Coleman's expressions

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Big Picture - UBD Readings

I think I would have benefited from reading Chapters 12 & 13 at the beginning instead of the end (backwards again)! This ‘big picture’ really puts into perspective the concept of understanding by design. The example of a grade level history curriculum (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 277) and the schematic of a district level inter-disciplinary structure (p. 278) frames the entire model. The focus on essential questions really shines through and centralizes those higher-level thinking skills in a uniting fashion.

Through out the book (and workbook), the authors have exemplified their framework in various content examples, which are especially helpful for those who need to “unlearn.” One of their quotes I like, “Whatever the subject, we learn best by going through many part-whole-part learning cycles – trying it out, reflecting, adjusting. We learn just enough content to be able to use it, and we make progress by tackling increasingly complicated ideas and aspects of performance” (p.292).

Since I’m a huge proponent of “transferability” and the practical, real-world application of subject matter, I’ve focused on designing relevant learning activities. However, my purpose in designing curriculum has never consciously been geared toward the essential questions and big ideas. In reflecting on my readings and unit planning with this in mind, I expect I’ll be re-designing my course with UBD as a springboard. Thinking about the work is both exhausting and exhilarating, but terribly important as I attempt to model effective learning principles in a class for perspective teachers.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd ed). Alexandria, VA: ASCD


  • Jessica,

    The "yes, but" chapter really solidified for me everything that we have learned so far. The three findings from "How People Learn" summed up what we should now understand about learning and what we should be explaining to parents.

    I am planning to share my unit with my building principal (who has been very supportive and involved in our program). Perhaps there will be an opportunity to spend our in-service time studying our curriculum as detailed in our book. I am also planning to work on a handout for our reading lab which will explain our curriculum and what our learning goals are for our students and ourselves (one of the essential questions for my unit is "why is understanding our learning style important). This course has helped me to reconsider what is essential for parents to know, too.

    How are you planning to implement "Understanding by Design" at your school?


    By Blogger Nancy, at 4/08/2006 11:42 AM  

  • Hi Marie -Thanks for bringing up this point. I will mention it to Dr. Swain so she can consider whether these chapters should be read earlier in (or throughout the course. -KD :)

    By Blogger Kara Dawson, at 4/08/2006 2:07 PM  

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