DEVELOPING LESSON PLANS, PART 3: CREATING THE LESSON PLAN
BY TIMOTHY J. FLANNERY
Part 1 appeared in the July 1995 issue; Part 2 appeared in the August 1995 issue.
The lesson plan is the instructor`s guide or map for covering the information the firefighter needs to know. It depicts the instructor`s starting point and final destination and enables one instructor to pick up where another has left off.
FOUR-STEP METHOD OF INSTRUCTION
Used extensively by the National Fire Academy, the four-step method of instruction is a well-proven system for implementing a lesson plan for any instructional situation. It is comprised of the following steps:
Preparation. This phase is designed to do the following:
–attract the students` attention,
–arouse the students` curiosity in the subject,
–create student interest in the subject, and
–stimulate the students` desire to learn.
This is the time for the instructor`s “sales pitch,” covering the reasons students must learn the information-safety, advancement in the ranks, and self-improvement, for example. From the aspect of management science, the principle of the hierarchy of needs is used to sell the lesson or course to students.
This step also creates a foundation for learning as the instructor makes students aware of the association between his and others` experiences with the subject matter.
Among the approaches used during the preparation step are the following:
–relating personal experiences (“war” stories),
–reviewing previous lessons,
–conducting prequizzes, and
–citing benefits of learning the lesson material.
Presentation. Instruction begins as new skills, theories, concepts, and procedures are presented. The jobs are broken down, and students are given specific instructions on how a task is to be accomplished. The effectiveness of the lesson depends on how well the instructor holds the students` attention, an accomplishment often dependent on the instructor`s resourcefulness and creativity. The presentation step is part salesmanship and part entertainment. Among the methods that can help maintain students` interest and enhance learning are the following:
–explanation of procedures;
–emphasis of key points;
–explanations of concepts, philosophies, principles, and implications;
–proceeding from the known to the unknown or from the simple to the complex; and
–textbooks and related sources.
Application. A critical step in the lesson plan, this phase offers students the opportunity to apply what they have learned as they perform activities under close instructor supervision. The instructor corrects students as errors are detected. Safety is a consideration at all times. The lesson should be set up to allow as much time as possible for repeating the acquired skills to reinforce learning.
Components of the application step include the following:
–having the learner perform the job or task previously explained;
–supervising students as they perform the task;
–checking and correcting errors as they occur during the training process;
–developing correct, proper, and safe habits in the application of the task and reinforcement during the repetition part of the application process;
–checking key and safety points;
–requiring note taking; and
–assigning problems to solve.
The instructor should provide adequate time for practicing the tasks and ensure that students practice the tasks on their own to reinforce the concept. Students should be given positive reinforcement when appropriate.
Evaluation. Students` knowledge and the teaching process are evaluated. Students perform the same tasks as in the application step, but without supervision. The instructor determines whether students have acquired the knowledge and skills covered by the lesson plan. If students` knowledge and performance are not satisfactory, the instructor should assess the teaching process for deficiencies. Among the methods used for evaluation are the following:
–having students perform tasks unassisted;
–conducting manipulative performance tests;
–asking prepared questions;
–having students demonstrate and explain tasks;
–having learners observe and critique others;
–conducting examinations; and
–evaluating notebook, assignments, and projects.
Although these steps are presented separately, they are integrated in the instruction process to produce a smooth-flowing lesson. The four-step approach, although a useful lesson-planning guide/tool, may be deviated from to develop a dynamic lesson plan that provides students with the cognitive and practical skills needed to do their jobs.
LESSON PLAN FORMATS
A lesson plan may be a step-by-step guide for presenting a lesson; an outline of materials and procedures; a guide to teaching; or a tool for helping the instructor effectively use time, space, and personnel. It allows the instructor to sequence information that needs to be taught, emphasize specific information, effectively use training aids within the required or allotted time frame, and include proper and essential information.
When developing the lesson plan, the instructor should start with simple material and build toward more difficult material-describing the types and uses of various forcible entry tools, for example, and, after the students understand this information, moving on to more specific areas such as where the tools may be used effectively and using them in conjunction with each other to accomplish a job more efficiently.
