A lesson planning toolkit for early-career college educators

The Toolkit

This thesis work asks how design can be helpful in the context of education, better facilitating the lesson design process for early-career educators.

Because most college educators aren’t formally taught how to teach, they often lack the processes and methods to effectively design classroom experiences. Designers face similar problems, but have well developed processes and methods for moving forward while building intuition. Lesson planning is a form of experience design, but it’s not approached as such. This Toolkit helps early-career college educators effectively design lessons without the benefit of extensive experience.

The Lesson Design Toolkit is a series of workbooks that help early-career college educators navigate the process of creating a lesson. As each workbook guides the way, it introduces teaching theory and design methods that are helpful in an aspect of lesson design. This approach shows how design methods can be applied to the design of designed experiences.

A thesis project by Matt Imus in the Master of Design program at the University of Washington.


Facilitates the Creative Process in Teaching

  • Separates strategic aspects of lesson planning from the distractions of implementation, allowing each component of the lesson to be thoroughly considered.
  • Generative methods to get unstuck, create many alternatives, and identify the most effective teaching practices for the lesson.

Supports Early-Career College Educators

  • Provides a structure to break down overwhelming tasks into manageable components.
  • Introduces teaching theory and techniques that many educators are never formally introduced to.
  • Cultivates a reflective, iterative teaching practice that enables future improvement.

Built On Evidence-Based Teaching Practices

  • Incorporates time tested, mainstream teaching methodologies like Bloom's Taxonomy and Backwards Design.
  • Situates established education practices within a designerly creative process.

Preserves Autonomy and Personal Preference

  • Supports educators as they establish their practice, yet preserves autonomy and flexibility.
  • Rather than imposing a strict structure, the workbooks suggest a design process that can then be adapted as the individual educator sees fit.
  • After internalizing these design methods, educators may choose to shorten the process and use only some parts of the toolkit.

The Workbooks


An introduction to design methods and how they can be helpful in lesson planning.

introduction workbook
Getting Started workbook

Getting Started

To start the workbooks, four fundamental questions are asked about the lesson. These questions identify what’s most important, which guides the lesson planning process.

The Lesson Plan Canvas

The Canvas is a place to build a complete lesson plan. As the subsequent workbooks are completed, their results are assembled here, assessed, and revised.

The Lesson Plan Canvas


The Objectives workbook helps explore, define, focus, and iterate on the lesson objectives and outcomes. Pedagogical mainstays like Bloom’s Taxonomy are introduced to ensure appropriate expectations.

Objectives workbook
Assessment workbook


The Assessment workbook helps educators articulate what they want to accomplish and know when they’ve succeeded.


The Content workbook helps clarify the main ideas of the lesson and organize the material to be covered. Using design methods like card sorting and concept mapping, content can be organized into a prototype lesson plan.

Content workbook
Activities workbook


The Activities workbook develops classroom activities that integrate the lesson objectives, engaging students with the lesson content and selecting effective teaching methods.


With a prototype lesson plan ready, the Critique workbook exposes the plan to common classroom challenges. By considering what might go wrong, educators can discover problems and improve the plan before entering the classroom.

Critique workbook
Review and Reflect workbook

Review & Reflect

After teaching the lesson, the Review & Reflect workbook identifies issues and establishes a reflective practice. By identifying and responding to these insights, helpful patterns are identified for reuse.

Try the Toolkit

Are you interested in using The Lesson Design Toolkit for your classroom preparation activities? Download a copy below.

Download Toolkit v1.03

Please share your experiences and contribute to future development by contacting matt@mattimus.net.

Learn More

The Lesson Design Toolkit is part of a thesis project in the Master of Design program at the University of Washington. The toolkit is one aspect of a broader research process.

Learn more about the process by reading the thesis documentation and quarterly updates.


There’s an unmet need in the lesson design process that this prototype successfully addresses. Among many early-career college instructors, there’s a pervasive feeling of being unqualified and unprepared in the practical aspects of instruction. For many, planning a lesson is an intuitive process. Given time and experience, many develop the skills and methods necessary to plan and teach well. But without an introduction to educational theory, there’s too much left to the individual to discover and reinvent on their own.

Through this prototype, I’ve shown that the classroom is one example of a designed experience that is well served by design methods. This toolkit provides design methods for a focused audience of early career educators, but provides enough flexibility to be adapted and applied to new situations. The toolkit is designed for the context of education, allowing it to provide specific, tailored methods that are immediately and apparently helpful to educators. These contextually situated methods not only help shape the approach to problems as in traditional design, but extend to implementation and execution.