The mundane method of “lecture to all” doesn’t work.
Lecturing is like filling cracks in a wall (gaps in student knowledge) with a hose of concrete. You spurt out sloppy rock-sand with hope to hit some gap in understanding. But in reality, most students are flooded with boredom and irrelevant material…
We need to fill each unique hole for each student.
The Gap Filler Lean Lesson Plan give each students the precise amount of concrete (content) for the exact size of their learning hole (learning gap) and the specific tool they’ll need to cover it (video, reading, tutorial, etc).
This entire process can be facilitated within a single class session. For instance, if a students gets question 5 wrong on a worksheet they should get the perfect resource to fix that misunderstanding. They should only get the resources/videos/tutorials for the topics they got wrong:
Done correctly, our punctured wall ends up looking like this …
So, how can we achieve this gap-filling perfection in ONE class period? We can use what I call the Gap Filler Lean Lesson Plan.
Let’s explore how to create this lesson plan:
1. Students learn material
First, students learn that material that you will soon evaluate for gaps. The learning can happen in a class session, flipped classroom, or self-directed tutorial — really any form of learning.
2. Measure the knowledge gap size — Low stakes formative quiz
Second, we need to understand the unique size and shape of each student’s gap in understanding. This measure allows us to provide the perfect amount of concrete to fill their unique gap. To get this understanding, I like to use a low-stakes formative quiz. A formative quiz is a short graded activity that holds no bearing on the students’ final grade — it is simply used to measure their skill level. In class, I like to capture this data through free tools like Google Forms and PearDeck or paid tools like Kahoot. Armed with data on each student’s performance, we can plan how best to fill the gaps.
3. Prepare to fill the gap
Third, we spend some time assessing how best to fill each student’s gap. To do this, we send the students to do their own self-guided work while the instructor creates their plan to fill the gap.
Instructor focus: instructor grades the scores of the formative quiz in order to understand the gaps in student knowledge. Specifically, they want to know what % of students got a question wrong. The more people who got something wrong, the more time the teacher will spend revisiting the topic.
You can easily visualize the distribution in student performance with Google Forms. The quiz feature allows you to display the student answers to multiple choice questions as fancy chart summaries.
You can also quickly read student short answer responses in the form’s corresponding Google Sheet and tabulate how many students got each question wrong. The instructor then makes a little schedule for the next 30 minutes of class based on student misunderstandings:
The mini lectures are attended ONLY by the students who got the questions wrong. Everybody else can do self-directed work… You direct them to the exact kind of concrete they need!
Students participate in self-directed activities to fill in their own knowledge gaps while the instructor plans the schedule above. There are a few ways to assign the self-directed learning. One way is to program the Google Form quizzes to auto-message students the questions they got wrong with an answer explanation and links to resources for self-study. They’ll use these resources to brush up on the material on their own.
Another way to enable self-directed studying is to pair students who had the same misunderstandings to discover their answers together. Alternatively, you can give students a tutorial or some other self-directed form of learning. The point is to help them do something productive while the instructor puts together the gap-filler schedule.
4. Gap filler — instructor executes the schedule.
Now you have everything you need to fill the gaps! It is time to execute the schedule you made in the previous step. As the schedule progresses, broadcast a message in the breakout rooms to let people know when you are moving from one topic to the next. If you want, you can give another challenge at the end of class to check if students truly filled their knowledge gap!
This is the future
Before his death, Steve Jobs was planning to disrupt the $8 billion text book industry. He aspired to create this kind of data-adaptive way of learning.
It’s not a matter of if these practices will become mainstream. It is a matter of when.