The Best Laid Plans

David Bayne and Erik Patynen, CLI Network Academy instructors, teach students at significantly different stages in their education. Both recognize the value of intentional design, but even carefully outlined lessons may not go as planned.

David Bayne and Erik Patynen encourage students to take responsibility for their learning.

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David and Erik encourage students to work towards individual and group learning goals.

David Bayne, a NetAcad instructor at Pioneer High School in Woodland, California, works with high school students who are preparing to become licensed network technicians—but not all of them are motivated by a seemingly distant career. David tries to engage them by structuring lesson plans that incorporate authentic activities.

The Pioneer High School Home Page

Sometimes that means not following a planned lesson at all. When a big box of switches and cables arrives just before the start of class, David changes his plans so that students can work on setting up a network—just as they would once on the job.

Erik Patynen teaches at the highly selective EVTEK University of Applied Sciences in Espoo, Finland. Students from around the world compete for admission and must demonstrate strong skills on their entrance exam. These talented students expect to graduate and begin well-paid technical careers.

But even bright and motivated students need instructional guidance, and Erik begins each lesson with a clear statement of the day’s objectives. Students come prepared to meet these objectives, having read and reviewed all materials outside of class. Despite all his planning, sometimes unexpected setbacks occur, and Erik knows students will need more time than expected to work through the material.

EVTEK Unversity of Applied Sciences Website

Both David and Erik establish positive classroom communities.

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Erik’s students collaborate during the lab.

Because David teaches first and second year students in the same class, he divides them accordingly. The CCNA 1/2 students (first and second semesters in the program) follow the newly released Discovery 1/2 curriculum. The CCNA 3/4 students (third and fourth semesters in the program) are completing version 3.1 of the NetAcad curriculum. David structures his class to build student responsibility and to allow him time to work with groups and one-on-one with struggling students.

David pairs students for lab assignments. He emphasizes the importance of partners switching roles and helping one another. Even if one of two students is better at a specific task, he requires both to take a turn. Students support one another—but they can also distract each other at times.

Engaging students in a variety of tasks provides David with time for one-on-one instruction. He is aware that some students need more help than others. Students seek David’s assistance when necessary, but he focuses on his highest-need students first.

Like David, Erik circulates around the lab to answer questions. His students rely on his strong content knowledge and ask detailed questions throughout both his lectures and lab. Students also contribute to Erik’s responses and answer one another’s questions, often expanding on their peers’ ideas.

David and Erik adapt the curriculum to allow students to work on tasks appropriate to their skill level.

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David checks in with students throughout class.

CLI materials provide the basis for instruction, although each teacher relies on different resources. David provides copies of study guides for each unit and students complete them before beginning the corresponding lab. He then prompts students to revise and refine their responses as a result of their lab work. The study guides serve as learning tools to support students before, during and after a lab.

David’s students work on different labs, study guides, and simulations while he circulates through the room. He initials students’ papers after checking their work. Doing so keeps most students on task and working towards the next assignment. It also helps David assess individual progress toward learning goals.

Erik uses the PowerPoint lectures and lab notebooks created by CLI, and his students work on the labs at their own speed. Some students are much further along in the lab series than others. Regardless of whether or not they have covered the material, Erik allows students to attempt the next lab in the sequence. Students who find the material challenging work on labs addressing content from past class sessions; the labs do not necessarily correspond with the day’s lecture.

Students are sometimes frustrated when the labs have typos or assume knowledge and skills they haven’t yet acquired. Today, they make limited progress through the lab when they immediately encounter cabling problems they cannot fix. Erik moves from group to group while students wait for his help.