Introduction: Planning lessons

Lesson content is one of the five perspectives of Friendly and Fair Teaching (FFT). Teachers alternate teacher-centred education (frontal teaching) and student-centred education (independent work). In doing so, they both help their students on their way and give them the opportunity to acquire skills independently. Both by promoting cooperation and by a certain way of assessment, they increase the motivation of their students.

When teaching the entire class, I get my students excited about a topic. When my students are working independently, they have the opportunity to chart their own course within a structure I provide. By doing so, I increase their intrinsic motivation and autonomy. I ask my students to rate my lessons. Their suggestions help me improve the teaching material.

To learn anything, it is necessary to dare to accept that what we think we know, including our most rooted beliefs, may be wrong, or at least naive: shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave.” Rovelli (2016), Carlo

The American psychologist with whom the revolution in thinking about motivation began, Edward Deci, believes the question is no longer how we motivate each other. The real question is how do we create a society in which people motivate themselves? This question is not left or right, nor is it capitalist or communist. We are talking about a new movement. About a new realism. Because nothing is more powerful than people who do what they do because they want to do it.” Bregman (2019)

By combining two approaches to teaching, each with its own mode of assessment, you create a rich learning environment with both convergent and divergent elements. That learning environment matches the way the brain works and allows students to connect new information with existing information.

Current approach:

How do I provide a challenging learning environment now?

Future approach:

How do I provide challenging learning environment in the future?


Lesson content is one of the five perspectives of Friendly and fair teaching (FFT).

Figure 32: Planning lessons (overview)

With the perspective ‘Planning lesson’ and its associated modules, you provide a challenging, positive learning environment.

Friendly and Fair Teaching advocates alternating ‘Teacher-centred education‘ with ‘Student-centred education‘. According to Sorensen teacher development is a process which usually starts with the teacher ‘designing’ lessons in which the students do what the teacher says. On the ‘Friendly and Fair Teaching’ website this is called ‘Teacher-centred education‘. However Sorensen argues that the more experience a teacher has, the more they can make students responsible for their own learning, encouraging what he refers to as “emergent learning”. We call this ‘Student-centred education‘.

A learning environment consists of structure, freedom and responsibility.  These three elements encourage  increasingly personalized learning. The structure includes Teacher-centred education (icon on this site ‘beret’) and Student-centred education (icon on this site ‘cap’). With these icons FFT indicates whether the information relates to Teacher-centred education or student-centred education.

Icon beret: In frontal teaching, you take the students by the hand and you are their teacher or in a sense tour guide. You demand the attention of the group and you provide structure. You introduce your students to your subject. You cover basic skills during frontal teaching. Latin: educare, to educate, but also educere, to lead away from (ignorance) – wikipedia.
Icon cap: During independent work, you send your students on a trek where they work on a self-selected topic related to your subject. They also pay attention to compulsory assignments during independent work. In doing so, you enable them to assess themselves at self-selected times with an app. They make their own schedule and work at their own pace. During independent work, you act as a coach rather than a teacher. You help your students plan their work and support their self-selected course. Students are responsible for showing results to you. This increases their intrinsic motivation and satisfaction. A satisfied student is not likely to disrupt a lesson. By giving more and more responsibility to students you create a positive learning environment. Only with a certain degree of freedom do students develop into unique individuals.

If you determine the group composition in exercises that follow your explanations (Teacher-Centred Education), students get used to working with different fellow students (Collaboration)

By assessing in a different way – the number of completed assignments determines the grade – you make your students responsible for their own results. Every time they finish an assignment, they show it to you on their own initiative during independent work.
During a reporting period you give attention to students in phases. First you pay attention to the fast learners, then to the lagging students. The idea behind this is that it is primarily the student’s responsibility to get to work: Read more (Assessment).

With ownership and with a solid foundation of knowledge and skills, your students are able to take increasing responsibility for their own learning and gain insight into their own abilities.

How do you lead change without the end result already being fixed?

  At the start of this process, the metaphor arose: from organized journey to trekking. This is a way of change in which it is very important that you create a picture together of what you are doing ‘in the here and now’. We do not have a road map, but we have developed ambitions and a shared image of when it is right. We formulate starting points and guiding principles together, from which you can work: anything that fits in is good. This way, moreover, you avoid fighting symptoms.” – Dick Bruinzeel

Explanation of fighting symptoms: By changing your approach on education, by creating a positive learning environmen, you prevent students from being inclined to disrupt the lesson. Students’ disruptions to the lesson can be a symptom of not connecting the lesson to their needs. If you forget to connect to their needs and focus on fighting disruptions, you might call that fighting symptoms. You are addressing the symptoms but not the problems (not connecting to students’ needs).

