How to Collaborate in Lesson Planning

Five Parts:Choosing a Meeting Time and PlaceGetting Everyone on the Same PageBrainstorming Across DisciplinesPlanning the Collaborative LessonsFollowing Up Effectively

Collaborative approaches to teaching enrich the classroom environment for both students and educators. By enabling teachers to approach their subjects from a variety of perspectives, collaborative lesson planning helps make the classroom interdisciplinary and equips teachers to pull class content from a broader range of material and ideas. This makes the classroom more well-rounded and enhances student learning.

Part 1
Choosing a Meeting Time and Place

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    Select a meeting time that works for everyone. Although it can seem daunting, try to find a time that works for everyone for an in-person meeting. You want to avoid leaving out any team members because of schedule conflicts. Taking care to include all parties helps create a sense of teamwork.
    • In-person meetings help foster relationships in a way that Skype or conference calling often do not. Additionally, in-person meetings help you avoid technology snafus that might interrupt your discussion.
    • If an in-person meeting isn’t possible, then the next best alternative is a Skype meeting at a time that works for all parties. If circumstances prohibit a Skype or in-person meeting, then a phone meeting (while not ideal) is appropriate.
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    Find an ideal meeting location. Depending on your particular group of participants, a meeting in a school conference room might be your best option. If your group of collaborators are already close, meeting in a member’s home or a local cafe or pub could be appropriate and cultivate a laid-back, open atmosphere for your meeting.
    • Reserve your meeting room in advance, especially if you would like to have a conference or meeting room in a public location like a school. Don’t assume the space will be open when you want to use it.
    • Regardless of your meeting’s venue or format, ensure that all meeting participants can hear and see each other. Adjust lighting, microphones, and seating to ensure seamless conversation and exchange of ideas.
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    Utilize Google docs. By using Google Docs, you ensure that your notes and lesson plans will autosave and not be lost to technological hiccups. Everyone can edit and access these documents from anywhere using a Google account.
    • If any group members are unfamiliar with Google Docs, it might be helpful to dedicate some meeting time or a separate meeting on how to use Google Docs. See how to Use Google Docs for Collaboration for more information on incorporating this technology into your meeting.
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    Incorporate visual aids. Many people are visual learners, so if possible, use visual aids at your meeting to supplement your discussion. The visual component of your meeting doesn't need to be complex or time-consuming to create. Images on an overhead or a brief PowerPoint presentation with relevant data will involve the audience more in the discussion.

Part 2
Getting Everyone on the Same Page

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    Ask participants to bring notes/ideas to the meeting. Your collaboration will go much more smoothly if each member attends the meeting having already considered what they might contribute to the meeting’s agenda. Even asking others to bring questions will help facilitate the discussion. The collaboration will have a springboard if you can begin the meeting knowing your group's ideas, questions, and concerns.
    • Don’t assume everyone in the room knows everyone else’s name or is familiar with everyone’s work or areas of expertise. Even though it might seem unnecessary, go around the room and have all attendees introduce themselves and speak for a moment or two about their lesson planning goals.
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    Specify particular goals of the meeting. Avoid going blindly into the collaboration. Prepare at least a minimal outline of the meeting and what you hope to accomplish. Even if your collaborating goal is somewhat vague, such as “incorporate technology into the humanities classroom,” this will at minimum give your meeting a general direction. Have handouts ready to give to the group.
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    Delegate tasks. Don’t be afraid of delegating tasks. Be sure to have at least two people taking notes in case one person loses them. If time is a concern, ask someone to keep an eye on the time for the meeting. Ensure that all attendees participate and contribute ideas, suggestions, and concerns. If quieter group members aren’t participating, specifically ask for their input on an area of their particular expertise or interest.
    • Take particular care not to dictate the meeting. While there needs to be a definitive meeting facilitator, group members will become resentful if you are condescending or inflexible. Keep a professional yet open atmosphere.
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    Mediate conflict. Sometimes even the most professional educators cannot find common ground on particular issues. Senior faculty might resent taking suggestions on how to revamp their classes from new teachers. Differences in departmental funding might create unforeseen tension. Some people can simply be abrasive with their words. It’s vital to troubleshoot these issues effectively to keep your meetings positive and running smoothly.
    • Acknowledge the conflict without making the parties involved uncomfortable. If possible, do not address the problem publicly and risk embarrassing colleagues or making the situation worse. Wait until you have privacy to directly address the issue.
    • If the situation is escalating and cannot wait, announce a short restroom break and request to speak quietly with the dissenting parties. Even if you cannot reach a conclusion to the conflict during the break, this will provide some space and time for the dissenting parties to reflect on the situation and cool down.

