Chapter 10: Planning for Learning in VCE OES

Learning Objectives

  • Describe the types of lessons and units of work that suit the VCE OES curriculum
  • Describe strategies to develop student knowledge of key skills and literacy in the VCE OES classroom
  • Analyse what effective VCE OES lessons look like
  • Evaluate student-centred activities for the VCE OES curriculum
  • Recommended resource types to support teaching and learning within the VCE OES curriculum

10.1 Introduction

In this chapter, we explore key ideas around planning to teach the VCE OES curriculum. Through doing so, we unpack how to structure VCE OES classes when delivering content, and preparing students for school-based and externally set assessment tasks. This chapter focuses on VCE OES teaching within the classroom. Many ideas presented here can also be used during outdoor experiences. This chapter starts by considering different strategies that will support your VCE OES teaching, focusing on teaching individual lessons. We do this by unpacking a series of examples. Following this, we explore strategies to assist in planning an entire outcome (or AoS). Due to the specific nature of planning for the various AoS 3 curricula, we address it in the following two chapters.


10.2 Structure of VCE OES lessons

Planning effective lessons is a skill and an art you develop over many years of teaching. Many books, policy documents, and articles are dedicated to planning effective lessons. Like many other texts, we do not claim that the advice in this and the following sections present a notion of ‘ideal’ lesson planning. That probably doesn’t exist! Rather, we offer this and the next three sections to provide ideas to help you think about how you will go about planning for your VCE OES classes to maximise your instructional time.

To begin with, we believe that the following checklist can help you in developing lessons. A high-quality VCE OES lesson will typically adhere to the following principles.

  1. Have a clear focus for the lesson that is communicated to the students at the beginning and reiterated throughout.
  2. Have a distinct beginning, middle and end.
  3. Focus on students working with the knowledge they have learnt rather than large periods of time ‘watching, note taking or listening’.
  4. Emphasise and explicitly teach the relevant key skills from the study design.
  5. Be responsive to the individual student’s learning needs.

The below case study provides an example of a typical VCE OES lesson. The lesson below embodies some of the principles above. In this lesson, you will observe a focus on students working within the knowledge being taught—in this case, how the urban heat island effect (urbanised areas that may experience higher temperatures than nearby rural areas),  is an example of the impact of urbanisation on outdoor environments. The sample lesson plan also focuses on students experiencing the curriculum (in this case, in the schoolyard) and then applying their knowledge throughout the lesson in line with the key skills of ‘discuss and predict’.

Case Study 10.1 – A sample VCE OES Lesson


Lesson Title The urban heat island effect (works best on a sunny day)
KK 2.2.4 the impact of urbanisation on outdoor environments
KS discuss and predict impacts of urbanisation on outdoor environments
Learning Intention To discuss and predict the impact of the urbanisation including the urban heat island effect on outdoor environments
Time and section Teacher will… Students will…
Introduction (15 minutes) 1. Take students outside to an area and hand out infrared thermometers in pairs. Instruct students that they need to measure as many surfaces as possible in the school yard and record their results in their book.


2. Discuss which materials had different readings. What patterns did the students observe between material types?








1. Use infrared thermometers to record the surface temperature of different materials. Possible surfaces include:

– Synthetic turf

– Real turf

– Asphalt

– Bricks

– Timber

– Rubber

– Under shrubs

– Under tree canopies


2. Participate in class discussion.

Body (35 minutes) Return to classroom.


3. Recap – discussion using write, pair, share – from the previous lesson – What is urbanisation?


4. Instruct students to find their house on the Google Timelapse site, have them:

– Pause at 1984 and observe their neighbourhood.

– Play till 2000, then predict what will happen over time to today.

– Watch and observe the rest of the time-lapse.


5. Instruct students to form pairs and complete the analysis of urbanisation activity. Reinforce that they should identify cause and effect for each observed impact. ‘Because of x, y is happening’. Discuss as a class what groups have come up with.


6. Play the clip about the urban heat island effect in Sydney.

Discuss the impact of suburbs with high thermal mass, black roofs, and low areas of vegetation on the people who live there.

