The lesson design process

Without a plan, instruction can become a random assortment of activities with little rhyme or reason. Effective lessons should build towards the achievement of long/medium term learning goals. Designing an effective lesson involves making decisions about:

  • what the students will learn

  • how you will know that the learning has taken place

  • how you intend students to learn it.

The following lesson design process will support the decision-making process and help to maintain a focus on learning.

Lesson design process in action
The lesson design process in action

The following sections in this resource explore each step in the lesson design process.

(Lesson design process – text version)

Determining the ‘why’ and the ‘what’

Clarify the lesson purpose and why you are doing the lesson.

  • This is the first and most crucial step towards a learning-focused lesson.

What are learning intentions/goals?

  • Learning intentions state what students will know, understand or be able to do by the end of a lesson.

Effective learning intentions/goals

  • A well-worded, explicit learning intention/goal is at the heart of an effective lesson.

Share learning intentions/goals

  • Learners learn best when they understand what they are learning and what is expected of them.

The importance of learning intentions/goal

Learning intentions/goals are central to effective learning and teaching. Learn more about this in

Linked to PDF: Clarifying the purpose
Clarifying the lesson purpose (.pdf 163kB).

Watch the Filmpond video, ‘Reflection in Practice at Greystanes High School’ to find out about a student’s and teachers’ views on the benefits of well-sequenced and structured lesson planning.

Transcript for 'Reflection in practice at Greystanes High School' video (.docx 84kB)

Designing the assessment

Consider assessment and success criteria

  • Success criteria need to be concrete, measurable, observable and open to negotiation.

Model the process or show an exemplar

  • An example of quality work gives students something to aspire to.


Rubrics describe levels of performance and need to make those levels clear for both teachers and students. Learn more about this in

Linked to PDF: Consider assessment
Consider assessment (.pdf 175kB).

Structuring the lesson

Structure the lesson as a series of episodes

There are several lesson structures available to assist the design of lessons. The following lesson structure is adapted from An introduction to quality literacy teaching, 2009.

1 Introduction: Lesson opening - Putting the learning in context (15% of lesson time)

  • What students will learn

  • Why it is important

  • How students will know if they’re successful

  • Providing a Starter – a hook to get students thinking about the learning to come

2 Modelled, guided and independent teaching - Main teaching and learning (75% of lesson time)

  • Modelled teaching - Introduction to new lesson material - The explicit explanation

  • Guided support and practise of new lesson material

  • Independent practise and support of new lesson material

3 Reflection on learning - Lesson closing - Plenary (10% of lesson time)

Selecting the learning experiences

Decide what will occur in each episode.

The 3 steps below support decision-making about the lesson’s learning experiences and the resources that will be needed.

Step 1

Use the backward design model as a guide to ensure the learning intention/goal, success criteria and the learning experiences and resources are in sync and work together.

Step 2

Plan the teaching strategies to lead the students from dependent learners to independent learners of the new learning.

  • The introduction

    • Decide how the introduction will proceed.

  • Modelled, guided and independent teaching strategies

    • Decide how the learning will be introduced, practised and applied.

  • The reflection on learning

Step 3

  • The lesson tactics

    • Consider the tactics you will use to keep the lesson focus on the learning. Learn more about step 3 in

      Linked to PDF: Step3
      Step 3 (.pdf 428kB).

To access a registered course focused on planning a lesson see ‘Designing quality lessons’ in the Courses section of the Teaching Standards in Action website.