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)

Introduction video

For more information check out our other introductory videos here.

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 positive learning environment matches the way the brain works and enables students to connect information with new information and remember it.

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 “Lesson Content” perspective and the associated modules, you provide a positive learning environment. Every student is ultimately on his or her own. You prepare your students for this reality by giving them more and more responsibility. During this process both your students and yourself grow.

Tour guide and Roadside assistance – two roles for a teacher

In an interview, Willemijn de Jong poses this question to Dick Bruinzeel (a member of the overarching school board of the Jan Arentsz in the Netherlands): In what way do you lead change, without the end result already being fixed?
Dick answers:

“At the start of this process, the metaphor arose: from organized journey to trek. That 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. Moreover, this way you avoid symptom management.”

What does Dick Bruinzeel mean by ‘symptom management’ in this quote?
A school leadership can take problems as they present themselves as the starting point for a change process within a school. For example, a disappointing revenue map. Suppose it is disappointing because of disappointing exam results and poor efficiency in upper school. Then the school management can plan for these two problems to ensure that they disappear. This can be done, for example, by having an outside organization (such as FFT) train all teachers. But if these are symptoms of a deeper problem, namely that the teaching team has mutual problems that are not being resolved and there is little confidence in the school leadership and the direction it has set, the problem becomes bigger rather than smaller.

He also indicates that disruptions in class by students may indicate deeper problems (basic psychological needs may be at issue, autonomy/relationship/competence). If a teacher does not address students’ basic psychological needs and focuses on quelling disruptions, that is also a form of symptom management. You are addressing the symptoms but not the problem (not connecting to students’ basic needs).

Tour guide: when teaching the entire class

In organizing the ‘trip’ for students (metaphorically speaking), you take the lead as a ‘tour guide’,  you take the initiative (Teacher-centred education). The educational goals of Qualification and Socialization are central. In teacher-centred education, you provide structure.

Roadside assistance: when students are working independently

On the other hand, you enable your students to undertake a ‘personal trek’ (also metaphorically speaking), you leave the initiative to your students. The role you take as a teacher when students go on a personal trek is what FFT calls ‘roadside assistance’ (Student-centred education). The educational goal of Personalisation is central to this. In student-centred education, you offer freedom. Student ownership increases intrinsic motivation as well as satisfaction with education. A satisfied student will not easily disrupt a lesson. By giving more and more responsibility to students you create order in a preventive way. Only with a certain degree of freedom do students develop into unique individuals who take responsibility in their own way and interact positively with your teaching offerings.

Alternating two approaches to teaching

With this combination of these two styles of teaching, you obtain a positive “emotional bank account” with your students (Grantfactor – Covey) and your students want to work for you. With this combination, you prevent student and teacher from being permanently dependent on each other. You also avoid having students completely on their own. In both teacher-centred and student-centred education, as a teacher you avoid taking a dominant attitude or exercising coercion.

By alternating teacher-centred education and student-centred education, and by also alternating the corresponding roles, tour guide and roadside assistance, the autonomy of students gradually increases and the emphasis for you becomes more and more on the role of roadside assistance.

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. 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‘.

With this perspective ‘Planning lessons’, you increase student motivation and help your students to reach their full potential. You help them transition to the next group or class and finally pass their exams. What you hope is that once out of school, motivated students continue to use their abilities and to relate to the world in a positive social way.

Between the two poles, structure and freedom, a student’s course becomes increasingly personalized. On this site both poles have their own icon (beret and cap). With these icons FFT indicates whether the information relates to teacher-centred education or student-centred education.

  1. Icon beret: When teaching the entire class, you take the students by the hand and 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 when teaching the entire class. Latin: educare, to educate, but also educere, to lead away from (ignorance) – wikipedia.
  2. Icon cap: When students are workin independently, you send your students on a trek where they work on a self-selected topic related to your subject. If the experience problems on their way, you are in a sense their ‘roadside assistance’. They also pay attention to basic material 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 more as a coach.

Read more on ‘roles of the teacher‘.

Collaboration – Assessment

By determining group composition in exercises following your explanation, students get used to working with others all the time (Collaboration).

By assessing in a different way – the number of assignments completed 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 give attention to the fast learners, then you make time for 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. Only with a certain degree of freedom do students develop into unique individuals (Subjectivation)

1 Importance of alternating teacher-centred education and student-centred education

1.1 Alternating

By setting aside time for both teacher-centred and student-centred education, you involve all students in the lesson. You give each student the opportunity to find his or her own way and each student can work at his or her 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. When you combine teacher-centred education and student-centred education, over time students develop different areas of expertise and can learn from each other.

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-centred 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 can consider yourself as a their tour guide.
  2. If you start with student-centred education, you prepare a number of topics for students to choose from. A students chooses something that suits his or her own level works at his or her own pace. With student-centred education, you send students metaphorically speaking 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 trek (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.

You can motivate your students by choosing a different method of grading. In that method of grading, the grade is related to the number of successful moments of contact between you and the student. Read more about this grading.

5 Social Responsibility

Consider it your job to discover and develop students’ talents. A talent developed at school first plays an important role in a student’s 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 course of 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.

Sliem el Ela
Sliem el Ela is a former student of Johan ‘t Hart. Sliem works as a tutor.He explained how the brain works.Johan and Sliem there together made this video about the brain.