3. Participate in the write, pair, share activity.




4. Visit  and complete the activity as instructed.



5. In pairs, create a table of impacts of urbanisation based on their observations. For each observation, ‘analyse’ the observed impact showing cause and effect. Write down additional impacts and effects during discussion.



6. Watch the clip about the urban heat island effect.  Participate in class discussions.

Conclusion (10 minutes) 7. Instruct students to complete practice structured question about urban heat island effects. Collect question as a formative task.









7. Complete the following question.


Increasingly dense growth suburbs that use high thermal mass materials and lack trees and other vegetation cause the urban heat island effect. This can result in temperatures reaching between 3-5℃ hotter than neighbouring suburbs with higher levels of open space and canopy cover.


a. Describe one impact of the urban heat island effect on an outdoor environment you have visited or studied (2 marks).


b. Predict how the urban heat island effect may impact residents of the outdoor environment named in part a (4 marks).



Activity 10.1 – Lesson Audit

The principles for effective lesson planning can be a useful reflection tool to audit lessons. Use the following table to audit both the lesson above and another VCE OES lesson you have planned or observed. As part of this, make recommendations for refining each lesson you audit.

Principle Beginning to… Achieving… Mastering… Recommended refinements
1. Clear focus.
2. Beginning/Middle/End
3. Students ‘doing’
4. Emphasis on skills
5. Responsive to individual needs


10.3 Using Case Studies within the VCE OES Classroom

The VCE OES curriculum is best approached as a framework of knowledge and skills that students will need to learn. One of the unique parts of this study design is that you, as the teacher, will contextualise your teaching of the course through the outdoor environments you will be visiting and teaching. In Chapter 11 we further unpack the selection of outdoor environments as part of building your VCE OES course.

When teaching about the different outdoor environments you have based your course around, it is best to teach the different KK/KS through case studies. Throughout teaching VCE OES, you will naturally start to build a resource bank of case studies relevant to the outdoor environments you choose to teach about. Case studies can come in many forms, these include:

  • News articles
  • Websites
  • Videos
  • Excerpts from academic articles
  • Brochures and other materials collected during outdoor experiences
  • Photos
  • Podcasts
  • Art
  • Other written sources

In addition to the outdoor environments you have chosen to base your course around, you are also required, at times in specific outcomes, to also teach about named outdoor environments in the study design. For example, in 3.1.4, you must teach about the foundation of one of three environmental movements based on particular historical environmental campaigns: Lake Pedder; the Franklin River; or Little Desert National Park. Again, case studies collated from various sources are useful in teaching about these named environments across the study design.

When using case studies, it is important to do so in a structured and scaffolded manner. The below example provides an insight into teaching using case study material. This lesson is based on a timeline for the foundational environmental movement that surrounded the area now known as the Little Desert National Park. The VNPA (Victorian National Parks Association) has been reproduced here with permission. In addition to the timeline on the VNPA website, the VNPA has also published a podcast that delves deeper into the historical campaign that ultimately led to the establishment of the VNPA. The Little Desert podcast is available on the VNPA website along with major podcast players.


Case Study 10.2 – Little Desert National Park Historical Environmental Campaign Timeline

Little Desert Timeline

For tens of thousands of years, Aboriginal people hunted and gathered food in the Little Desert. The local Wotjobaluk people maintain a connection with the area even after their forebears were moved into the Antwerp mission near Dimboola in the 19th century.

July 1836: Assistant Surveyor Granville Stapylton, second in command of Major Mitchell’s expedition through what is now western Victoria, crossed part of the Little Desert, reporting that the country was “dreadfully deep” (in sand and mud).

1840-1880s: The Little Desert became known as ‘scrub country’. Settlers avoided it because of its infertile sandy soils and low rainfall, although there was some sheep and cattle grazing.

1870s to 1950s: Much of the natural vegetation of the Wimmera and Mallee districts was cleared for farming by selectors and soldier settlers (especially after World War I). The Little Desert, however, remained ‘an island of biodiversity in a sea of agriculture’.

1946: Small conservation reserves were established near Dimboola.

1955: Kiata Lowan Sanctuary (218 hectares) was established to protect malleefowl (also called lowans), which were in decline. The Sanctuary was incorporated into a 945 hectare Little Desert National Park in 1968.

1963: The AMP Society, a large insurance company, proposed to subdivide and clear the Little Desert for agricultural and pastoral development. However, declining wool and wheat prices, and government indecision, led to the scheme being abandoned in March 1967.

June 1967: Sir William McDonald, a local pastoralist and long-standing Victorian Member of Parliament, was appointed Minister of Lands by premier Henry Bolte.

Early 1968: McDonald announced the Little Desert Settlement Scheme, under which 48 wheat farms would be established. Agricultural experts, economists and conservationists opposed the scheme. Conservationists set up the Save our Bushlands Action Committee, representing eight conservation groups, including VNPA, and held two major public meetings in Melbourne in 1969, each attended by over 1000 people. Local Wimmera people also ran a campaign against the clearing scheme.

Mid 1969: McDonald scaled back the Little Desert Settlement Scheme to 12 sheep farms and also announced a larger national park to cover 35,300 hectares. But conservationists were not satisfied with this, believing that national parks must have ‘ecological integrity’.

October 1969: Labor MP J.W. Galbally MLC set up a Select Committee to inquire into the Little Desert Settlement Scheme. Leading ecologists such as Malcolm Calder gave evidence about the natural values of the Little Desert. The Age newspaper ran articles suggesting that the scheme was proposed partly because a new road it included would benefit McDonald’s brother-in-law.

December 1969: The Victorian Liberal government lost the Dandenong by-election, partly because of community opposition to the Little Desert scheme. The Legislative Council voted to block the scheme. Little Desert National Park was enlarged to 35,300 hectares and the clearing scheme was abandoned.

May 1970: In the Victorian election, the Liberals won with a slightly reduced vote, but McDonald lost his seat of Dundas after 15 years as member. During the election campaign Premier Bolte promised to create and extend national parks so that they covered five per cent of Victoria’s area. He also promised to set up a new independent body, the Land Resources Council (later named the Land Conservation Council) which would encourage public involvement. The Council would study Victoria’s public land and recommend how it should be used. It continues today as the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC).

William Borthwick became Minister for Lands (later Minister for Conservation) in the new government.

1988: The western part of Little Desert was added to Little Desert National Park, roughly tripling it in size and making it the state’s second largest national park at the time.

1991: An addition of seven hectares was donated to the park by a local family.

1997: 640 hectares was added to the park.

2005: Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation and the Victorian and Australian governments entered into the first Indigenous Land Use Agreement in Victoria. A cooperative agreement that includes Little Desert National Park ensures that the Traditional Owners will continue to be able to care for country by being involved in the management of the areas where their native title rights have been recognised.

(Victorian National Parks Association, 2018. Reproduced with permission.)

Case Study 10.3 – Teaching with Case Studies Lesson Plan

Lesson Title Little Desert Timeline
KK 3.1.4 the beginnings of environmentalism and the resulting influence on political party policy, as observed in one of the following historical campaigns:

– Lake Pedder

– Franklin River

– Little Desert

KS describe the beginnings of environmentalism as observed in a historical campaign
Learning Intention To describe the timeline of events at the historical Little Desert (LD) campaign

To identify key events with the LD campaign timeline

Time and section Teacher will… Students will…
Introduction (10 minutes) 1. Iinform students that there is a proposal from a mining company to reclassify the area you have recently visited on a trip from a protected park to allow a mining company to explore the area for future mineral extraction. Have students break down their relationship with the area before and after the reclassification using PII.


2. Discuss student responses. Inform students that this example is hypothetical, but it wasn’t that long ago that many areas were facing such changes. One such area is the Little Desert National Park.

1. In a pair, brainstorm PII for the area recently visited before and after the reclassification of use.


2. Participate in the discussion.

Body (30 minutes) 3. Instruct students that they are going to spend 10 minutes exploring the Little Desert National Park Area on Google Earth.


