The ideal is Plan A, right? In a perfect world, the plan would be formulated, and the designated parties would expedite flawlessly – every time. Occasionally this happens: “We did it just like we practiced it!” Normal living has more the flavor of Plan A not going according to plan, or at least according to every detail. Not to expect this pattern invites insanity, or at least constant, grinding frustration of why people don’t pay attention and follow the plan. In the case of students, this would mean following the assignment and carrying it out per the prompt.
This just isn’t going to happen a lot of the time, which is not an exhortation for instructors to abandon publishing a Plan A and hoping for it to happen. However, a realistic approach assumes often being a counselor to students in formulating a Plan B. The good news is that the Plan B is the corrective action – or at least adaptation – to get an assignment into Plan A form. The inconvenience is the process of going off the main road and then finding direction to get back onto it.
Plan B doesn’t mean letting the student say, “Oh, I thought I would do it this way.” No, the student doesn’t pick and choose on essentials, or get to rewrite the lesson prompt: but the student is part of the Plan B that gets back to Plan A. A needed educational outcome in the classroom is still the same, but a host of reasons (sometimes excuses) can create the effect of a broken play in football. The goal is still the same; the players, however, have to regroup and start from where they are in the moment on the field.
Football players don’t go back to their original positions when the play started. That can’t happen, but with assignments, that is possible at times. For a student, Plan B may mean throwing out some good work that was irrelevant to the assignment, or it can mean adding in parts that were left out (“Oh, I didn’t see that part of the assignment”).
Education is a lot of broken plays reconstructed in the form of Plan B in order to get back to Plan A. The timing and process are not what the instructor or the student hoped for; each had a different idea about that. However, much of the time, Plan B isn’t too formidable or out of reach, and students learn that when Plan A is going to be enforced, it’s good, in the name of efficiency, to get there with as little Plan B as possible.