Friday, August 21, 2009

Lesson Plan for an Experiential Lesson on Leadership

The following is a detailed lesson plan that I wrote this summer as part of my FAST TRAIN course work (for the course entitled "Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment in International Schools"). I was part of a team of four that designed a six-week PYP unit for grade 5 students entitled "The Leader in the Mirror," and this lesson is intended for incorporation into that unit. With that said, a lesson like this could be taught in a stand-alone fashion or incorporated into any other appropriate unit of study. Note that the lesson does require a certain level of maturity of the students, and might well need to be tailored to cater to the traits of the individuals in a class.

This lesson plan represents my first experiment with the "LEARN" structure for lesson planning. The acronym LEARN spells out the sections of the lesson plan: (1) Link (to past learning), (2) Engage/Explain, (3) Active Learning, (4) Reflect, and (5) Now and Then. The last section, "Now and then," is intended to contain ideas for applying what has been learned in the lesson ("now") to future actions and learning ("then").

Note that this lesson, "Leaders' Walk," is derived from an exercise of the same name found in the book, Leadership Games: Experiential Learning for Organizational Development. See below for complete reference information.

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Lesson Plan for “The Leader in the Mirror” Unit
Lesson Title: LEADERS' WALK

Link: Lesson begins with viewing of a brief humorous but thought-provoking video on some components of leadership:
Brief discussion ties aspects of the video with leadership traits already studied, experienced, and reflected upon in the unit. Conversation segues into the topics of trust and communication, and teacher briefly leads discussion regarding students knowledge and opinions of trust and communication between leaders and followers. Key words and phrases are written on whiteboard to be brought up again during the reflection part of the lesson.

Engage/Explain: Teacher states that today's lesson will certainly focus on the concepts of trust and communication, but will also focus on whatever else comes to students' minds during and after the activity to come. Today the students will not be studying leadership, they will be living it. The ultimate goal will be to have tangible experience to reflect on, both in class discussion and in individual student journals. These conversations and writings will show their current understanding of the leadership concepts.

Teacher explains that before the lesson, two or three walking paths have been prepared (either indoors or outdoors) with obstacles placed in the paths. Today's activity will involve two students being appointed as leaders to guide two groups of the others (the followers) through it. The only constraint is that the followers will be wearing blindfolds. Each of the two leaders will have five to ten followers to guide through a course. Lead teacher offers assurance that all teachers involved in overseeing the exercise (at least one other teacher, and preferably three other teachers) will remain sighted and will assure the safety of all. It is important that at least one teacher be overseeing each group throughout the activity.

The students are divided into two predetermined groups. Each group is asked to select a leader in whatever way they choose to make the selection. After leaders for each group have been selected, blindfolds are distributed among the followers who put them on.

Leaders are then given their first task: to decide what the rules of communication will be with their group of followers. The leader may choose that (1) only the leader may talk, with followers remaining silent; (2) the followers may speak, but only to the leader; or (3) all may speak freely throughout the activity. The two leaders may set different rules for each of their groups.

At least one supervising teacher directs each group leader to the beginning point of their set of obstacles, leaving it up to the leader to provide direction for their group.

Active Learning: Leaders guide their groups, in the manner of the leader's choosing, through the walking path and through the obstacles. After no more than 15 minutes of guided walk, participants take off their blindfolds, and everyone returns to classroom for reflection process.

Reflect: A “debriefing” process begins with teacher-led group discussion in a think/pair/share format. The choice of this format anticipates that everyone will have a lot to say about what they just went through, so the pairing immediately gives each student an outlet. Students are constantly encouraged to take notes during all pair and full group conversations, notes which they will put to use when writing their journal entries. Teacher will also make notes on the whiteboard during full group sharing.

Questions focus on:

(1) What just happened?
  • What was difficult and easy about being a follower? What was most unexpected?
  • What was the reaction of the leaders to the situation? What was hardest, easiest, unexpected?
  • What did followers do to overcome constraints? What did leaders do to help overcome constraints?
  • What system of communications was developed? Compare/constrast the systems of the two groups?
  • Did followers further from the leader have a different experience than those near the leader?
(2) What are the implications?
  • What were the strengths and weaknesses of the communication systems chosen and used? What would be ways to improve them?
  • What accounted for each group's selection of its leader? What attributes were group members looking for when they made their selection?
  • Did any conflicts arise during the exercise; if so, how were they resolved? What were the roots of the conflict? Was it between leader and follower(s), or between two or more followers?
  • What does this exercise tell us about special responsibilities of a leader? ... about responsibilities of a follower?
Following the think/pair/share conversations, students are asked to write individual journal entries into their unit journals. Students are free to write or draw freely about their ideas stemming from the experience, but they are asked to write at least one paragraph to discuss the most important one, two, or three concepts regarding leadership and/or followership that they learned about or learned more about in this exercise, and how they might apply it in future leadership/followership situations.

Now and Then: After journal entries have been made, volunteers are sought to briefly share with the class any part of the content of their journal entries they care to share, but particularly focusing on the students' plans for future applications of lessons learned. Teacher states that there will be more experiential leadership exercises as the unit progresses, focusing on other aspects of leadership.
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The Leaders' Walk lesson was adapted from an exercise of the same name on page 127 of the following book, which is a great source for a number of worthwhile experiential leadership exercises:
Kaagan, S. (1999). Leadership Games: Experiential Learning for Organizational Development, Thousand Oaks, CA. SAGE Publications Inc.

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