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Understanding By Design An Introduction. Developing Standards-based Curriculum. The Problem. “Even good students don’t always display a deep understanding of what is taught even when conventional tests certify success.” (Wiggins & McTighe). Stating a Concept vs. Developing a Concept.

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Understanding By Design An Introduction

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Understanding By DesignAn Introduction

Developing Standards-based Curriculum

The Problem

  • “Even good students don’t always display a deep understanding of what is taught even when conventional tests certify success.”

    (Wiggins & McTighe)

Stating a Concept vs. Developing a Concept

Seatwork Time Spent in Three Kinds of Tasks

The Question

  • So, the question is:

    • “How does your class contribute to academic achievement in your school?”

  • Develop curricula that makes a difference

Curriculum is a Means to an End

  • Focus on a topic that matters

  • Use methods that engage

  • Cause deep and enduring learning related to an important standard/topic

    • Is it important enough to remember when the student is 30 years old?

What is Backward Design

  • BD Begins with the end in mind

    • Starting with a clear understanding of the destination

    • Making sure that you are moving in the right direction

    • Is justifiable and reliable

Unfortunately, Many Teachers:

  • Begin with a favored lesson, time-honored activities (or the next page in the text)

  • Backwards design starts with the end (the desired results).

Backwards Design

  • We begin BD with the following question:

    • What would I accept as evidence that students have attained the desired understandings/abilities?

The Backward Design Process

Stages in the Backward Design Process

Identify desired results.

Determine acceptable evidence

Plan learning experiences and instruction


Identify Desired Results

STAGE ONE: Backward Design




Worth being familiar with

Important to know and do

“Enduring understanding”

Establishing Curricular Priorities

  • Represents a big idea having enduring value beyond the classroom

  • Reside at the heart of the discipline (involve “doing” the subject).

  • Require uncoverage (abstract or often misunderstood ideas).

  • Offer potential for engaging students.

“Enduring” understanding

Determining Worthiness

Four Filters


Determine Acceptable Evidence

STAGE TWO: Backward Design

Assessment Types

Traditional quizzes and tests



Constructed response

Performance tasks and projects




Worth being familiar with

Important to know and do

“Enduring understanding”

Curricular Priorities and Assessments

Thinking Like an Assessor

  • Does not come naturally to most teachers

  • We unconsciously jump to the activity once we have a target

  • Backwards design demands that we short-circuit the natural instinct that leads most to developing the activity first


Plan Learning


STAGE THREE: Backward Design

KEY QUESTIONS: Instructional Design

  • What facts, concepts, principles and skills will students need to achieve in lessons?

  • What activities will equip students with needed knowledge/skills?

  • What materials/resources are available?

How Will You:

  • Bring abstract ideas and far-away facts to life?

Students must see knowledge and skill as building blocks—not just isolated lessons

Wisdom Can’t be Told!

  • Understanding is more stimulated than learned

  • It grows from questioning oneself and being questioned by others

  • Students must figure things out, not simply wait to be told!

    • This requires the teacher to alter their curriculum and teaching style

More LearningThroughLess Teaching

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