4. Discuss – What type of outdoor environment is it? What makes it unique? What areas surround the park? What is the park used for today?


5. Explain that there have been a number of changes to the LD and surrounding area over the last few hundred years. Tell students that they are going to identify key features of the timeline.

3. Explore the area, ensuring the photos are visible on Google Earth. Note down any interesting facts and figures about the park.


4. Participate in discussion, adding to notes about the park.


5. Identify the key features of the timeline by annotating it, and looking for key features to describe the campaign to save it from development. Ask students to highlight the timeline and annotate key examples they could use in a SAC.

Conclusion (20 minutes) 6. Set practice structured questions. Give students time to answer it. Work through an example response as a class. Then have students peer assess their attempts. Record peer marks.


7. Set homework, listen to Ep. 1 from the VNPA Little Desert Podcast taking notes of further key dates, people and events on their timeline from class.

6. Answer the question: Describe a historical environmental campaign using examples from an outdoor environment you have visited or studied (3 marks). Peer mark work.


7. Record homework in the calendar.


Activity 10.2 – Finding Case Studies

Choose a KK/KS you are planning to teach soon or are interested in. To support your teaching of this KK/KS, find three examples of case study material you could use to support the teaching of this. For each example found, answer the following questions.

  1. How would you use this in your class?
  2. What is good about the case study?
  3. How could you use this to support teaching your chosen key skill?

10.4 Scaffolding Student-directed Research in the VCE OES Classroom

Significant research has called for an emphasis on student agency within the modern classroom. These calls are long-standing and were pioneered by influential educational theorists such as Dewey and Vygotsky (Vaughn, 2020). However, within the fast-paced and highly prescribed structure of the VCE, deploying pedagogies that encourage agentic approaches in the classroom are sometimes overlooked. An agentic learning approach develops higher-order cognitive and socio-emotional skills. It develops a strong sense of self-efficacy and resilience. It develops risk-taking, problem-solving, and critical thinking, to name a few.

Vaughn breaks down student agency in the classroom using a three-dimensional model.

  • (a) dispositional dimensions of individuals who act and transform environments;
  • (b) motivational dimensions of individuals who regulate their actions, exist within contexts, and make choices and decisions; and
  • (c) positionality of individuals in that individuals negotiate and interact within complex social contexts (p. 110).

Although elements of all three dimensions of agency can be embedded within the VCE OES classroom, the ability of students to self-regulate and participate in complex situations, or their positionality, is the easiest to focus on. One mechanism for teaching with student agency in mind is through structured research tasks. Providing opportunities for students to engage in structured research can be an effective mechanism to develop students’ knowledge of the required KK/KS and allow students to engage in learning that encourages them to develop their positional agency skills, their abilities to self-regulate and participate in complex situations.

In outcome 4.3, students are required to learn and demonstrate skills in gathering both primary and secondary data. The data collected will relate to at least two outdoor environments visited and form the basis of a written report that assesses 4.3. We unpack further the selection of KK/KS for 3.4 in chapter 12. The following table demonstrates ways to scaffold your students to collect secondary data within your VCE OES course. Depending on the purpose of your research task, one or more of these strategies may be useful.


10.1 Table of Strategies to Support Student Research in the VCE OES Classroom

Strategy Details
Identifying Quality Sources The CRAAP test provides a checklist to help students identify if the source they have found is accurate.



Is it up-to-date? Does it need to be?

When was it published, or last updated (web page)?


Is the information useful and does it support your work?

Does it cover your topic in enough depth and scope? e.g. Geography i.e. Australian? International?

Does it meet your needs? – i.e. is it peer-reviewed if you are required to use a peer-reviewed journal?


Who is the author? Are they known in their field? Are they associated with reputable organisations? e.g. a university or official body

For a web page:

is the author noted or is the organisation well known? e.g. government agency?

do the links work? Does the site look well maintained?

Is there advertising alongside the information?


Is it supported by reliable facts or statistics? References?

Look at the URL for web pages. Is the site commercial (.com), government (.gov) or educational (.edu)?


Why was it written? Is it to inform, teach, sell entertain or persuade?

