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What UbD is and what it isn’t. A way of thinking purposefully about design A conceptual framework Priorities center on big ideas Design to make understanding more likely It’s about the planning process…. NOT a prescriptive program NOT a step by step guide Not guidance about the content

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Slide 1

What UbD is and what it isn’t

  • A way of thinking purposefully about design

  • A conceptual framework

  • Priorities center on big ideas

  • Design to make understanding more likely

  • It’s about the planning process…

  • NOTa prescriptive program

  • NOT a step by step guide

  • Notguidance about the content

  • NOTa methodology

  • Not a philosophy of education

  • Nota specific strategy

  • Nota specific assessment

  • Notagainst traditional testing

  • Notagainst letter grades


Slide 1

3 Stages of Backward Design

Stage 1: In the end, what should students be able to do with their learning?

Stage 2: What is valid evidence of their ability to meet the long-term transfer goals?

Stage 3: What do students need to learn to develop transfer ability?

Slide 1

3 Stages of Backward Design

Stage 1: In the end, what should students be able to make sense of on their own?

Stage 2: What is valid evidence of their ability to achieve such understanding?

Stage 3: What do students need to learn to develop transfer ability?

Slide 1

Without checking for


What we typically (incorrectly) do:

Identify content to be acquired

Without checking for


Brainstorm lessons to learn the content

Create an assessment to see if they learned the content

Slide 1

Backward design from the purpose, not the content

  • False logic: FIRST learn all the ‘facts’ and ‘skills’ then – much later – learn to use them

    • In all arts, crafts, professions, and athletics you start ‘playing the game’ from the start

    • The sum of the drills ≠ performance in context


Slide 1

Six Facets of Understanding (P23)

  • Explain- provide thorough, supported, and justifiable accounts of phenomena, facts and data

  • Interpret- tell meaningful stories; offer apt translations; provide a revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make it personal or accessible through images, anecdotes, analogies, and models.

  • Apply- effectively use and adapt what is known in diverse contexts.

  • Perspective- can see and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture.

  • Empathize- find value in what others might find odd, alien, or implausible; perceive sensitively on the basis of prior direct experience.

  • Self-Knowledge - perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections, and habits of mind that both shape and impede our own understanding; having an awareness of what one does not understand and why understanding is so hard



Slide 1

What is understanding?

  • Understanding

    • Meaning of the facts

    • Theory that provides coherence and meaning to those facts

    • Fallible, in-process theories

    • A matter of degree or sophistication

      • I understand why it is.

      • I judge when to and when not to use what I know.

  • Knowledge

    • The facts

    • A body of coherent facts

    • Verifiable claims

      • I know something to be true.

      • I respond on cue with what I know.





Slide 1

...for what uses?

Without being taught how to use content ‘tools’

I have no understanding.


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Twin Sins

  • Activity oriented design

  • Coverage (not purposeful survey)—teaching by mentioning it.




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UBD Template – AMT based






Essential Questions






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Acquisition goals

  • Learn, with accurate and timely recall, important facts and discrete skills

  • Aim: automaticity of recall when needed in performance


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Acquisition goals

  • Know the future tense of estar

  • Find the slope of a line

  • Read fluently out loud

  • Accurately recall key facts on timeline of World War II

  • Calculate rate of acceleration

Authentic Education 2009


Slide 1

Making Meaning: The student

  • Making connections

  • Finding patterns

  • Identifying rules

  • Abstracting Principles


From B. Garner, Getting to Got it!



Authentic Education 2009


Slide 1

Meaning goals

  • How do I make connections & formulate generalizations, using the facts and skills?

    • e.g. main idea, proof, thesis, critique, interpretation, etc.

  • AIM: independent and defensible inferences about texts, data, experiences - ‘helpful and insightful understandings’


Slide 1

Making Meaning: Challenge Understanding by...

  • Providing new information that requires a student to extend the tentative understanding (broaden and confirm)

  • Providing conflicting information (contradictions-requiring re-thinking)

  • Proposing an alternative understanding (same problem in a new light)

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Meaning Making:challenge understanding by…

  • Adding complexity to the issue (confirming and contradicting)

  • Comparing new understanding to previous understandings about related issues (connect to prior learning and synthesize)

  • Provide a problem that cannot be solved with a naïve understanding (p 186)

    Novice assumes that a logical argument is enough to persuade. The more informed realizes that to persuade you have to know your audience.

