In Robinson’s Weblog #022: For Goodness’ Sake, Would You Please FOCUS! Part Two: The Action Plan (One Strategy, Many Tactics), I wrote that an action plan consists of a strategy and tactics. Together these provide the directions for achieving a goal. For any goal, you will have one strategy and many tactics.
This weblog entry is about the second part of devising an action plan: choosing tactics. Tactical decision-making takes your strategy and sets forth the specific actions (activities and tasks) you will take to execute it. Some tactics are planned in advance and others involve decision-making in the moment.
Your tactical decisions will depend on many factors including the learner demographic and whether your learning environment is a traditional academic setting (school, classroom) or nontraditional setting (online environment, after-school program, homeschool or other outside-of-school location).
As an educator, the scope of the tactical decisions you have to make on a daily basis depend on your overall strategy, which depends on your specific role in education. Depending on your role, you may have more or less responsibility for designing student learning experiences. Many educators facilitate student learning experiences using curriculum and/or instructional materials designed by others and some educators have roles that include a combination of design and facilitation.
If facilitating student learning experiences is a part of your role, then the functions you perform include instructing, motivating, disciplining, encouraging and sharing information with students. In performing these functions, you are constantly deciding what tactics to use, when, and with whom. This requires knowledge of content and instructional methods, an understanding of how individual students learn best, and being aware of your students’ strengths and weaknesses at particular points in time. Some call this “the art of teaching”, but I call this ability to effectively facilitate student learning experiences a superpower, which I wrote about in Robinson’s Weblog #005: For Goodness’ Sake, Will You Please Sit Down? Part Two: Your Ego is not Your Amigo.
As a learning experience designer, I want to make sure that parents, classroom teachers, online instructors, and other educators can use my materials to easily facilitate learning experiences in their various learning environments. So, my starting point is to think about the students and how they will experience what I design.
I also have to think about the specific learning objectives and choose different tactics depending on the focus of each learning experience. While some knowledge and skills are best acquired through scientific investigation or engineering design projects, others are best acquired through reading an account of a scientific discovery, or through Socratic discussions, interactive games, etc.
Whether you are a learning experience designer, facilitator, or some combination of both; having an action plan keeps you focused on achieving the goal of science education with students. Your action plan will have one strategy and many tactics. The key is to execute your strategy by deliberately choosing tactics that will achieve the goal.
The goal of science education articulates what students should gain from their learning experiences overall. My strategy for achieving the goal of science education is to use the NGSS to design integrative STEM learning experiences. I am now ready to make deliberate, tactical decisions in executing this strategy.
Since the NGSS were the result of working backward from this goal, I can continue working backwards from the grade banded expectations of NGSS to design learning experiences that progressively move student understanding and skill acquisition closer and closer to achieving it.