This course will make use of a curriculum writing framework created by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (1999) called Understanding by Design (UbD). The following notes are taken directly from an ASCD white paper available in its entirety at:
The framework is based on 7 key tenets:
- Learning is enhanced when teachers think purposefully about curricular planning.
- The UbD framework helps focus curriculum and teaching on the development and deepening of student understanding and transfer of learning (i.e. the ability to effectively use content knowledge and skills).
- Understanding is revealed when students autonomously make sends of and transfer their learning through authentic performance. Six facets of understanding - the capacity to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self-assess - can serve as indications of understanding.
- Effective curriculum is planned backward from long-term, desired results through a three-stage design process (Desired results, Evidence, and Learning Plan). RATIONALE: This process helps avoid the common problems of treating the textbook as the curriculum rather than a resource, and activity-oriented teaching in which no clear priorities and purposes are apparent.
- Teachers are coaches of understanding, not mere purveyors of content knowledge, skill, or activity. They focus on ensuring that learning happens, not just teaching (and assuming that what was taught was learned); they always check for successful meaning-making and transfer by the leaner.
- Regularly reviewing units and curriculum against design standards enhances curricular quality and effectiveness, and provides engaging and professional discussions.
- The UbD framework reflects a continual improvement approach to student achievement and teacher craft. Adjustments are made so that student learning is maximized.
The Three Stages of Backward Design
Stage 1—Identify Desired Results
What should students know, understand, and be able to do? (Before beginning the unit of study and through the process of participating in the unit.)
What long-term transfer goals are targeted?
What essential questions will be explored in-depth and provide focus to all learning?
What meanings should students make in order to arrive at important understandings?
What knowledge and skills will students acquire?
What established goals/standards are targeted?
What enduring understandings are desired?
Stage 2—Determine Assessment Evidence
How will we know if students have achieved the desired results?
What will we accept as evidence of student understanding and their ability to use (transfer) their learning in new situations?
How will we evaluate student performance in fair and consistent ways?
Are the assessments aligned to all Stage 1 elements?
When someone truly understands, they:
- Can explain concepts, principles, and processes by putting it their own words, teaching it to others, justifying their answers, and showing their reasoning.
- Can interpret by making sense of data, text, and experience through images, analogies, stories, and models
- Can apply by effectively using and adapting what they know in new and complex contexts.
- Demonstrate perspective by seeing the big picture and recognizing different points of view.
- Display empathy by perceiving sensitively and walking in someone else’s shoes.
- Have self-knowledge by showing meta-cognitive awareness, using productive habits of mind, and reflecting on the meaning of the learning and experience.
Stage 3—Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction
How will we support learners as they come to understand important ideas and processes?
How will we prepare them to autonomously transfer their learning?
What enabling knowledge and skills will students need to perform effectively and achieve desired results?
What activities, sequence, and resources are best suited to accomplish our goals?
How will the unit be sequenced and differentiated to optimize achievement for all learners?
How will progress be monitored?
Are the learning events in Stage 3 aligned with Stage 1 goals and Stage 2 assessments?