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How do you know if your lesson plan was effective?

One of the most common questions that new teachers ask is, "how do I know if my lesson plan was effective?" It's actually pretty easy to figure out. However, you need to be willing to be honest with yourself and accept that there will be no sacred cows in this process. Here are a few ideas you can try for evaluating the success or failure of your lesson plan. Note that not all of them need to be used in order to answer your question:

Video tape yourself. It is remarkable how much we see when we review a video of ourselves delivering a lesson plan. There are so many things that you simply will not notice as you are actually going through the experience. See the tape a few days after your lesson and see what worked and what didn't. Ideally, you should have a camera on you and another recording the class (or have a professional camera person recording you and the class, though that can get expensive). This way you can see the results as you go through them. You'll be able to dispassionately look at what happened and decide if it was a good lesson or not.

Ask a trusted colleague to observe you. While you may not want the principal to observe you, if you have a mentor, especially someone who has no direct relationship to your school who can observe you, this can be a gold mine of information. Make sure they understand that nothing is sacred and you want them to tell you what worked and what didn't work. Ask them to take copious notes, both on your lesson and the reaction of the students as you go through the lesson plan.

Ask a trusted colleague to read your lesson plan for you. While this isn't as good of a way of evaluating if your lesson plan was effective, in reality, you can easily gain a lot of knowledge from having another pair of eyes looking over your work. This is also less intrusive, both for you and your colleague (not to mention your class) so it may be an easier thing for you to take and for your colleague to do for you.

Take notes during class. Just because you are the one giving the lesson, it doesn't mean that you can't also take notes as you go through your lesson plan on what worked and what didn't work. You should note for yourself when your lesson plan was a success because you anticipated a question a student may have and you should note when things were a failure because a student clearly didn't understand based on what you were teaching and you either had to change tactics on the fly or even go back to the material on a later date.

Check test scores and homework. Of course the granddaddy of ways to check if your lesson plan was effective is quite simply to see if your students retained the information that you taught them. While this is not the perfect metric for measure the success or failure of your lesson plan (after all, they may memorize material for the test and then forget it all later), it will give you a solid start in figuring out whether your lesson plan is a success in getting information across, which is after-all, your ultimate goal.

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