Is the work fact, opinion or propaganda?

Does it contain extreme viewpoints? Is it biased?

Does it contain emotive or derogatory language?

Is there disclosure of author affiliations or funding for the research or study?

Is there advertising alongside the information?

(Adapted from Meriam Library (n.d.) Evaluating Information – Applying the CRAAP test. CC-BY 4.0)

Development of Research Questions When students are researching a particular KK/KS, it can be useful first to have them develop a series of research questions to answer. After forming questions, students can then develop key search terms, and identify databases and the like to help with their search. For example, if a student was assigned a research task for 2.1.3, they could choose two of the listed professions, then write a career profile of someone who does that job. If a student chose to focus on natural resource management (NRM), the questions they might develop with your guidance could be:


– What organisations do people who work in NRM work for?

– What qualifications are needed?

– Where can you study the required qualification?

– What does an NRM job look like day to day?

– What is the pay like?

Databases Databases can help students to quickly locate relevant information that the owner of the database for accuracy has vetted. Some useful databases for VCE OES are:

Trove is a database run by the National Library of Australia. It allows you to search the National Library and a range of institutional libraries for both physical and online collections.

Victorian Collections allows you to search various collections from institutions based in Victoria. Most helpful for 3.1.

Collection Explorer lets you search the National Museum of Australia’s online collection.

Providing sources/templates When assigning a research task, assigning students a particular website or list of websites to use can be helpful. When teaching 2.1.1, have students identify biotic and abiotic components of the biome to be visited they might encounter on an upcoming outdoor experience. You could support this by providing them with relevant websites and also a template to use. In this example, relevant websites might include:

Atlas of Living Australia

MapShare Vic


Finally, it is important to ensure that when assigning research-based tasks to your students, you do so appropriately and in line with the VIT (Victorian Institute of Teaching) Code of Conduct, AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership) standards, and school policies. For this reason, it may be better to avoid research tasks regarding certain parts of the course. As an example, the parts of the course relating to risk and risk-taking may not be appropriate as students may quickly come across news sources discussing fatalities that have not been vetted by you for appropriateness.


Activity 10.3 – Thinking About Student Research in VCE OES

As discussed above, scaffolded student research can be a useful pedagogical tool. In part, this is because it not only helps teach the relevant KK/KS being taught, but also, because learning to find and work with online sources is a transferable skill that all people will use after school.

  • Choose an outcome within the VCE OES curriculum
  • For each of the chosen KK/KS, consider if you could use scaffolded student research to help teach this.
  • For each of your chosen KK/KS, identify which strategies might help with your teaching.


10.5 Teaching Literacy through the Key Skills

The explicit teaching of key skills is vital when teaching VCE OES. Like other subjects in the VCE, the key skills drive the assessment practices at school and through the externally set examination. Central to teaching the VCE OES course is that you do so at an appropriate cognitive level (see 1.4 & 9.4.2). As part of this, developing your students’ subject-specific literacy using the task words (see 12.3), and other VCE OES-relevant terminology should be a regular part of your VCE OES pedagogy. The below lesson demonstrates the explicit teaching of literacy and key skills within the VCE.  This lesson would be toward the end of teaching 2.2.4 as it builds on student understanding of the KK taught in prior lessons. The next two chapters discuss assessing key skills based on their associated task words.


Case Study 10.4 – Teaching of Key Skills and VCE OES Literacy

Lesson Title Comparative Language and Personal Responses to Risk
KK 2.2.4 the variety of personal responses to risk when experiencing outdoor environments, including the interplay between competence, perceived risk and real risk
KS compare a range of personal responses to risk when experiencing outdoor environments
Learning Intention To use comparative language to describe different personal responses to risk
Time and section Teacher will… Students will…
Introduction (20 minutes) 1. Hang 5-7 photos of people participating in different outdoor activities around the room. Run a 1min round robin, where students are required to go and write how they think they would feel if they were in each photo.


2. Discuss the different responses to fear depicted in the photos? How might the interplay between real and perceived risk influence these responses?

