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UbD Deeper Dive

UbD Deeper Dive

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson, students will learn the purpose and componets of UbD in curriculum design and unit development.

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In this tutorial, we'll take a really thorough look at Understanding by Design. Understanding by Design or UbD can be a really valuable tool in curriculum design for competency-based education, because it emphasizes the importance of students being able to learn new information, then apply that information to the essential questions for a lesson or unit, and finally transfer that knowledge beyond the classroom out into real world applications. The design process associated with Understanding by Design is sometimes referred to as backwards design, because we're going to begin the UbD process by asking ourselves what we want our students to know and what we want our students to be able to do and transfer at the very end of the unit. Recall that stage one is identifying desired outcomes. Stage two is determining acceptable evidence. And stage three is developing a learning plan. Let's begin with stage one of UbD, identifying the desired outcomes.

It's in this stage where we need to outline the big ideas and not only do we need to list those big ideas, but we need to determine specifically how are students going to make meaning out of those ideas and how are students going to transfer those skills and that knowledge into other situations. So we need to identify our transfer goals or competencies for the unit. These would be the long-term goals that we have for our students, because we want our students to be able to not only independently master these skills and competencies, but also we want them to be able to transfer that knowledge to new situations.

It's a good idea to rewrite your standards as transfer goals so that you're specifying both the what and the why of each learning goal. This just makes these various aspects clear to the students. So for example, in a mathematics unit on percents, rather than just stating students will be able to find the percent of a number, you might include the why here as well by stating that students will be able to find the percent of a number in order to find the reduced price of an item that is on sale.

In stage one, you'll also identify the essential questions for the lesson or unit. These are those big idea questions, usually without a clear right or wrong or yes or no answer that are designed to help students make meaning out of the new information. In stage one, we should also specify the meanings or understandings that students should take away from the lesson or unit.

We want students to be able to create their own connections and develop their own understanding's in order to really deeply understand what they're learning and to see how that learning extends beyond the classroom as well. And finally in stage one, we also need to list key knowledge and skills. This would be a list of what students should know and what students should be able to do at the end of the lesson or unit.

Next is stage two. Determining acceptable evidence this is where you'll make decisions about what evidence can be used in order to have students demonstrate to you that they have mastered a skill or that their proficient in a skill. This typically includes a performance task in Understanding by Design, but this is also where you'll list your formative and summative assessments. You can consider the Understanding by Design six facets of understanding as you're designing your assessments.

The six facets of understanding are presented as a hierarchy. As you progress through the list of the six facets, you involve more higher level thinking skills. At the lower end of the list, you want students to be able to explain. They should be able to recall data and facts and explain those ideas to you.

Next students should be able to interpret. This is where we would ask students to make subjects personally relevant, to provide dimensions to events and ideas, and perhaps to be able to tell meaningful stories related to the new information. Students should also be able to apply. This is where we want them to adapt what they're learning into other contexts. They should be able to take information that they've learned and use it in another setting.

Next, students should have perspective. We want them to be able to see points of view other than their own. They should be able to see the big picture in a situation. Next, we want students to be able to empathize. They should be sensitive to others' perspectives, and they should find value in those other perspectives, as well. Students need to understand that each of us has our own set of perspectives that are based on our own personal previous experiences.

And finally, students need to have self-knowledge. They need to understand how they learn. They need to reflect on their habits of mind that are influencing their own understanding and development of new ideas. Another way to think of it is that students need to know what they don't know.

Also, as you're designing your performance tasks for your students, you might want to keep the GRASPS acronym in mind. The letters in this acronym prompt questions that we can ask ourselves as we're designing a performance task. For example, in my French class, I may come up with the idea of having my students put together a travel brochure. Well, that's pretty open-ended. And so using the GRASPS acronym can help me to pinpoint the specific skills that I want to target and can help students better understand my expectations for them.

So the overall goal of this task may be to have students research travel destinations in France. The role of the student might be a travel agent, and the audience would be the travel agents potential customers. The situation might be that my travel agent student is presenting this information to a group of potential customers. So the performance would include both presenting the actual physical travel brochure and the presentation in front of the student's classmates. And finally for the standards, I would design a rubric that I would share with students in advance so that they'll know exactly how they'll be assessed on the project.

Finally, let's look at stage three of Understanding by Design, developing a learning plan. In this stage not only are you going to outline specific activities or learning opportunities that you'll be providing for your students, but you'll also indicate any differentiation techniques that you plan to use. You might find it helpful to keep in mind the WHERETO elements. This acronym can help us as we focus on making decisions about how many opportunities students are going to need to acquire the new knowledge and skills, how we're going to help them make meaning of that knowledge and take ownership of the new knowledge and skills, and how we're going to assist them in learning to be able to transfer that knowledge.

We need to be sure that students understand where we're headed and why we're heading that way with the content and skills in the course. We need to hook students immediately on in our instruction and then hold their interest throughout the lesson or unit. We need to equip students for the experiences that they are going to be having in our class. We need to make sure they have the tools and resources that are necessary.

Students should be allowed opportunities to rethink and reflect on their learning. We should encourage them to reflect from a variety of perspectives. Evaluation should happen both from the student point of view and the teacher point of view. We need to be assessing students' progress and then giving them any feedback that they might need. We need to tailor our instruction to meet the unique needs of our individual students. And finally our instruction needs to be organized in a logical manner that supports learning as students are working to understand and make meaning, and then master those competencies and transfer those skills and knowledge to other situations.

So as you're planning your learning activities, your lesson might begin with a really engaging activity that not only introduces students to the lesson indicating the where and the why, but also that hooks their interest really early and motivates them to stay interested throughout the rest of the lesson. Building in some guided practice not only equip students with the skills that they need, but it also helps us as teachers to evaluate students progress so far in the lesson.

Building in a formative assessment, like a quick quiz at the end of a lesson, helps students to rethink and reflect. And then the results of that formative assessment can help us to tailor the next lessons instruction to better meet students' needs. When we use these formative assessment results to inform our decision making that also is leading to instruction that is more organized in order to better support student mastery of the skills.

So now that we've taken a really thorough look at all three steps of Understanding by Design, let's spend a little bit of time talking about how UbD and CBE fit together. UbD really supports CBE curriculum development, because of its strong focus on building mastery of the knowledge and skills and competencies and because of the emphasis on having students make meaning out of new information. Throughout this instructional design process, we teachers are really carefully considering not just what we want students to know and be able to do, but also how we're going to assess student mastery. How are we going to determine whether students are making the progress that we want them to make?

And also, as we're carefully designing these authentic performance assessments, we're providing further support to students in reaching those deeper learning levels that we want them to get to, and that helps students to build that capacity to transfer the classroom skills and knowledge to real world experiences outside of the classroom environment. So here's a chance for you to stop and reflect. Think about an upcoming unit of study and spend some time considering how you might implement all of the stages of Understanding by Design as you plan for that unit.

For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, please view the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource. Thanks for watching. Have a great day.

Notes on "UbD Deeper Dive"

(00:00 - 00:55) Introduction

(00:56 - 02:48) UbD Stage 1

(02:49 - 05:53) UbD Stage 2

(05:54 - 08:27) UbD Stage 3

(08:28 - 09:28) UbD and CBE

(09:29 - 09:58) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

UbD in a Nutshell

This is a great handout by Jay McTighe that provides a clear overview of the three stages and components of UbD.

Competency-Based Education: Helping All Kentucky Students Succeed

This resource from the Kentucky Department of Education ties UbD and CBE together in a practical approach.