Lesson Plan: Previous Knowledge Guide in One Sentence

This Lesson Plan: Previous Knowledge Guides detail how to correctly and easily write previous knowledge in your lesson plan/note.

Introduction to Lesson Plan: Previous Knowledge

Many teachers tend to automatically write the last topic as the previous knowledge for every new lesson. Although this may be, and is often right in most cases; it is not always the case.

So, when not and when is it right to take the previous lesson as the previous knowledge? How may we correctly and easily write previous knowledge? Is there a systematic approach?

There sure is a systematic approach. I provide that, and the answers to the other two questions in this guide.

Note: This is only a part of my guide on how to write standard lesson note or lesson plan in Nigeria. It is one of the articles that educators rate to be the best on the subject in Nigeria. Click here to check it out.

Meaning of Previous Knowledge

Previous knowledge refers to any kind of experience that the learners possess in relation to the topic under discussion – whether formal or informal, organized or unorganized.

This definition implies that any kind of experience at all – it may knowledge, it may be a skill or some form of behaviour – that the learners possess and that relate to the new topic; may be assumed as previous knowledge.  Hence, it is not only the previous topic that equals previous knowledge.

When previous topic is not equal to previous knowledge

Take SSS 3 Mathematics for instance, Week 2 topic – Matrix; and Week 3 topic – Simple & Compound interests; have no surface connection. That is, Matrix is not related to Simple Interest at the surface level. Knowledge of matrix does not directly aid the understanding of simple interest; neither will lack of the knowledge of matrix hinder the understanding of simple interest. As such, we cannot say the previous knowledge for week 3 is week 2’s topic.

When previous topic is equal to previous knowledge

However, as I noted earlier; there are times that teachers may consider previous topic as previous knowledge. Such time is when the previous topic relates to the new topic. That is, when the knowledge of the previous topic can affect the understanding of the present topic – either positively or negatively.

Take JSS 1 History for example, Week 1 topic – meaning of centralized state; relates to Week 2 topic – The Hausa States. If a student did not understand the meaning and features of a centralized state; then s/he may find it a bit difficult to understand the lesson on The Hausa States as an example of a centralized state.

So, I believe you now understand when not and when a previous topic may serve as previous knowledge.

Nevertheless, you should take note of the difference between Previous Knowledge and Entry Requirement.

But is that all? What else may serve as previous knowledge for a lesson?

From the definition of Previous Knowledge that I gave earlier; it is clear that what my serve as previous knowledge is not limited to the previous topic. In fact, I have also noted that previous topic may not even serve as previous knowledge altogether.

Then, in such case; what else may serve as previous knowledge?

The answer is this: Unorganized experiences of the learner. The previous topic may not or may serve only as an aspect of previous knowledge. This is the formal or organized knowledge aspect. But as the definition contains, previous knowledge may also include informal or unorganized experiences. The informal or unorganized experiences that may form part of previous knowledge are experiences the learners gain from their social and cultural activities – including the practices, norms and values of their societies.

For instance, prior to teaching Simple Interest; the learners already have experienced transactions involving interest. Hence, they know that a trader trades to earn interest though may not have thought of the systematic way of determining interest – which the topic aims to make them do.

Another example is SSS 1 chemistry. In treating properties of acid, the students have probably tasted unripe fruits and know it to have sour taste. A final example is in treating diseases in a certain rural community; they pupils may believe the attribution of epilepsy to some sort of superstition.

These kinds of experiences that will either facilitate or hinder assimilation of the current lesson all form part of previous knowledge.

Is it compulsory to include previous knowledge in Lesson Plans? If yes, why so?

We come now to the rationale behind previous knowledge in lesson planning.

Is it compulsory to include previous knowledge in lesson plan? Yes, it is.

But why is it compulsory?

  1. Teaching and learning is systematic
  2. Provide different angles for teachers to engage with learners
  3. Help students to remember new lessons

Teaching and learning being systematic

Teaching has been defined as a systematic process of transmitting knowledge, attitudes and skills in accordance with professional principles.  By extension, learning is also done in a systematic way. And the general pattern is from known to unknown. So, by writing previous knowledge, the teacher that will deliver the lesson will be able to ensure the systematic nature of teaching and learning.

This fact, supported by Piaget’s principle, must be remembered by teachers. Keller in the ARCS ISD models categorically noted that instructors can make lesson relevant to the learner by using familiar language and examples. This can be implied in this case that you, as the instructor – or the instructor if you are writing lesson plan for another – have to know what the learners are familiar with so as to use it.

Providing different angles for teachers to engage with learners

Without much talk, previous knowledge helps teachers to know at every point in time; the perspective of the learners. And as such, also know how the teacher will present issues in a way they will be able to contribute and understand.

Help students to remember new lesson

Apart from helping learners to understand new body of knowledge, planning your lesson from the previous knowledge helps learners to easily associate new concepts with existing one thereby facilitating retention and remembrance.

Renowned educational psychologists such as Ivan Pavlov adequately proved this fact.

How to determine Lesson Plan: Previous Knowledge

Now that we know the meaning of previous knowledge; what does and doesn’t constitute previous knowledge; and the rationale behind including previous knowledge in lesson planning; let us now discuss the systematic approach to determine and write previous knowledge.

Summarily, there are two major ways to determine previous knowledge after the sources. These are:

  1. By looking up the scheme
  2. By considering the socio-cultural experience of the learners

Looking up the scheme of Work/Syllabus/Curriculum

The scheme of work, syllabus and curriculum are developed by experts who understand the systematic and interrelatedness of topics. Hence, the topic for the week before; usually serve as previous knowledge for the following week. Nonetheless, you must know that this is not always the case.

I have adequately explained when not and when such is the case.

Considering the socio-cultural experience of the learners

The second way to determine the previous knowledge for a topic is to consider the socio-cultural experience of the learners. You think of the social and cultural aspects of the learners’ daily living that relates to the topic.

Now, as a systematic way to write the previous knowledge for a topic, you should ask yourself two questions. And the answers to these questions will automatically become the previous knowledge.

Question 1: Is this topic related to any previously learned topic in the scheme of work or syllabus?

Now to be able to answer this, ensure you study your subject syllabus thoroughly. This is not a problem for experienced teachers. Another point to consider when you want to answer question 1 is what I mean by “related”. By related I mean if the previous topics in any way affect – either aid or hinders the understanding of – the current topic.

Question 2: What other things or experiences from the learners’ environment can be related to the topic?

An example of previous Knowledge

To conclude this guide on Lesson Plan: Previous Knowledge, let us look at my previous knowledge for JSS1 Information Technology note on data processing.

First, I asked myself question 1: Is this topic related to any previously learned topic in the scheme of work or syllabus?

Then in answering this question, I know, from my experience of the 9-Year Information Technology curriculum; that the students have memorized the definition of both data and information from earlier classes in definition of computer.

Then I asked myself question 2: What other things or experiences from the learners’ environment can be related to the topic?

Also, in answer to the second question, the students have unorganized knowledge of the existence of data. For instance, they know that the school has the data of all the students and staff.

Thus, both answers become my previous knowledge for my note. And I stated it as in the image below:

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