Part 3
Brainstorming Across Disciplines

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    Discuss how to ignite student learning. Approaches to student learning will vary widely across disciplines. You can choose to group teachers by subject or department, or you can purposely group teachers from a range of unrelated subjects to encourage more unconventional approaches to the lessons. The wider the variety of teacher backgrounds, the more well-rounded your collaborative lesson planning will be.
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    Explore practical ways to implement ideas. It might be obvious that schools need more technologies in classrooms, for example, but specifically dig into how each subject area might approach it. Implementing these changes will look vastly different in English, music, and calculus classes, respectively. Unpack the specifics and develop concrete steps for each teacher to take.
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    Decide how to approach collaborating. It is important to decide who will be included in your collaborations. This will help focus both your meetings and the actual lesson planning. Will you include administrators and support staff or limit your collaborations to teachers only? Some schools might even find it useful to include the school board or bring in a guest speaker for their planning.
    • For instance, do you picture asking teachers from related disciplines, such as American history and American government to pair off and chat informally about lessons they might incorporate? Perhaps you picture grouping together teachers from totally unrelated departments like music and physics to see what unconventional methods they might develop. This is known as horizontal collaboration, meaning employees of equal position get together to brainstorm ideas and develop lesson plans.
    • Conversely, does your team envision inviting administrators like the school’s business manager to the meeting, for example, to discuss how to remain within budget on any new projects generated by the lesson planning collaboration? This is known as vertical collaboration, and it refers to a vertical hierarchy within a group setting. In this example, the business manager (a school administrator) would be collaborating with the teaching staff to find budget-friendly ways in which to incorporate their interdisciplinary lesson plans.
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    Consider potential obstacles. Large class sizes, school budget cuts, and staffing can all impact the logistics of incorporating your collaborative lesson plans. Anticipate these issues and proactively address possible solutions to potential problems that might arise. This will make it far easier for your colleagues to apply these new lessons in their classrooms.

Part 4
Planning the Collaborative Lessons

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    Set an objective. This is important so there is a concrete goal in mind for your lesson. Know what you want students to take away from the lesson. What is the overall theme or subject for the lesson? What are the main points students should know at the conclusion of the lesson? Your objective should directly address these points. [1]
    • Your objective should begin with the directive “students will.” For example, “Students will understand the events that led up to the Battle of Waterloo.”
    • Your objective should be broad enough that it encompasses all of the points you want to make to your students. Think of it as the umbrella under which the rest of the lesson rests.
    • A collaborative lesson plan between an American history teacher and an economics teacher, for instance, might touch on topics like the Great Depression or the history of Social Security in the U.S. From there, the rest of the lesson plan will develop as you collaborate on the topic and delve into more specific events and people.
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    Develop a lesson plan that that reflects the objective. Once you identify your objective, you can begin developing your lesson plan. Work backward from what you identified as the main points your students should know by the end of the lesson. Think of your lesson’s end goal and then work back to outline the steps necessary for students to reach that endpoint. See this article on how to Make a Lesson Plan for lesson plan development strategies to incorporate into your collaborative planning.
    • Pay particular attention to time management when creating your lesson plan. Make sure that your lesson will fit within the allotted timeframe.[2]
    • Keep in mind student learning differences. Some students learn visually, while others learn best from hands-on lessons. Incorporate as many learning strategies as possible in order to reach as many students as possible.
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    Engage students. Rather than using a straight lecture format, it’s important to incorporate learning activities into the lesson planning. This keeps students from becoming bored with the lesson and losing interest. Examples of active learning activities include group work, role play, debates, think-pair-share, concept maps, and student presentations.[3]
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    Assess student performance. To measure the success of your lesson plan objectives, it’s important to utilize assessment strategies to determine student retention. Using Prior Knowledge Tests or Classroom Assessment Techniques (or CATs) will help you gauge student comprehension. You can choose to assess the class as a whole or individual students.[4]
    • Prior Knowledge Tests help instructors measure an individual student’s understanding of the class material. It is helpful to administer these tests both before and after the lesson to gauge student comprehension. Comparing the prior knowledge test with its matching post-test is an excellent indicator of student retention.[5]
    • Classroom Assessment Techniques measure broader understanding of the class as a whole. Examples include asking students which points stood out to them the most in a class discussion or, conversely, which points were “muddiest” to them and might need more elaboration. [6]

Part 5
Following Up Effectively

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    Contact all members within a week of the meeting. This can be as simple as sending an email to the group requesting that they provide feedback on the meeting itself. Depending on your discussion and timeline, you might also ask how their lesson planning has gone since the meeting. Following up is important because it shows commitment to the group’s agenda. It also shows support for anyone who might be struggling to implement the ideas from the meeting.
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    Be aware that it takes time. Depending on the complexity of your lesson planning goals, you might require more than just an initial meeting. This does not mean that your initial collaboration was a failure. Instead, it indicates that your group is collaborating on a multi-dimensional issue that takes more time than one meeting can accommodate.
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    Determine the results of the collaborations. Following the results of the collaborations long-term will help determine what components of the lesson plans worked well and which ones need to be omitted or improved upon. Once all committee members have executed their lesson plans, schedule a follow-up meeting to discuss the outcome of the collaborative lesson plans. This meeting might be months after the initial meeting in order to give all parties time to conduct their particular lessons.


  • Take note of what worked well and what didn’t in your initial meeting and use that information to shape your future lesson plan collaborations.

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Categories: Creating Lesson Plans