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Understanding by Design, or UbD, is a tool utilized for educational planning focused on "teaching for understanding" advocated by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins in their Understanding by Design (1998), published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. The emphasis of UbD is on "backward design", the practice of looking at the outcomes in order to design curriculum units, performance assessments, and classroom instruction.
"Understanding by Design" and "UbD" are registered trademarks of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development ("ASCD"). According to Wiggins, "The potential of UbD for curricular improvement has struck a chord in American education. Over 250,000 educators own the book. Over 30,000 Handbooks are in use. More than 150 University education classes use the book as a text." As defined by Wiggins and McTighe, Understanding by Design is a "framework for designing curriculum units, performance assessments, and instruction that lead your students to deep understanding of the content you teach," UbD expands on "six facets of understanding", which include students being able to explain, interpret, apply, have perspective, empathize, and have self-knowledge about a given topic.
Understanding by Design relies on what Wiggins and McTighe call "backward design" (also known as "backwards planning"). Teachers, according to UbD proponents, traditionally start curriculum planning with activities and textbooks instead of identifying classroom learning goals and planning towards that goal. In backward design, the teacher starts with classroom outcomes and then plans the curriculum, choosing activities and materials that help determine student ability and foster student learning.
The Backward design approach is developed in three stages. Stage 1 starts with educators identifying the desired results of their students by establishing the overall goal of the lessons by using content standards, common core or state standards. In addition, UbD's stage 1 defines "Students will understand that..." and lists essential questions that will guide the learner to understanding. Stage 1 also focuses on identifying "what students will know" and most importantly "what students will be able to do".
Stage 2 focuses on evidence of learning by assessment. Teachers plan performance tasks and evidence of understanding. Performance tasks determine what the students will demonstrate in the unit and what evidence will prove their understanding. This can include self-reflections and self-assessments on learning.
Lastly, stage 3 lists the learning activities that will lead students to your desired results.
"Teaching for understanding" is another central premise of Understanding by Design. It should be evident in course design, teacher and student attitudes, and the classroom learning environment. There should be coherent curriculum design and clear distinctions between big ideas and essential questions. Teachers should tell students about big ideas and essential questions, performance requirements, and evaluative criteria at the beginning of the unit or course. Students should be able to describe the goals (big ideas and essential questions) and performance requirements of the unit or course. The learning environment should have high expectations and incentives for all students to come to understand the big ideas and answer the essential questions. '''''''Bold text'
Wiggins and McTighe clarify that: