Lesson plans, observations and PD programs – Interview with Anthony Ash

Photo by David Muir under Creative Commons from: http://www.doshort.com/4Oyl

Photo by David Muir under Creative Commons from: http://www.doshort.com/4Oyl

In this episode we talk to Anthony Ash about lesson plans, observations and professional development (PD) programs. This podcast was triggered by a post about lesson plans and observations Anthony Ash wrote on his blog which you can read here. We then had a very interesting chat on Twitter (you can still read it here) together with Marc Jones, who also wrote a very interesting post on the topic. As a response to their posts and the Twitter chat, I also wrote an article on my blog where I criticised the insistence on writing long lesson plans for formal observations (read my article here).

So in this podcast we pick up the discussion where we originally left it and continue chatting about the importance of lesson plans and observations in PD programs. We start off by discussing whether preparing a formal lesson plan for an observation should be necessary. We then look at formal observations and chat about their importance in PD programs. We finish off by suggesting what our ideal PD program would look like.

What would your ideal PD program look like? How do you feel about preparing formal lesson plans for observations? Let us know in the comments section or tweet to @theteflshow and @ashowski

About Anthony: I completed the CELTA at IH Wroclaw (Poland) in August 2011 and I completed the DELTA at IH Newcastle (UK) in autumn 2014. I have an MA in English Language and Linguistics in which I focused on the historical development of the English language. I have taught adults and Young Learners general English and Business English in Dresden (Germany), Oxford (UK), Poznan / Torun (Poland) and Buenos Aires (Argentina). I also teach English for Academic Purposes at the University of Newcastle (UK). I have worked in ELT management since September 2013. I was a Senior Teacher at IH Torun (Poland) and I am currently an Assistant Director of Studies at IH Buenos Aires involved in Teacher Training and Development. [bio from Anthony’s blog].

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14 thoughts on “Lesson plans, observations and PD programs – Interview with Anthony Ash

  1. Thanks for sharing an interview on such a huge topic. I’d like to add that for development observations I usually ask teachers for lesson plans and I focus on the stage aims more than anything else, I want to see the rationale behind the choices that had been made before the class. Of course, it should be pointed out in a pre-ob meeting that it’s ok to change the plan and adapt it based on teacher’s needs. Apart from that, a teacher can also receive feedback on their ability to write plans which may help them if they’re aiming at DELTA or an MA.
    As for INSETs, I couldn’t agree more, they shouldn’t be done to tick boxes, they should help teachers develop and they don’t always have to be a Friday morning talk. Great stuff indeed.


    1. Nati! I remember you talking to me about this in Buenos Aires. I think you said that if it came down to a choice between a Lesson Plan with Procedure only or one with Stage Aims only, you’d prefer the second one, as it would let you see what the rationale/thinking/choices the teacher is making in the lesson planning process. I wish I had remembered that when we made the episode. I think it’s a great idea.


  2. Great interview thanks. As a teacher trainer, I can say that writing lesson plans is often more stressful for the trainees than giving the observed class and the feedback. Many of them struggle with the pro formas they are expected to use rather than planning per se. Talking through the plan with trainee teachers usually reveals the though processes underpinning what they aim to do in the lesson itself. Putting it down on paper in a prescribed format is the real challenge for many of them. We should be experimenting with other forms on plans, perhaps teachers could talk through their plans as an video audio recording, or create their own templates…

    The other thing I tell my trainees is to create their own working plan to use in the lesson itself, as the pro formas we require are generally too complex to refer to quickly in the class.

    Cheers for the podcast.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment.
      I agree that trainees should be shown and allowed to experiment with other, perhaps more realistic, ways of planning. After all, who has time to write CELTA like lesson plans when they’ve got twenty odd hours to teach. So exposing trainees to alternatives, e.g. post it notes in coursebooks, mind maps, flow charts; would definitely be very helpful.
      I also think it’s a good idea to apart from the full plan, have a simplified plan, perhaps with the main lesson aims. I always find it incredibly difficult to follow a formal lesson plan during the observation. It’s just too detailed.
      Why in your opinion do teacher training courses still insist on the ling formal lesson plan? Any advantages apart from making it really easy to assess teacher’s planning effort?


  3. Hi Marek and Anthony
    Most of what was said resonates with me in terms of LPs’ usefulness in CELTA. I don’t completely agree with Delta being a box ticking exercise only. Certainly there is some truth in that statement but I felt I benefitted more from my LP training in Delta than I did in CELTA. The eclecticism required at Delta level makes the planning all the more essential for the trainer to be able to assess the trainee’s progress, knowledge and ability to use methods and techniques appropriately. As Scott Thornbury mentioned in the iTDi post, LPs are very important during training and I very much found them to be so. However, with experience and in real teaching practice, how much a teacher decides to spend on planning their lesson really depends on the circumstances.
    In terms of the deiffernet types of ovservations, then I feel the only lessons that need a detailed plan would be the ones on training courses, however, in-service PD obs shouldn’t require as detailed a plan, especially so if there is a pre and post chat between oberver and observee.


  4. Hi again..
    I also agree that there’s still a lot of work needed with regards to PD – at least in most schools I’ve worked at or visited. It’s mostly due to lack of budget for that purpose. Sadly this has a ripple effect on so many areas of the school. It still baffles me that school directors don’t take that on board.Many schools only require LPs for their files and to justify their sanctions which totally defies the point.


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