How to lesson plan as a learning and development professional

How to lesson plan as a learning and development professional

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe’ – unknown

When it comes to creating great learning experiences that have impact and lead to behavioural change, planning is important… lesson planning to be precise.

Great learning interventions don’t happen by chance. They happen through great lesson plans and preparation.

Planning helps you stay focused; it helps you to achieve goals and ultimately achieve success with learning.

Want to learn how to create great lesson plans? Then read on…

What is a lesson plan?

Put simply a lesson plan is a step by step plan of the lesson you’re going to run, written down on paper.

Why are lesson plans important?

Lesson plans are important because they:

  • Help you plan, and planning is crucial to ensure learning meets the needs and the learning is a success
  • Give you clarity about timings for activities and the overall course
  • Ensure you have the right resources prepared for the learning
  • Create a plan that someone else can deliver in future, if required

They key steps of a great lesson plan and top tips:

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes are key to lesson planning. If you don’t know what the learning intends to achieve how can you possibly plan the best content to meet the needs?

Learning outcomes start long before the point of sitting down to write a lesson plan. It starts right at the beginning with learning scoping. You should be clear before creating any content what the learning intervention is looking to achieve and what skills, knowledge or behaviour the learners need to be effective.

Focus on making your learning objectives measurable, certain language is hard to measure if learning has been effective, for example:

  • Before: By the end of this course learners will understand management skills.
  • After: By the end of this course learners will be able to demonstrate key management skills.


  • Before: Complete the ‘am I a good listener’ activity
  • After: By the end of the course learners will be able to explain the key attributes of a good listener

Blooms taxonomy article by Utica education is a great article outlining measurable verbs – it’s a useful reference if you need support creating action-oriented learning outcomes.


What, if any, learning is required before the learners reach the classroom with you? Blended learning is a great way to ensure that when learners all come to your learning with the same base level of knowledge.

I always include my pre-work in my lesson plan as it is a prompt to remind me that I need to send it in advance of the learning.

Pre-work also a good way to engage learners post-learning. Although I have known pre-work lead to course cancellations too!

Some good ideas for pre-work include:

  • E-learning
  • Reflective exercises
  • Quizzes
  • Case studies
  • Read an article/blog/paper etc.
  • Watch a video

Detail of the activities

The core to your lesson plan is the detail of the activity. I aim to have as much detail as possible in there. It should be a fool proof guide, that if needed anyone could pick up and know how to run your lesson… or if you don’t deliver the session for a while it has enough detail in to remind you what to do.

I break my lesson plan up into:

  • Detail of the activity – guidance for me as the facilitator of how to run the activity, or any content I want to share.
  • Any questions or discussion points for the learners – I’ll detail exactly what question to ask, or what actions they need to take
  • Summary questions – I’ll usually add in some summary/reflective questions for after an activity to help prompt discussion

In terms of activities there are many variations of activities that you can choose to use within your learning, this article by Bookwidgets on how to be an interactive teacher will provide you with some great content ideas. The key thing to always remember is that the activities you choose need to meet the learning outcome and learning needs – don’t force in irrelevant content as it won’t add value.

Resources required in the learning

Once I’ve identified the learning activities I’m going to use, I’ll outline the resources required to meet the need. Resources need to be included so when you’re preparing for the learning you can make sure you have everything you need in advance to run the session.

Resources can include:

  • Workbooks
  • Handouts – if more than one, outline the handout number
  • Flipchart paper
  • Pens or other stationary
  • Slide numbers

Timings for the content

Time quote

Have you ever attended a learning intervention that was supposed to only last 2 hours… 2 hours have passed, and the facilitator still. isn’t. wrapping. things. up? Frustrating isn’t it.

Our time, and how we spend it is important. Part and parcel of creating great lesson plans is also sticking to the allocated time.

Obviously, timings will always be your best guess, depending on the group timings can fluctuate so they are always a guide. But the more realistic you can get with your timings the better.

Downloadable lesson plan

If you’re looking for an example of what I’ve shared with you today you can download a copy of a sample lesson plan I created.


Lesson planning, if followed effectively ensures a successful learning intervention that needs the needs of the learners. If you’re new to creating learning, be sure to check out how to design your first training course or how to deliver your first classroom course too.

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