1. Write a personal response to each of the photos in the room. Example – Photo of free climbing big rock ‘rush and fear’.


2. Participate in the discussion.

Body (30 minutes) 3. Introduce that today we are going to focus on the key skill of comparison. Brainstorm, what would a comparison question be asking you to do?


4. Next we will begin by looking at a poor example (Example 1 – below) of comparative language. Can you identify why this is not an example of a high-scoring response?


5. Ask students to create a marking scheme for this response in pairs. Show them the actual marking scheme.


6. Workshop a better response using the same two examples with comparative language (Example 2).

3. Participate in the discussion.


4. Discuss why this is not a high-scoring response.


5. Work in pair to create a marking scheme. Compare your own scheme to the example.


6. Participate in discussion and offer suggestions.

Conclusion (10 minutes) 7. Exit pass: Instruct students that they are to write a list of strategies to help with writing comparative responses in their books. 7. Write a list of strategies for writing comparative tasks.
Worked Examples Question: Compare two different personal responses to risk that a person or group may experience when participating in two different outdoor activities (4 marks)


Marking Scheme.

2x 1 mark is awarded for describing two different activities and two different responses to risk.

2 marks for the use of comparative language.


Example 1.

A person going rock climbing on a single pitch might feel anxious if they are not an experienced climber despite it being safe. In comparison, an experienced climber free climbing big rock might feel in control as they trust their abilities.


Example 2.

A beginner climbing a single-pitch roped is likely to feel anxious because they perceive the risk to be greater than it is. In comparison, a person climbing a big rock without a rope may have a feeling of cognitive reward, as, unlike the person on a single pitch, they have spent years developing their skill. However, the person on a big rock (without a rope) is likely taking on a larger risk, vs. the person on a single pitch, as if one hold fails, they could fall to their death.


10.6 Developing a Unit Planner

Unit planners are an invaluable tool when designing your VCE OES curriculum. If you are a pre-service teacher, your course to date may have focused more on developing lesson plans. Although an important step, and yes, still mandated in some schools, lesson plans are often replaced by unit planners once you have graduated and are working in schools. Appendix 3.1 contains a sample unit planner to help you gauge the level of planning that experienced VCE OES teachers would work from.

To support you in developing your own VCE OES unit planners, we offer the following principles that we have used to develop effective unit planning. Some of these principles are universal to unit planning, whilst others are more specific to planning for VCE OES.

  1. Sequence learning. A good unit planner will attend to what is being taught and the order of things being taught. As part of this, when developing a unit planner, please pay attention to what key skills you are embedding and ensure they are presented logically.
  2. Use a variety of approaches. Unit planners should include a variety of approaches to learning within the classroom. This will help to maintain student engagement. Even the most engaging activity can become disengaging when repeated too often.
  3. Provide sufficient detail. Within your planner, consider what another experienced VCE OES teacher would need to teach your planner and try to include that. Likely, many pedagogical details you would include in lesson planning as a pre-service teacher are no longer needed. Instead, include a learning intention for the lesson (or series of lessons), an introductory activity, a body activity and a conclusion or reflection activity.
  4. Map formative and summative assessment tasks. Your unit planner should include a variety of formative and summative assessment tasks. As a rough guide, VCE OES teachers typically aim for one formative task that is collected and marked each week.
  5. Base each outcome on a case study outdoor environment. Your planner should be specific to the environment you are studying. This includes details of what is taught during outdoor experiences and other information about your focus outdoor environments.

Reflection Questions

  • What would you include in an VCE OES lesson plan?
  • Identify three strategies you could use to support the teaching of key skills and literacy in the VCE OES classroom.
  • What does an effective VCE OES unit planner would look like? What key parts would you include in writing one?
  • Why would you include a student-centred approach to teaching VCE OES?


Vaughn, M. (2020). What is student agency and why is it needed now more than ever? Theory Into Practice, 59(2), 109-118.

Victorian National Parks Association. (2018). Lessons from the Little Desert.


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A Teachers Guide to Outdoor Education Curriculum: Victorian Edition Copyright © 2023 by Federation University and Australian Catholic University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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