Understanding understanding
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Understanding Understanding. Dr. Robert Mayes University of Wyoming Science and Mathematics Teaching Center [email protected] Understanding by Design. Authors: Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins ASCD materials – Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

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Understanding understanding

Understanding Understanding

Dr. Robert Mayes

University of Wyoming

Science and Mathematics Teaching Center

[email protected]

Understanding by design

Understanding by Design

  • Authors: Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins

  • ASCD materials – Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

  • Understanding by Design Handbook will serve as basis for many of our activities in assessment

Establishing norms

Establishing Norms

  • Open-mindedness

  • Curiosity

  • Discovery

  • Sincerity

  • Brevity

  • Engagement

  • Connections

Understanding understanding1

Understanding Understanding

  • Though we claim as teachers to be after understanding, we may not adequately understand our goal

  • Knowledge is different than Understanding

    • Knowledge can be rote – correct beliefs

    • Understanding is fluid, transferable to new contexts, transformable into new theories - insight

Understanding understanding2

Understanding Understanding

  • Was the banker a good teacher?

    • What characteristics of good teaching did he display?

  • What are common teaching design errors?

    • Activity-focused teaching

    • Coverage-focused teaching

Some basic terms

Some basic terms

  • What is assessment versus evaluation?

  • What are standards versus objectives?

  • What does it mean to know versus understand?

Understanding understanding3

Understanding Understanding

  • Understanding is difficult to measure

    • Teachers often satisfied with signs of apparent understanding – such as performing an algorithm

    • Student misconceptions are persistent

    • High-stakes testing makes determining understanding more pressing

      • Cat and mouse game – give students incentive to seem to understand what they are supposed to learn

Understanding understanding4

Understanding Understanding

  • Attempts to teach for understanding must answer

    • If correct answers can offer inadequate or misleading evidence of understanding, or if good test results can hide misunderstanding, then what is genuine understanding?

    • How does genuine understanding manifest itself?

    • How can design more effectively and reliably reveal genuine understanding?

Understanding understanding5

Understanding Understanding

  • Provide a definition of what understanding means to you

    • Bloom (1956): ability to marshal skills and facts wisely and appropriately, through effective application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation

    • Wiggins and McTighe (2005) 6 facets of understanding

      • perform - explain, interpret, apply

      • gain insight – perspective, empathize, self-knowledge

Cognitive science and understanding

Cognitive Science and Understanding

  • Transfer: applying facts and skills in novel situations

    • Pattern recognition

    • Enduring understandings are the basis of transfer

  • Metacognition: self-assessment, self-awareness, self-regulation

    • 3 pathologies of mislearning are amnesia (we forget), fantasia (we don’t understand that we don’t understand), and inertia (we are unable to use what we learn)

Cognitive science and understanding1

Cognitive Science and Understanding

  • Misconceptions: (buggy literature) mapping of a working idea in a plausible but incorrect way in a new situation – consistent error

    • Conceptual Benchmarks – must understand the likelihood that big ideas will be misconceived

  • Expert Blind Spot: if it teach it, they will learn it – basis in Piaget concept of encapsulation

Six facets of understanding

Six Facets of Understanding

  • 3 Facets represent performances one with understanding can do

    • Explain – provide thorough, supported, and justifiable accounts of phenomena, facts, and data (theoretical, explain why)

    • Interpret – tell meaningful stories, offer apt translations, provide revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events, (personal, what does it mean to me)

    • Apply – effectively use and adapt what one knows in diverse contexts (pragmatic, how can I use it)

Six facets of understanding1

Six Facets of Understanding

  • 3 Facets represent types of insights one has

    • Perspective – see points of view through critical eyes and ears, see the big picture (dispassionate, whose point of view)

    • Empathize – find value in what others might find odd, alien, or implausible, perceive sensitivity on the basis of prior direct experience (passionate, what are you feeling)

    • Self-knowledge – perceive personal style, prejudices, projections, and habits of mind that both shape and impede one’s own understanding, be aware of what one does not understand (introspective, my prejudices)

Backward design process

Backward Design Process

  • Backward design can be thought of as:

    • Purposeful task analysis – Given a task to be accomplished, how does one get there?

    • Planned Coaching – What kinds of lessons and practices are needed to master key performances?

Backward design process1

Backward Design Process

  • Typical Teacher Design

    • Begin with text, favorite lesson, time honored activity

    • Derive targeted goals and standards

  • Backward Design

    • Begin with desired result (goal or standard)

    • Derive curriculum based on the evidence of learning

    • Think like an assessor – begin with a question, operationalize goals or standards in terms of assessment

Backward design process2

Backward Design Process

  • Three Stages of Backward Design (HO: 6 page UbD Unit Template)

Stage 1: Identify

desired results

Stage 2: Determine

acceptable evidence

Stage 3: Plan learning

experiences and


Backward design process3

Backward Design Process

  • Stage 1: Identify Desired Results

    • Consider goals

    • Examine content standards

    • Review curriculum expectations

  • More content than can be covered so we are obliged to make choices

    • What should students know, understand and be able to do?

    • What is worthy of understanding?

    • What enduring understandings are desired?

Backward design process4

Backward Design Process

  • Stage 2: Determine Acceptable Evidence

    • Think like an assessor – consider up front, How we will determine if students have attained desired understanding

    • Consider a range of assessment methods

      • Performance tasks to measure understanding

      • Traditional assessments (quizzes, tests) to assess essential knowledge and skills contributing to performance

      • Self-assessment and peer-assessment

Backward design process5

Backward Design Process

  • Stage 3: Plan Learning Experience and Instruction

    • Specifics of instructional planning occur after desired results and assessments are identified

  • Key Questions

    • What enabling knowledge and skills will students need to perform effectively and achieve desired results?

    • What activities will equip students with the needed knowledge and skills?

Backward design process6

Backward Design Process

  • Stage 3: Plan Learning Experience and Instruction

  • Key Questions

    • What will need to be taught and coached, and how should it best be taught, in light of performance goals?

    • What materials and resources are best suited to accomplish these goals?

    • Is the overall design coherent and effective?

Dr robert mayes university of wyoming science and mathematics teaching center rmayes2@uwyo edu

Dr. Robert Mayes

University of Wyoming

Science and Mathematics Teaching Center

[email protected]

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