a few. Summative assessments are designed to measure comprehension at the end of the lesson or unit, across multiple enabling objectives. Summative assessments can include projects, papers, presentations, skill demonstrations, exams, and case studies, to name a few. Assessments must be chosen based on content being delivered, needs of learners, and oversight agency requirements. Assessments can be traditional, in the form of quizzes and exams, or authentic, in the form of projects, presentations, and applications of learning. Finally, we engage students in a summative assessment of an entire course through an engaging capstone-type item.

Additional Lesson Plan Considerations

  • Integrating FFA and SAE (see chapters 10 and 11 for further information)
  • Lab applications (see chapter 12 for further information)
  • Universal design considerations

Specifically for agricultural education, it is important to consider connections to FFA (i.e., leadership) and SAE (i.e., experiential or work-based learning) directly within the lesson plan. FFA connections can include lessons specifically on FFA content (e.g., history, emblem, official dress, and the FFA Creed) and the incorporation of FFA components through career development events (CDEs) and leadership applications (e.g., conflict management, teamwork, and parliamentary procedure). See chapter 10 for more information on FFA and its role in our discipline.

SAE connections can include lessons specifically on SAE content (e.g., areas of SAE, proficiency awards, purposeful selection of SAE projects) and the incorporation of SAE components (e.g., record keeping, budgeting and finance, workplace employability skills, agricultural literacy, careers in the industry, and workplace safety) (see The National Council for Agricultural Education, 2017). See chapter 11 for more information on SAE and its role in our discipline. By incorporating FFA and SAE directly into lesson plan development we can maintain the intracurricular nature of the three-component model of agricultural education that sets it apart from other education disciplines.

When creating dynamic, application-driven curriculum, educators often incorporate laboratory instruction and technical skill development. To facilitate this within our lesson plans, we utilize a lab application guide as a supplemental handout to the lesson plan. The lab application guide contains step-by-step how-to instructions for performing the lab or skill. Lab application guides can be useful in the learning environment to provide learners with key aspects of the lab. The lab application guide will contain materials needed, steps to complete, key points to emphasize, safety considerations (if applicable), and illustrations to illuminate complex steps. We recommend surfacing the use of the lab application guide directly in the lesson plan content and then attaching the guide as a supplemental document to support the lesson. Lab application guides can support a variety of long-term projects, skills, or labs that require multiple steps to complete.

Within each of our lessons, educators need to incorporate universal design practices. This involves making thoughtful design choices to incorporate inclusive practices in our instruction to serve all learners. Universal design is simply the design of products, environments, and communication to be usable by all learners without the need for individualized adaptation (Center for Universal Design, 1997). Universal design benefits learners of all ages and abilities and can include both physical and nonphysical features of the lesson. An example of universal design includes using captions or subtitles on recorded videos that will be shown to learners. Captioning assists learners with hearing impairments, but can also support learners with language barriers, those who are learning new content and vocabulary, those who are learning in a room with distractions or competing noises, and those who are taking comprehensive notes. Adding captions or subtitles is a small change that can benefit every learner. Universal design saves time because educators are making fewer individual modifications to serve specific learners.

The seven key principles of universal design, as articulated in the professional literature, are equitable use, flexibility in use, simple and intuitive use, perceptible information, tolerance for error, low physical effort, and size and space for approach and use (Center for Universal Design, 1997). To attend to each of the principles we ask ourselves the following questions as we design curriculum.

  • Did I design with all potential groups and motivations in mind?
  • Does my design work for learners who may need to approach things differently than I would?
  • Is my design easy to use regardless of socioeconomic status, culture, and experience?
  • Did my design communicate necessary information effectively, in a way that considers sensory issues and the environment?
  • Did I design in a way that minimizes or allows accidental learner error?
  • Did I design in a way that advantages the able bodied?
  • Is my design appropriate for the environment and learners’ mobility?

By implementing universal design, educators can better serve learners through practices that promote accessibility and inclusion for all.

Learning Confirmation

Now that quality education products have been created, reflect on the following questions as the education products are reviewed.

