At the end of every school year, I throw out my lesson plans.
Some would question that practice by telling me that I should merely tweak which lessons didn’t go well and reuse what did to avoid the time-consuming task of perpetual re-creation. However, I have learned through experience that each new year brings a new set of students with their own unique set of abilities and challenges and what activities and assignments which may have worked last year likely will not in the year to come. Further, I enjoy the creativity that comes with re-imagining a better way to hook my students and introduce them to new ways of analyzing the human condition through reading a variety of texts and then responding through papers, discussions, and projects. In doing so, not only are their skills strengthened, but also greater awareness is developed of the roles they can play to be positive influences in the worlds in which they live.
What can never be thrown out at the end of each year is that which only gets better with practice and research: sound teaching and instructional design (especially that of the Understanding by Design sort). Solid pedagogy is solid pedagogy no matter if it’s my first year of teaching or my 18th not whether my student is a “Digital Native” or “Digital Immigrant,” labels which differentiate generations of learners, and subjects of opposing articles I read recently by Marc Prensky and Jamie McKenzie for a class I’m taking at BSU. While both essays made for interesting, rather spirited reads, I was curious to discover research which would refute or support my own practice of designing my instruction for the specific needs in the room versus generalizing their skills (or lack thereof) based upon the generation in which they are born. In his essay “Do Generational Differences Matter in Instructional Design?” Professor Thomas Reeves’ (2006) review of the significant amount of literature surrounding this topic supports my practice. His conclusions reveal that while there were indeed differences in “attitudes, work habits, and motivators” (p. 20) between members of each generation, there was not yet research to support changing instructional design from generation to generation whether it be Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, or Millennials.
Teaching is a dynamic profession which demands an equally dynamic approach to planning and delivery. My goal is that each new year finds me growing in my craft as I review the research, take classes, engage with my personal learning network (PLN), and instruct a new group of students. But rather than adjust my instruction based upon the generation in which they fall, I will instead (until research supports otherwise) continue throwing out my lesson plans at year’s end and, as Reeves suggested in his closing remarks, focus on “identifying the needs of any given set of learners, design the best possible prototype learning environments in situ, and then conduct iterative cycles of formative evaluation and refinement” (p. 21). Bring on the new year!