KS3 Music

a professional development programme

Factors affecting lesson design

Effective teachers consider the full range of factors when designing lessons.

Select any box on the diagram to find out more in the tabbed sections below.

Factors affecting lesson design

Learning objectives and intended outcomes

Effective lesson design in music starts with identification of what it is that pupils will learn. This ensures that pupils are primarily involved in musical learning, with any practical activity designed to support and promote that learning.

The learning objectives for an individual lesson will derive from the teaching objectives for the relevant unit in the complete scheme of work. The link between the objectives for an individual lesson and the scheme of work is very important: if pupils are learning the conventions of music for film in the unit of work, what will they need to learn in a particular lesson about using chord clusters that will help them to understand that convention? Making this connection explicit to pupils is also important (see also the section Locating the lesson in context).

Having clearly defined the learning objective, it is important to go one step further and consider the intended outcome. What will pupils produce at the end of the lesson that will demonstrate learning has taken place: for example, an analysis of how to improve their ensemble performing, the start of a composition with critical features and techniques established, a fluent set of improvised choruses in a jazz piece? You will need to be clear from the outset what a good-quality outcome will sound or look like. This will help you to clarify your expectations with pupils, and to articulate the type of outcome that demonstrates musical learning:practical performance, oral description or written evidence (in notation, words or in an ICT format).

Establishing how pupils will learn is equally important as determining what they will learn. Learning objectives fall into five categories (see the section Identifying learning objectives), and the nature of that learning objective will determine the teaching approaches and strategies you use.


Pedagogic approaches

Researchers have identified a number of different approaches to teaching that can promote different types of learning. Each of these has a defined sequence of episodes or steps that give a particular structure to the lesson. The choice of pedagogic approach or teaching model will depend on the nature of the learning objective. Direct interactive teaching, inductive teaching and enquiry are examples of different approaches. The section Teaching models and Unit 2 of Pedagogy and practice: teaching and learning in secondary schools (DCSF 04252004 G) explore these ideas further.


Using a range of teaching strategies

Within each pedagogic approach teachers may draw on a range of teaching strategies to maximise learning from their input. For example, modelling can be used to help pupils learn a new skill or procedure. Other strategies include questioning and explaining. Each has a set of procedures or methods that makes it effective. To embed and assess learning teachers can select from a wide range of techniques. Employing each strategy effectively and deciding which techniques are suitable are keys to successful music teaching. The section Selecting teaching strategies and Units 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 of Pedagogy and practice: teaching and learning in secondary schools (DCSF 0429–0434-2004 G) develop these ideas further. Owing to the practical nature of music, the range of strategies used by music teachers to embed musical learning may focus most strongly on how to:

  • devise purposeful and varied episodes within lessons, and know how to move effectively between them;
  • plan short timescales for practical activities, with new challenges for pupils at each re-start;
  • use consistently a musical vocabulary to reinforce learning;
  • plan the beginning and ending of lessons so that they enable effective musical engagement.

In addition, music teachers will need to ensure that they are using a range of:

  • group-work strategies;
  • active listening and writing strategies;
  • thinking challenges with pupils, to help them use problem-solving techniques when working creatively.

Conditions for learning

This area has two components: the climate for learning and the classroom organisation. Research shows that pupils learn most effectively when they feel motivated, confident and successful. The main factors contributing to a climate of success are:

  • getting the pitch of the lesson right so that pupils can recognise and demonstrate their learning;
  • establishing relationships that allow pupils to feel safe and able to respond;
  • providing variety so that different learning styles can be accommodated over time.

Classroom organisation and the use and appearance of the physical environment can have an enormous impact on the attitudes and behaviour of pupils. Significant improvements in learning can result from simple alterations to aspects of the environment which are within the teacher’s control. As far as possible, the organisation of the room should be appropriate to the teaching and learning strategies to be employed.


The process of lesson design

The process of lesson design is summarised below. The flow chart emphasises that lesson design can be viewed as a series of decisions, each leading to and providing a foundation for the next, building a planned series of episodes.

  1. Locate the lesson or sequence of lessons in the context of:
    • the scheme of work;
    • pupils’ prior knowledge;
    • pupils’ preferred learning styles.
  2. Identify the learning objectives for pupils.
  3. Structure the lesson as a series of episodes by separating the learning into distinct stages or steps, each of which has a specific outcome, by selecting:
    • the best pedagogic approach to meet the learning objectives;
    • the most appropriate teaching and learning strategies and techniques;
    • the most effective organisation for each episode.
  4. Ensure coherence by providing:
    • a stimulating start to the lesson that relates to the objective(s);
    • transitions between episodes which recapitulate and launch new episodes;
    • a final plenary that reviews learning.


Department for children, schools and families Structuring learning for musical engagement

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