Curriculum Map

  1. Did I consider the various factors that impact curricular decision-making?
  2. Did I reflect on my own perspectives and bias and how they influence the planning and delivery processes?
  3. Did I consider the other courses in my program and how the content of this course will build on and connect to other courses?
  4. Did I consult with other educators or content experts in my learning environment to ensure congruency?
  5. Did I consider career pathways and state standards as applicable and how they will be achieved within my sessions?
  6. Did I inventory the supplies and equipment available to aid instruction?
  7. Did I outline the individual units of instruction and indicate the time frame for each unit?
  8. Did I outline the lessons for each unit of instruction and the time frame for each lesson?
  9. Did I consult any guiding schedules to take into account holidays, community events, and dates that influence my sessions?

Lesson Objectives

  1. Did I follow the ABCD format outlined in the chapter?
  2. Do each of my learning objectives include a behavior written as an action verb?
  3. Do my learning objectives scaffold across various levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy?
  4. Did I consider the three domains of learning in objective creation?
  5. Did I consult state standards and national career pathways as applicable?
  6. Did I indicate the condition in which the learners will achieve the objectives?
  7. Are each of the learning objectives measurable according to a specified degree?

Lesson Plan

  1. Did I identify and utilize quality lesson planning resources?
  2. Did I include the following components of a lesson plan: background information, standard connections, enabling objectives, materials and references, key terms, accommodations, bell work, interest approach, content, application, summary/conclusion, and formative and summative assessments?
  3. Did I integrate FFA and SAE into my lesson plan creation when appropriate?
  4. Did I consider the use of a lab application guide to supplement instruction when appropriate?
  5. Did I incorporate the seven principles of universal design to serve all students?

Applying the Content

Using the knowledge we have gained throughout this chapter, let’s apply the concepts through creating education products. Using the templates and chapter content as a guide, create the following:

  1. Curriculum map (for a single course)
  2. Lesson objectives (for a single lesson)
  3. Lesson plan (for a single lesson)

Reflective Questions

  1. What curriculum factors will we consider that influence our instructional design and practice?
  2. What disciplinary-, field-, and experience-based perspectives and biases influence and threaten to bias our instructional practices?
  3. What are our personal beliefs about the content we deliver?
  4. How can we create congruency across courses, units, and lessons within our instruction?
  5. How will we utilize objectives to create a roadmap for instruction?
  6. What key components will we include in our lesson plan creation?
  7. What resources can we explore further to assist with curriculum design?
  8. How can we meaningfully integrate FFA and SAE into agricultural curriculum?
  9. How can we apply principles of universal design to our learning environments, communication with learners, and teaching products?

Glossary of Terms 

  • curriculum: Sum of education experiences in a course or series of courses (Merriam Webster, n.d.)
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy: Common educational framework that guides curriculum development through the creation of measurable learning objectives relevant to hierarchical levels of thinking (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Bloom & Krathwohl, 1956)
  • learning objectives: Roadmap to provide direction for the educational process and the standards by which learner performance can be assessed
  • audience: The “A” in the ABCD learning objective model that answers the question “Who is the learner” (Heinrich et al., 1996)
  • behavior: The “B” in the ABCD learning objective model that answers the question “What should the learner be able to do?” (Heinrich et al., 1996)
  • condition: The “C” in the ABCD learning objective model that answers the question “Under what conditions do you want the learner to be able to do it?” (Heinrich et al., 1996)
  • degree: The “D” in the ABCD learning objective model that answers the question “How well must it be done?” (Heinrich et al., 1996)
  • curriculum map: Document that outlines the following components of a course: individual units of instruction, individual lessons for each unit, and the time frame for each lesson and topic
  • units of instruction: Building blocks of the curriculum map that encompasses various connected topics that hang together
  • unit outline: Document that outlines the individual lessons that encompass a unit
  • lesson plan template: Document that serves as guide to creating a lesson plan
  • Universal Design: The design of products, environments, and communication to be usable by all learners without the need for individualized adaptation (Center for Universal Design, 1997)


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The Art and Science of Teaching Agriculture: Four Keys to Dynamic Learning Copyright © 2023 by Amber H. Rice and Matt Mars is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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