The instructor may also start with the known and work toward the unknown- describing the three legs of the fire triangle, for example, and then using this information to explain flashover and backdraft theories.
Lesson plans must be flexible so they can be adapted to the students` needs, capacities, and maturity levels.
Technical lesson plan. This type of plan most commonly addresses subjects in the knowledge or cognitive domain of learning such as incident command system, fire hydraulic theory, and fire behavior.
Practical lesson plan. Included are lessons involving the application of manipulative and psychomotor skills, along with the acquired technical knowledge, to perform a specific task such as high-angle rescue, SCBA maintenance and use, large-diameter hose use, advancing a hose in a drill in a parking lot, or participating in a live burn exercise in a training center burn building.
All lesson plans should include the following:
Topic. A short descriptive title of the information to be covered, such as “Fire Behavior Lesson” or “Positive-Pressure Ventilation Lecture.”
Time frame. The estimated time it will take to teach the lesson or subject area. In the practical lesson plan, setup and take-down times, rest breaks, and the time it takes to move students from one station to another must be added to the task performance times. These activities take away from the total teaching time. The size of the class also will have a direct impact on the time frame.
Level of instruction. Based on job requirements and behavioral objectives developed as a result of the needs analysis and assessment.
Behavioral objectives. A description of the minimum acceptable behaviors students are expected to meet by the end of the lesson, such as defining fire, listing the four classes of fire, and describing the four parts of the fire tetrahedron. They are the same for technical and practical lesson plans.
Materials needed. The list should include materials and equipment needed to conduct the lesson and should be used for planning for the availability of equipment and materials and setting up the lesson.
References. The materials the instructor will use to develop and prepare for the lesson.
Preparation. Described above.
Presentation. Described above.
Application. Described above.
Summary. Restating important information presented during the lesson. Summaries can clarify information, reinforce lesson objectives, and prevent uncertainties in students` minds.
Evaluation. Described above.
Assignment. Tasks involving the newly acquired skills are assigned so students may become adept at performing them.
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR LESSON PLANS
Time frames should be approximate. Since plans are guidelines, every minute need not be accounted for; the plan should be flexible. However, time must be allotted for setting up and taking down for lesson activities, student breaks, and moving students from one station to another.
The number of students to be trained in a given time frame must be considered, since class size affects the quantity of materials and number of instructors needed. A lesson plan that does not consider class size may be doomed from the start. It is prudent to plan for maximum class size. In this way, only minor adjustments have to be made if the class is smaller. As on the fireground, it is better to consider the worst possible (greatest) scenario and adjust for the smaller one.
Once the lesson plan has been written, develop application tools such as props, simulation devices, and specific equipment that will assist in delivering the lesson; create visual aids that will enhance and reinforce the lesson; and develop written or practical tests for assessing the learning that has occurred. The tests should refer to the lesson`s behavioral objectives given to the students at the beginning of the course.
Since each instructor has an individualized teaching style, the lesson plan- although detailed and specific–should be flexible enough to allow for the instructor`s creativity. n
1. Fire Service Instructor, 5th ed. International Fire Service Training Association (Fire Protection Publications, Oklahoma State University: Stillwater, Okla., 1990).
2. Bachtler, Joseph R. Fire Service Instructor`s Training Guide, 2nd ed. (Fire Engineering Books: New York, N.Y., 1989).
3. Flannery, Timothy J. Developing Lesson Plans for the Fire Service Course Notes (Flannery Associates: North Brunswick, N.J., 1994).
TIMOTHY J. FLANNERY is a principal in Flannery Associates, a training and consulting firm. He has been active in the fire protection field for more than 20 years and formerly served as the director of the Middlesex County Fire Academy and as a senior instructor at the Bergen County Police and Fire Academy. He is a New Jersey state-certified fire instructor and fire official and a member of the New Jersey State Fire Commission`s Training and Education Advisory Council and an adjunct instructor at Rutgers University. Flannery has a bachelor`s degree in fire administration and is working toward a master`s degree in fire protection management at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.