Teachers need better resources to plan great lessons

Katie Roberts-Hull
This blog is adapted from a February 2020 piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald by Open Stage CEO Katie Roberts-Hull.
Most people don't realise how much work goes into a great lesson.

Non-educators are aware teachers follow the Australian Curriculum (or state curriculum), but they can mistakenly assume this provides them with teaching material for daily lessons. It does not. In Australia, unlike other high-performing systems, this work mostly falls to teachers.

Designing a great lesson is no small feat. 

Take a Year 8 history teacher. She must first do strategic planning before the school year starts, spending hours studying the curriculum and mapping concepts across the school calendar.

Once the school year begins, she must design effective lessons. She can do this from scratch or seek her own resources, often wading through reams of low-quality material on the internet or piecing together lessons from incomplete resources available from the school.

She must think of the clearest way to introduce concepts like imperialism while also designing engaging tasks to analyse sources, making connections to students' own lives and prior learning, and writing assessments that give accurate feedback on student learning.

There must be carefully chosen tasks and activities that ensure students deeply understand lesson concepts while staying engaged.

She must then prepare the lesson materials, order resources, make copies and set up the classroom. She must do all this in a 45-minute free period, when she also has other critical work including reviewing student learning data, speaking to families and meeting with colleagues.

Imagine if an orchestra conductor had to be in concert six hours per day and also write new music on a daily basis.

Teachers generally have a much tougher workload than they should in preparing these lessons. They're often expected to design daily lessons from scratch, with few resources and almost no time. It does not have to be this way.

We can reduce teacher workloads while maintaining their autonomy by connecting them to resources that will ensure higher quality lessons for all our students, every day.

It is no wonder most teachers, especially less experienced ones, feel overwhelmed.

In surveys, teachers report high lesson planning workloads and confusion over how to find the best lesson resources.

When students are exposed to lessons that vary in quality and alignment to the curriculum, both learning and equity are affected. Poor access to quality lesson materials degrades the entire system.

Teachers say they want better access to quality lesson materials, and research shows this improves student learning.

Providing teachers with high-quality lesson materials is a less expensive way to improve student learning than many other initiatives.

High-performing school systems are much better at ensuring teachers have access to top lesson materials such as lesson plans and sample assessment tasks.

Many states are already starting the work to support higher quality lessons. It is time to scale this work and ensure every teacher has access to quality lesson materials from day one.

High quality resources to support your lesson planning

Detailed unit plans and lesson guides