Plan 200% for 50% of the Time

In a unconventional class offered through the honors department here at Virginia Tech I learned a great tip on teaching.  It is more of a mentality with which to approach a facilitated learning environment than a technique to apply and test out on your students.  We were a team of three TA’s and one professor working to develop a lesson plan for “The Art and Science of Tracking”.  Our mentor Micheal Blackwell shared with us that we should approach each lesson with twice as much material as we thought we could cover in the given time period.  On top of that he encouraged us to only focus on that material for half of the class period.

To me this struck home.  Over prepare but remain flexible.  Have a detailed plan but keep your eyes and ears open for those unplannable moments in which true deep learning can occur.  Cultivate a passion for your lesson plan’s material but be prepared to capture learning in the moments you can never plan for.  Be an expert in your field but realize that you have something to learn from each of your students.

By planning 200 percent for only 50 percent of the time our team was able to focus on the students more.  Adapt our lessons on the fly and redirect each and every class to better fit the students moods and interests.   My teammates were devoted.  We each brought a unique set of skills to the table, and our mentor was able to empower us to fully immerse in the creative process of teaching and being taught.   True, the setting was unique, but I believe that the “200 percent for 50 percent” lesson is one that could be applied to any learning environment from the lecture hall to the impromptu track discovery on the banks of strouble’s creek.


2 thoughts on “Plan 200% for 50% of the Time

  1. I also really like this concept, always being worried myself about being underprepared and also getting the reasoning for flexibility in the classroom. I am just curious as to whether you foresee any challenges associated with this approach, although perhaps not experienced yet? I thought to myself that there might be challenges that arise from several people collaborating and feeling tied to their specific plans that they developed. What if one person’s plans are always or more often omitted when time runs out? What would be a good system to guide collaboration for this approach?

    • Kelly,
      Thanks for the comment. You bring up a great point about attempting to collaborate with multiple people and the difficulties that it may create in developing your desired learning environment.

      To answer your question I would like to share some more information about how the three TA’s in the Art and Science of Tracing collaborated. The key, I think, is how you view collaboration. When our team gathered every week to review, revise, and create the lesson plan for the upcoming classes we came to an environment where all ideas were genuinely heard, and then discussed as a group. I was eager to share my ideas because when I shared them they no longer entirely belonged to me. They belonged to the listeners and the other members of the group who would interpret them differently, put a new twist on what I had proposed, add something, or combine my plan with one already mentioned. By the time we had finished discussing each idea, concept, or plan they were no longer individual ideas but group creations formed into lesson plans and developed through collaboration.

      There are major challenges with working this way. A large factor that I see is the group members and leaders of the group that you are working with. The challenges perhaps are creating an environment where you never feel like your ideas are omitted because when you come to the learning environment they are not your ideas anymore. You may be the expert on the matter but you developed your lesson plan. This way the 100% that isn’t covered belongs to the group and the 50% that you can never plan for was improvised on the fly, created in moments of genuine learning, and collectively created by both students and instructors.

      Good luck with the method it is very difficult to fully implement but by keeping it in the back of your mind a teacher can be better prepared for those unexpected moments where true learning happens.

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