Several years ago I was exposed to the Learning Unit concept, along with
all the research that supports this method of instructional planning. It
fit my mindset perfectly, and I have been using it and modifying it ever
since. I also teach it to my Art Methods students.
The main premise of the Learning Unit is that students learn best when
these 3 things are done:
1) The 'new' knowledge or skill to be taught is linked in some way to
the students' previous knowledge or experiences;
2) After the 'new' stuff is presented, activities are provided in which
the learners get to practice, refine, and extend their understanding;
3) A culminating or meaningful use task is presented in which the
learners are challenged to use higher level cognitive skills as they
creatively apply their 'new' knowledge or skills.
So I use this planning format to design instructional units on specific
themes or topics (i.e. Color Theory). I usually proceed by first
designing the final project (because it's the most fun), then I work my
way backwards - how will the knowledge or skills taught through this
project relate to my New York State Art Standards, as well as my
district standards? What do I expect the student to learn or master?
(This basically is the same as writing objectives.) What would be a good
way to introduce the topic (relating it to prior knowledge)? What
procedures would be appropriate for actually teaching it (lecture,
demonstration, etc.)? What kind of practice and extending and refining
activities could I plan so I could see if my students were actually
learning it? Is the culminating activity meaningful - is their some
purpose or reason for doing it other than just for me to look at and
grade (can it be displayed, shared with others, etc.)? How will I
measure their level of performance and understanding?
After 27 years of teaching, I basically build a daily schedule right
into this Learning Unit as I plan. One day for the introduction and
preliminary presentation of information. One day of
demonstration/discussion. Three days for extending and refining
activities - whatever I figure each part of the unit needs. For my
student teachers - I insist they come up with abbreviated daily plans to
accompany their unit plan, because they are inexperienced. Not full
lesson plans, because the whole unit revolves around the unit objectives
- but a basic outline of what happens each day - introduce or review,
teacher lecture or demonstration, or student work day - whatever is
The Learning Unit format works very well with daily high school classes.
Many of my units run for 2 weeks or more. For elementary art classes,
which are frequently held just once a week, is can also work. Rather
than just planning a series of daily lessons, I still have my student
teachers think in terms of a unit. Only the component activities are
much shorter - the introduction, teaching of the knowledge or skill and
practice activities might all happen in 1 class. Then the next week
things are quickly reviewed and a 1 day culminating project done.
It may look like there is a lot of planning and preparation time put
into this - that's true - but once it's done, I find it more enjoyable
and relaxing to proceed through the unit with my students. And I can see
my more thorough planning helps the students be more successful.
-- Sandra Hildreth C.L.A.S.S. (Cultural Literacy through Art & Social Studies) http://www.northnet.org/mwcsart/mwart.htm Art 7-12, Madrid-Waddington Central School, Madrid, NY 13660 Art Methods, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617