15 Questions Gagne Might Ask When Evaluating a Lesson Plan

Robert Mills Gagne

With what seems like a million lesson plans available on the web, how do you pick out the good ones? If you search for “lesson plan evaluation” in Google, you will find rubrics and similar tools that can help with the process. What I have found, though, is that they don’t always address the events of instruction in enough detail. That’s where Gagne comes in. If you are not familiar with Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction, you can learn more about them here.

For this post, I asked myself, what kinds of questions would Gagne ask himself when looking at a lesson plan? Here is what I came up with:


On standards and objectives:
1. Is the overall goal of the lesson clearly stated, such as in an overview or description?
2. Are the objectives specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely (click here to learn more about writing learning objectives)?
3. Altogether, will the objectives help learners meet the overall goal?
4. Is the lesson aligned to multiple standards?

On instructional strategies:
5. Is a strategy included to gain learners’ attention?
6. How is prior knowledge stimulated?
7. Do the instructional activities adequately support the objectives?
8. Do the instructional materials provide additional guidance as needed?
9. Does the lesson incorporate opportunities for practice?
10. Does the lesson include a culminating activity?

On feedback and assessment:
11. Does the lesson provide frequent opportunity for feedback?
12. Are formative assessment measures aligned to objectives?
13. Are summative assessment measures aligned to objectives?
14. Does the summative assessment address the overall learning goal of the lesson?

15. How does the lesson connect to other lessons in the curriculum?

10 Guiding Questions for Evaluating OER Lesson Plans

The idea behind open educational resources (OER) is a good one, but open access sometimes means compromising quality. Especially when it comes to lesson plans. What you get with an OER lesson plan usually amounts to a seed of a good idea, but a lack of detail can make implementation difficult. There are a few reasons for that:

  • OER lessons plans are usually developed by content specialists
  • content specialists are not always well-versed in the design principles that underlie good instruction
  • content specialists often encounter the expert blind spot when putting together a lesson

That doesn’t mean you can’t use OER lesson plans. In fact, they can be a rich resource. It does mean that you need to approach OER lesson plans with the understanding that quite a bit of additional work may need to be put into them before they are ready for implementation. This post outlines the things you need to think about when choosing an open access lesson plan.

Here are 10 guiding questions for evaluating OER lesson plans:
1. What prerequisite knowledge is needed to successfully complete the lesson?

If students have any knowledge or skills gaps going into the lesson, it will not likely be successful.

2. Do the learning goals or objectives reflect multiple cognitive processes (e.g. Bloom’s Taxonomy)?

To determine the knowledge level of a learning objective, check out its action verb. The link above provides more information on Bloom’s action verbs.

3. Do the activities fully align to the learning goals or objectives?

The scope and nature of the lesson activities should be thorough enough for students to fully meet all learning objectives.

4. Do the activities reflect Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction?

This an important step in successful implementation.

5. Are the activities age- and stage- appropriate?

Every class or group has unique needs, so expect to tweak the lesson to reflect the maturity and interests of your students.

6. Are the activities relevant?

Sometimes activities veer away from the intended learning content. For example, a lesson in evaluating online sources that uses printouts of online content is not relevant — students need to be online to authentically learn about online sources.

7. Are the activities designed to meet multiple learning preferences?

One of the best ways to meet learners’ diverse needs is through multimedia design of instructional material.

8. Is instructional scaffolding embedded in the activities?

Scaffolding provides point-of-need guidance for learners during all stages of activities.

9. Do the learning goals or objectives AND activities align to the assessment?

If assessment is irrelevant to the learning objectives and activities, then you will not know what students have learned (or if they learned anything).

10. Does the lesson align to multiple learning standards?

It should. Too often, you’ll see a lesson aligned to a single standard (or maybe two). With CCSS and other learning standards that focus on deeper learning, there should be a cross-section of standards that align to a given lesson.

These 10 questions will not only help you identify the holes in OER lesson plans, they will also help you in designing your own lessons.