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Implementing the EXCEL Framework: Lesson Planning and Delivery



The development of the EXCEL pedagogical framework was inspired by a need to provide a coherent, yet diverse approach to lesson delivery that isn’t arbitrary in nature, but one that engaged all my students. Again, I had a strong belief that learning wasn’t just confined to the four walls of a classroom or the prescribed content on the syllabus or textbook. To positively influence what students did with their time in and out of school, I had to explore the most efficient ways of inspiring them with engaging, enriching and meaningful learning experiences- (one they could take home, apply the lessons learnt and be proud of their knowledge or endeavour).

As a product of the same system of education in Cameroon (elementary to my undergraduate), where as a student, we were meant to sit in a class quietly, copy notes, discuss answers to a question which were already written in a textbook, and follow up with lessons where every line the teacher uttered could be traced (word for word) to what is written in the textbook. This passive and transitive form of education (teacher centred or knowledge transfer) is what I didn’t want to replicate, knowing fully well how negatively it affected me. While some changes have been made to the education system since my days as a student like the introduction of the CBA approach and the emphasis for digital lessons, I believe we can take these efforts a step further. To provide my students with a more enriching experience, - an opportunity that allowed them to explore the answers to the questions that were fascinating with real life implications, or imagine solutions to problems they were yet to encounter, I knew an enhanced approach was needed (knowledge creation)- the Birth of the EXCEL Framework.

So, to fully describe how teachers can implement this model or the framework, it is important to remember that every domain (Exploration, Experimentation, Construction, Evaluation and Learnt Lessons) of the framework has its own theoretical, pedagogical, and methodological assumptions, components, and tools. As indicated in the first series, the aim for the framework is to provide an integrated learning experience, as opposed to a passive form of learning that is usually boring and disconnected from the learner’s reality and interest.

Like any typical lesson, starting a lesson following the EXCEL framework, would require the following 3 fundamental stages (Plan, Act, and Assess and Redesign):


Activities before (Plan)

· Identify the unit/lesson and learning outcome (success criteria)

· Domain selection

· Activities and Resources

· Concept notes

· Evaluation

Activities during the lesson (Act)

· Identify the unit/lesson and show cross curricular and unit links

· Establish and explain the learning outcome (success criteria)

· Describe the domain and the learning focus and tasks

· Explain the activities with examples and point to the relevant resources

· Direct students to the notes and text references or internet sources

· Walk around and check students work during time on task

· Provide 10-15 mins for formative assessment and evaluation to gauge understanding against the learning outcomes and success criteria

Activities after the lesson (Assess and Redesign)

· Reflect on the lesson from your point of view and that of your students (you can also invite a colleague)

· Document what worked well and what didn’t

. Closing the session and signposting what’s ahead


Now that you have a general overview of what’s required, let’s dive in. Whatever your lesson is, you will need to start by understanding the core of your subject matter- what is to be learnt (the knowledge base, the way it is organised and structured) and how best it can be learnt or experienced. The typical action steps involve in an EXCEL class will include the;

A: Starting Point

This is where you examine the unit/lesson, identify the learning objective and the learning outcomes and you choose the activity that would best suit the learning targets. Regardless of the domain, you may still incorporate either of the following strategies;

  • Lecture: Direct instruction (teacher centred) where teacher talks to students

  • Feedback from students’ exploration or experimentation : Students presenting the output from their exploration or experiments

  • Exploring and Analysis:

  • Concept mapping: Students developing new understanding and connections with information using diagrams and graphic (infographic and data charts etc)

  • Discussions and Debates: Students presenting and debating their ideas and challenging and critiquing presented information

  • Reflections and discussions:

B: Foundation (recap of previous lesson or introduction of the new lesson)

A powerful way of energising learning is to continuously question student’s understanding of the content they already have and the links between past and future curricular units/lessons and sessions. Starting with a review of a student's understanding of the previous session is crucial because it directs the instructional focus for the day. As such, the first 5-15 mins of your session could be used to ask students to recall what was covered in the previous session and what could be explored further for clarity. You could do this by using lower-order/higher-order thinking questions to check learning, understanding and applicable knowledge. For example, ask if anyone has been able to experience or apply what they learnt in the previous session and what they could share with the class.

During this stage, the teacher provides a backdrop upon which any further information would be added. Your thinking frame must begin with why students should be engaged and curious about what they are to learn– so your role is to create a scenario to connect with what they know, and the connections with their experience and further desires for more learning, and what the day’s lesson has to offer to advance this existing knowledge. This should always be framed through the learner's lens and so should be crafted carefully.

C: Scenario setting (background, subject and object, issues,)

Using scenarios help learners immerse themselves in a learning situation or context, where they can at least imagine and visualise the critical incident upon which the lessons are based. The purpose of the scenario is to help the learning to think and explore multiple ways of engaging with the presented scenario using prior or existing knowledge on the subject. A typical example of a scenario would have a subject (person or persons), the object (thing or substance) and a situation (the interaction of the subjects or the objects and the effects of these interactions). For example, a lesson on Electricity could ask a question or present a problem as a scenario. This could look like;

Scenario 1 A question

During last year’s Christmas, our school organised a fair and the campus was beautifully decorated with bulbs of different colours and shapes. Following what we learnt in our previous lesson about energy and the flow of energy, what can we do to produce our own bulb lights?

