Last updated on 2024-02-23 | Edit this page

Estimated time: 30 minutes



  • How can the objectives for a lesson be used to break its content into sections?


After completing this episode, participants should be able to…

  • identify appropriate parts of their lesson to break into individual sections

At the end of the previous section, you defined the learning objectives for your lesson as a whole.

Rather than write the lesson as a single, long document, we recommend that you break it up into chunks like chapters in a book or episodes in a season of a TV series. This can help manage learners’ cognitive load by ensuring that you organise content into coherent, more self-contained chunks, and makes it easier for instructors to schedule regular and frequent breaks while teaching. Thinking about how content can be broken down like this early in the lesson design process helps you to consider the path learners will take to reach your defined objectives, and identify the component skills and knowledge they will need to pick up on the way.

In The Carpentries, we refer to these individual parts of a lesson as episodes, to encourage lesson developers to think about them as self-contained units (with their own narrative arc) that nevertheless contribute to the larger whole (the theme or story that runs through a full season). It also helps to think about the typical length of an episode: these chunks contain 20-60 minutes of content (teaching + exercises).

Each episode will exist as a page in the website we will build for our lessons.

Planning Your Episodes

Before we can start creating the episodes of a lesson, we need to spend some time planning out the number and order of them. The learning objectives you defined for your lesson can help with this: at the very least, it is probably a good idea to have one episode dedicated to each objective. You might also find that you can “decompose” the lesson-level objectives into more finely-grained steps that learners can take towards those end points. For example, the lesson level objective

  • “create formatted page content with Markdown”

may be broken down into,

  • “create bold, italic, and linked text with Markdown”
  • “explain the different header levels in Markdown”
  • “add images with a caption and alternative text description to a Markdown document”

Some questions you might ask yourself to help break down your lesson-level learning objectives include:

  • What new knowledge and skills will learners need to acquire to be ready to fulfil the overall objectives for your lesson?
  • What order should these concepts and skills be introduced in? Are some dependent on others?
  • If some of these concepts and skills are complex, can they be broken down even further?

Exercise: Defining Episodes for a Lesson (25 minutes)

With your team,

  1. Based on the lesson-level objectives and your knowledge of the lesson topic, divide the lesson up into logical blocks (episodes), that should each take approximately 20-60 minutes to teach. Think of these logical blocks as topics that you need to cover within your lesson but do not go too deep into defining learning objectives for individual episodes - we will cover that soon.
  2. Next, assign responsibility for one of these episodes to each collaborator in your team. They will focus on this episode for the rest of this training, and you will teach these episodes in a trial run between parts 1 and 2 of this training.

If the length of the list of episodes you create is smaller than the number of collaborators you have on your team, try assigning two people to a single episode, with each taking responsibility for a subset of the objectives defined for that episode. If you plan more episodes than you have people in your team, do not assign more than one episode to each collaborator for now, but we strongly recommend that you assign yourselves consecutive episodes at the beginning of your lesson.

Key Points

  • Learning objectives for a lesson can help you split up its content into chunks