1 Alternating teacher-centred education and student-driven education

1.1 Alternating

By allowing time for both ‘Teacher-Centred Education’ and ‘Student-Centred Education’, you involve all students in the lesson and give each student the opportunity to find his or her own way. You also enable them to work at their own pace. In doing so, you make education inclusive. The more students make their own choices, the more this contributes to the educational goal of Subjectivation. If you combine ‘Teacher-Centred Education’ and Student-Centred Education’, students develop different areas of expertise over time.

1.2 Not alternating

  1. If you provide exclusively Teacher-Centred Education’, and have all students work on the same assignments, over time all students have more or less the same expertise. The fewer choices you allow a student to make, the less personalized the education becomes (Pitfall only Teacher-Centred Education).
  2. If you provide only student-driven education, you are not in a position to provide the entire group with necessary information. This can lead to lack of knowledge and skills (Pitfall only Student-Centred Education)

1.3 Starting to alternate different approaches to teaching

  1. To start with ‘Teacher-Centred Education’ you prepare at least one lesson. In Teacher-Centred Education, you work with the whole group on one topic and you are the ‘tour guide’.
  2. If you start with Student-Centred Education, you prepare a number of topics for students to choose from. Students choose something that suits their own level and work at their own pace. With student-Centred Education, you send students on a trek.

With both teacher-centred education and student-centred education, you set in motion a process that can be summarized with this metaphor: from organized trip (your role – Tour guide) to hiking trip (your role – roadside assistance).

2 Freedom

How does a student become an adult (Subjectivation)? An important ingredient here is the freedom to make decisions for oneself and act accordingly. A student who makes something himself, creates something, shapes a project, can be proud of that. Acquiring individuality is different from imitating others. Therefore, within a structure determined by you, offer your pupils the freedom to make choices, to arrange work and to test it. A student determines the order of work. With basic material, the student first tests the results himself with an app, then the student shows you the level achieved. A student then works at his own pace and with his own planning on a goal (determined by you): achieving a certain level with the app.

3 Collaboration

In both ‘Teacher-Centred Education’ and ‘Student-Centred Education’, collaboration accelerates the process. How do you initiate this process? Read more at Collaboration.

4 Assessment

Naturally, you assess your students. FFT’s advice is to additionally ask your students to assess your teaching style and your teaching materials. In this way you will more quickly discover opportunities for improvement.

How do you ensure that the way you assess your students motivates them? How do you give each student an assignment at his or her own level? Read more about ‘Assessment‘.

5 Social Responsibility

Consider it your job to discover and develop students’ talents. A talent developed at school first plays an important role in the choice of study and can then determine the type of work or social function as well as the social responsibility students take on. Increasing intrinsic motivation, helps students determine their choice of study. An intrinsically motivated student is more likely to successfully complete a study.

6 Summary

During independent work you give students the opportunity to determine a number of things for themselves such as choosing a topic, deciding when to test compulsory assignments on themselves with an app and how to make their own schedule. Furthermore, you give your students the opportunity to work together.

  1. In ‘Teacher-Centred Education’, your job is to get the students excited about the subject and to connect students through your profession. Your role then is to teach.
  2. In ‘Student-Centred Education’, your job is to provide a challenging learning environment. Your students then get to work on one of the topics you have prepared or on a topic of their own making. You are then coaching your students.

You choose a method of assessment that allows your students to work at their own level. Collaboration provides a good rapport within the group. With all of this, you motivate your students.

7 Credits

Gert Biesta Gert Biesta provided ideas for FFT’s ‘Planning lesson’ perspective.
In an email to Johan ‘t Hart in 2015, Gert Biesta wrote:
‘It requires educational wisdom of the teacher who always makes and determines the choices, introduces something new and helps the young person to break free from the logic of his own whims. An educational wisdom that allows for risk.
Andries Visser
In this quote from a book by Andries Visser, Kierkegaard indicates the type of reader for whom his books are intended:

“It is, Kierkegaard writes, about a reader who is convinced that everyone is dependent on himself and that this is the main thing.” Visser (2019), Andries Visser (2019), Andries

FFT elaborates this thought for teachers. If they are convinced that their students are ultimately dependent on themselves, that thought will determine how they teach.