To sum up, answering questions about the natural world is both
the motivation and the achievement of learning science. It is necessary for teachers to frame questions that can be answered by the concepts conveyed in each class to clarify the direction of instruction.
A Lesson Plan Is a Design Problem for a Teacher
Since questions play an important role in science learning, asking
and answering questions in class has been highly regarded. Generally, it is suggested that teachers should design a series of questions
and adopt question-driven instruction to facilitate the learning process (Beatty et al., 2006a, b; Chin & Osborne, 2008; Krajcik et al.,
2008). Indeed, questions are helpful for effective learning, and
answering questions about the natural world is the performance
expectation for students; however, powerful teaching is more than
just asking questions. A teacher should also present information,
data, materials, phenomena, and so on to support students in
answering questions on the basis of evidence. Consequently, lesson
preparation is similar to a design task, where the core problem that
needs to be solved is designing a system that will help students gain
an understanding of concepts through their own mental (and
sometimes physical) actions.
A Practical Approach to Designing a Lesson Plan
For students, learning science is a process of seeking answers to ques-
tions about the natural world; for teachers, preparing a lesson is a
problem of designing a learning situation that allows students to
answer questions by using evidence. In light of this idea, we propose
a process to show how to prepare an effective lesson for guiding stu-
dents in constructing an understanding of concepts. The process has
(1) The concepts in a lesson should be listed in order to clarify
the content objectives.
(2) All the concepts should be backed to initial questions –
otherwise, learning them is just memorization.
(3) The questions should be reordered according to the logic of
student cognitive development.
(4) To help students experience a process of evidence-based learning and develop an understanding of concepts through their
own thinking, appropriate learning situations should be created.
(5) More situations for students to experience the applications
of concepts learned in the lesson should be created.
Tasks designed in the last two phases comprise the learning process
students are supposed to experience. Here, we use a meiosis lesson
from a high school biology course as an example to feature the solutions to problems that may arise in each phase.
Phase 1: Listing the Concepts in a
Because the goal of learning is for students to gain an understanding of specific concepts, it is necessary to first determine the concepts in a lesson. Creating concept lists provides a clear view of
content objectives and can be used to check the lesson plan afterward. To clarify concepts in a lesson, it is recommended that
teachers consult national science standards and instructional
materials. There is no single correct concept list for a lesson,
and it is common for different teachers to propose different concept lists. The primary rule for a high-quality concept list is that
it aligns with national standards and conforms to the logic of
knowledge. The concepts for the example meiosis lesson are listed
in Table 1.
Phase 2: Proposing Questions That
Can Be Answered by Each Concept
Effective teaching is not telling students the correct answers to
questions but guiding students to seek answers through their
own thinking. Because the concepts listed in Table 1 are actually
answers to the scientific questions involved in the meiosis lesson, presenting Table 1 to students is tantamount to directly
telling them the correct answers. To start out in the expected
instructional process and connect book knowledge to real-world
exploration, all the concepts should be backed to the initial
questions. Teachers should then guide students in answering
these questions. In the case of the sample concepts listed in
Table 1, the corresponding questions for each concept are proposed in Table 2.
Table 1. Concept list for meiosis lesson.
Concept Codea Description
HS-M 1 In sexual reproduction, a specialized type of cell division referred to as “meiosis” is responsible for the
production of sex cells – such as gametes in animals (sperm and eggs) – that contain only one member
from each chromosome pair in the parent cell (National Research Council, 2012, 2013).
HS-M 1.1 Meiosis undergoes a single round of chromosome replication followed by two rounds of cell division:
HS-M 1.2 In Meiosis I, homologous chromosomes pair with each other, sometimes swapping sections, and then are
segregated to separate daughter cells by the spindle apparatus.
HS-M 1.3 In Meiosis II, the sister chromatids are segregated to separate daughter cells.
HS-M 2 Meiosis produces four haploid daughter cells, each with half of the chromosome number of the parent cell;
this process allows offspring to have the same number of chromosomes as their parents.
aHS = high school; M = meiosis.