Examples of task

· Recap on energy and sources

· Identify the requirements for a bulb light

· Ask students to make a catalogue of all the different types of bulbs in a community and their use, their consumption, behaviour, colours, shapes, prices, manufacturer etc,


Scenario 2 A Problem

Now that we know how the bulbs produce light, what accounts for the difference in their colours and shape. Would these bulbs be sold at the same process in the market? Let’s investigate.

In this case, more exploration would be required looking at the artistic and commercial angles of bulb and electricity.


D. domain implementation (exploring, experimenting, developing ideas, evaluating, and reflecting and note taking)

Implementing a domain simply requires that you follow what the domain seeks to develop in the learner- they don’t need to get the right answer, but they are expected to demonstrate the required cognitive or social requirement of the domain

E. Time on task (what students do individually or in groups)



This is usually a specific amount of time dedicated for students to work on a task (exploring, analysing, calculating, designing, creating etc.) which is in line with the lesson, or previous lessons, but builds into a component of a mini or major project. All activities (experiment or exploration base) should have clear assessment references that students understand and can link to the learning outcome. Also, time on task must be cognitively demanding, tactile and experiential in nature. It is worth knowing that these activities could be challenging to set, implement and assess because, as a teacher your time is often limited. So, you need to think this through and ensure that the task needs (resources and space), and requirements match the aptitude and challenge threshold of the learners. Also, another challenge could be linked to the fact that most teachers often will seek to prioritise the coverage of curricular content and prepare students for tests rather than enable their learning.


F: Recap and conclusion (quiz, summary and next lesson/task)

During the recap phase, the teacher provides a summary of the session, with feedback to the student's question and contributions (positive reinforcement), before drawing a conclusive discussion of what has been taught and learnt (summary of learning). This takes an added dimension where students are invited to reflect and consider their learning progress and those of their peers through peer-to-peer assessment using the subject assessment rubric. This is a peculiar component of the Evaluation Domain that also allows students to assess themselves against the lesson content with some degree of responsibility and accountability for the progress they make across the specifications of the curriculum or scheme of work.

Teaching across Domains

The most important part of the EXCEL lesson is to know when to use which of the five domains (as a stand alone combination). To get the conversation going, I will present the first domain Exploration.

1: Exploration and Experimentation

Using this domain requires that the lesson is designed following the principles of problem or project-based learning or experiential learning approach to teaching and learning and the lesson objectives and outcome match with an exploratory approach to learning. Given the nature of this domain, a fundamental requirement is to have a very clearly defined guideline for classroom and field work (the situation, the problem, the thinking, the interaction and the analysis). These guidelines and rules should be simple and established to provide teachers and students with a guide on what to do and what not to do, and what good learning and exploratory practices are and are not when conducting an exploration or experiment. The leadership of the teacher is critical in this stage as much of the safety procedures and habits would need to be set and agreed before the exploration or experimenting activity. The teacher also needs to take into account the specific needs of the students, the learning objectives and outcome of the subject or lesson and the risk levels of the activities when designing the lesson and the project. Before engaging, the students need to understand and think through the project before the task is released using the project design template (template can be found in our resource bank).

In doing so, the teacher helps to identify, explain and clarify the problem, the learning situation and the learning context, making sure that everyone is clear about the learning outcome and success criteria. If you feel more confident, you could also try out a Design Thinking approach- which is an analytical and creative approach to problem solving, whereby students can be encouraged to explore or experiment an idea through a cycle of inquiries to identify a solution, from which they can create multiple prototype models of their solution or understanding of the thing they are exploring (gathering facts and information) to help solve a problem and present to the class.

Typical Lesson Plan Outline

Following a regular outline that highlights the class, unit ID, lesson number and the lesson’s duration, the lesson should also have the learning targets and standards. Below is a basic outline for a lesson with the EXCEL approach


Curriculum Standard


Introduce the concept of electricity and its uses in everyday life, and as a form of energy that powers many of the things we use every day, such as light bulbs, computers, and televisions


Learning Objectives:

By the end of the lesson, students will be

LO1 able to explain the concept of electricity and how it is used to light a bulb

LO 2able to appreciate the different types of bulbs and their usage

LO3 be able to assemble a circuit to generate a light from a bulb, wire and battery

Domain: Expiration and Experimentation

Materials:

-Electricity worksheet

-Electric circuit diagram

-Bulb

-Battery

-Bulb holder

-Wires

Time: 45 minutes

Procedure:

1. Introduction (10 minutes):

-Introduce the scenario and the topic of electricity and explain how it is used to power a bulb.

-Discuss the purpose of an electric circuit and the different components (battery, bulb, holder, wires).


2. Activity (20 minutes):

-Have students work in pairs to complete the electricity worksheet.

-Provide each pair with a circuit diagram and the materials for building a circuit.

-Instruct them to build the circuit and identify the components.


3. Discussion (15 minutes):

-Discuss the process of building the electric circuit.

-Ask questions to ensure students understand the concept of electricity and how it works.

4. Conclusion (5 minutes):

-Summarise the lesson and review the main points.

-Answer any remaining questions.

Experiment and share your thoughts and experience with us. Also, feel free to tweak it to suit your class and teaching needs. Always remember the focus is on the learning experience and the learner, not you and the curriculum content. Keep in mind that reflections would be a key part of your practice so you know exactly where things went well and what needs improvement. This will enable you to maximise and energise learning in subsequent sessions to effectively improve your practice. In the next article of this series, I will share insights on the Construction and Evaluation domains of the framework. Till then, happy teaching!


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