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Creating an Effective Unit of Instruction

Jacqueline Williamson graduated with a BBA in Personnel Admin., an MPA in HR Management and an MS in Education.

A good unit of instruction can be the difference between success and failure with your students.

A good unit of instruction can be the difference between success and failure with your students.


When you undertake any major project, you undoubtedly take time to plan. You may not always commit your plan to paper, but you certainly take time to consider what it will take to get the results you want. If you were planning to add a patio to your home, for example, you would first try to determine the materials needed, the construction methods available, the time involved, and the cost.

Instruction should be no different. Professional educators agree that the ability to plan for instruction is essential to successful teaching. The teacher’s instructional plans can be compared to an architect’s plans, in which:

  1. The proposed building is designed as a whole,
  2. Various important sections of the structure are planned as units, and
  3. The minute details of construction are specified.

    In designing vocational-technical programs, these plans are called

  1. The course of study
  2. The unit plan, and
  3. The daily lesson plan

What is a Unit of Instruction?

A unit of instruction is a well-defined portion of the total instructional program, centering on a single topic or cluster of occupational competencies.

The relationship of instructional unit to the total curriculum is:

  1. At the center is a description, in broad terms, of the whole occupational program.
  2. The program is divided into quarters or terms of work, with a designated proportion of the total subject matter assigned to each quarter.
  3. The next division in the instructional scheme is the unit of instruction in which sections of subject matter are drawn from the material in the course of study.

The document that describes the contents of a unit is called a unit plan—the focus of this module. A unit is not presented to the class all at once. It is further divided into a series of lessons to be presented over a number of class sessions. See the following example.


As an illustration of the relation of a unit to a course of study and a lesson, consider how an instructor in Medical Administration might plan to organize instruction. She is teaching a course in the Medical Administration program and, from the course of study furnished by the administration, she notes that among the important concepts to be taught during the quarter is that of Administrative Responsibilities, using correct telephone procedures, making appointments, records management, and written communications.

After some thought and tentative planning, the instructor selects Administrative Responsibilities as one unit of instruction and decides to allocate about four days of class time for the unit. As a part of the learning experiences for the unit, she also decides to plan a series of daily lessons on various aspects of the topic of the unit, including an introductory lesson and lessons on telephone procedure, appointments, records management, and written communication.

There are Four Basic Types of Units.

There are Four Basic Types of Units.

There are Four types of Units

Whe term unit has been used in a number of ways in education, with some resulting confusion. In the literature of vocational education, you will find the term unit used to describe anything from a single classroom lesson to a large block of individualized instruction.

There are various types of units. Among the types are: Unit of Work, Unit Plan, Resource Unit and Subject Matter Unit. Let us look briefly at each unit and its usage to the instructor.

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  1. Unit of Work. A unit of work is the organization of student learning experiences built around a unit topic, theme, problem, or other unifying element. A unit of work is what actually takes place in the classroom or lab in the learning situation. As in the previous example, Unit 1 is Administrative Responsibilities. The entire unit cannot be taught in on class period so the lesson of the day is Telephone Procedures. This is the work unit.
  2. Unit Plan. The unit plan is a particular instructor’s written outline of the unit of work he/she expects to develop with a group of students. The unit plan may be entirely original with the instructor, or it may be based on units developed by others. Again, using the previous example, the course of study Medical Office Procedures is broken down into units. Each unit has lessons that can be taught either daily or weekly depending of the number of times the class meets.
  3. Resource Unit. This unit is intended to be used as a resource by instructors as they plan a unit for a particular group of students. It is a compilation of suggested learning activities, experiences, and materials from which teachers can draw. There is a wealth of information that can be obtained through the use of the Internet. Websites such as, and are just a few examples.
  4. Subject Matter Unit. This type of unit is one that is designed to convey a body of specific skills and related content information to students. The objectives for the unit are stated in terms of student behaviors and occupational competencies. The teaching of automotive repair is another example of a subject matter unit. The students have “hands-on” experience working with the vehicles and the lessons are centered on how-to do a particular thing.

Once you understand the different units and their functionality, the instructor should be able to utilize this information in the development of a unit of instruction. Each unit can be a necessary component for the effect execution of classroom lessons. Decide what works for you.

Example: Format For A Unit Plan

Unit Title: Administrative Responsibilities

Subject: Telephone Procedures

School: Southeast College of Technology


The main channel of communication between the patient and the doctor is the telephone. Almost all patients make their first contact with the doctor by telephone. The assistant must handle telephone calls in such a way as to reassure the caller but not interrupt the doctor, who may be engaged with another patient’s problems. The medical assistant also must learn to recognize the situation in each type of call and handle it correctly.

  1. Topics to be Covered:

    The following topics will be studied:

  • Telephone etiquette
  • Promptness
  • Greeting and identifying
  • Screening calls
  • Transferring calls
  • Emergency calls
  • Nonmedical screening situations
  1. Student Performance Objectives:

    The student will be able to—

  • Use proper identification
  • Identify the nature of the call
  • Use courteous phrases such as please and thank you
  • Listen carefully
  • Offer assistance as necessary
  • Avoid unnecessarily long conversations
  • Conclude calls properly by saying “Good-bye” and using the caller’s name

    IV. Student Learning Activities Required Resources

    Listen to instructor’s presentation Handout: Article on telephone

    On telephone etiquette etiquette

    Participate in class discussion.

    Read Chapter Four Text: Medical Office Proced.

    Participate in group discussion Handout: Bibliography for the unit

    Participate in simulation on Text: Medic. Office Procedures telephone techniques

  1. Student Evaluation:

    Test on Chapter 4 in Medical Office Procedures.

    Oral questions given in class: students’ responses evaluated by instructor (Rating scale: Excellent, Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory).

    Group presentation will be evaluated using an evaluation checklist (furnished to the class at the time of assignment)

  2. Resource Materials:

    Books: Medical Office Procedures with Computer Simulation

    4th Edition

    Transparencies for “Telephone Etiquette”


© 2013 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS


Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS (author) from Memphis on June 07, 2014:

When teaching students in vocational or occupational genre; it is important to provide the right course of instruction to guarantee that students receive accurate and viable information.

Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS (author) from Memphis on February 24, 2014:

Creating an effective unit of instruction takes time and effort. However, it is a labor well spent when you have a successful course of study and students who will contribute effectively in the workplace.

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