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Meaning Making:challenge understanding by…

  • Requiring a Defense

  • By introducing a different perspective that must be accounted for

  • Testing an understanding against a new case (confirm, contradict or require adjustment)

Slide 1

Transfer Goals

  • Adapt your knowledge, skill, and understanding to specific and realistic situations and contexts

  • AIM: efficient, effective solutions for real-world (or realistic) challenges, audiences, purposes, settings


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Transfer Goals

  • Analyze real-world data to develop a price point for a bake sale

  • Use your understanding of Newton’s Laws to debug a failed design for a roller coaster

  • Given all your reading on ‘friendship’ and your experience, write a manual on how to be a best friend

  • Navigate your way in Spanish in a simulation of a busy train station

  • Develop an art installation for a specific institutional client

Slide 1

AMT in Driving

  • T: navigate varied real-world driving conditions, using all your skills, ideas, facts

  • M: Correctly and efficiently interpret the meaning of impending or current conditions, especially mindful of ‘drive defensively’

  • A: Acquire skills of steering, turning, braking, etc.; know the laws

Slide 1

AMT in math

  • T: solve a non-routine and unfamiliar problem in context in which there may or may not be a linear relationship

  • M: Correctly interpret the meaning of data patterns or line of ‘best fit’ of data points

  • A: Acquire skills of plotting point pairs, accurately drawing the graph of a line from a linear equation, etc.


Slide 1

What are the perfect answers:

  • 1. What are you learning?

  • 2. What are you being asked to do?

  • 3. How is this like something you have already learned?

  • 4. What will you do with this?

  • 5. What will it help you do that really matters?

  • 6. Why is it important to know this?


Slide 1

All effective units balance these three goals

  • Acquisition of knowledge and skills

  • Ability to consider, connect, infer – make meaning of challenging situations, puzzling facts, confusing texts, problems, etc.

  • Transfer of prior learning to new situations – activating the right knowledge and skill via understanding

Authentic Education 2009


Slide 1

That’s how long-term goals are lost

  • Content is the means; toward what end?

  • Consider:

    • Practicing medicine vs. learning the facts of medicine

    • Playing jazz vs. the ability to read music

    • Speaking French effectively vs. learning grammar and vocabulary

    • Solving problems on your own vs. learning algebra


Slide 1

Backward Design from Accomplishments Sought (Un-coverage of content)

  • I want students to leave my course having

  • understood that …

    • The Constitution was a solution, based upon compromiseto real and pressing problems and disagreements in governance. It was not just a ‘nice idea’ out of thin air.

    • It was a brilliant balance and limit of powers, but grounded in a long and sometimes bitter history, with many fights that arewith us and will always be with us.



Slide 1


  • I want students to transfer that understanding to…

    • The problem of designing a government for Iraq or establishing a system of governance for schools.

Slide 1

big ideas

Structure of Knowledge

Fairness, slavery, maturity, evolution, patterns

principles and generalizations

key concepts andcore processes

Pages 69-80

facts andskills


Slide 1

Big Ideas:

  • Connect the dots

  • Make sense of the discrete knowledge and skills

  • Endure

  • Require un-coverage

  • Provide the “Velcro”


Slide 1

The acid test for a Big Idea: Does it

  • have lasting value, with transfer to other inquiries?

  • serve as a key concept for making important facts, skills, and actions more connected, coherent, meaningful, useful?

  • epitomize “core” (not “basic”) insights in a subject or discipline?

  • require “un-coverage” (since it is an abstract or often-misunderstood idea)?

Slide 1


  • STAGE 1:

  • My long-term aim is for students to leave my class having understood that _____________________________[a big idea - e.g., “congruence” “narrative”]

  • AND leave my class able to use their prior learning, to _________________________________________ [a transfer goal - e.g., “to solve real-world problems” or “to write engaging and well-argued papers”].

Slide 1


I want my students to learn (big idea) _____________________________ so that (in the long run) they can (on their own) __________________________

(transfer goal)

Slide 1

Important to know and do

Worth being familiar with

General Eating patterns

Conditions requiring dietary restrictions

Type of food in each food group

Nutritional values

The USDA Food Pyramid

Food labels

You are what you eat. Your diet affects your health, appearance, and performance

Big Ideas or Enduring Understandings



Slide 1

Stage 1: Enduring Understandings

  • The student will understand that…

  • A balanced diet contributes to physical and mental health.

  • Healthful living requires an individual to act on available information about good nutrition even if it means breaking comfortable habits.


Slide 1

Stage 1: Essential Questions

  • What is healthful eating?

  • How could a healthy diet for one person be unhealthy for another?

  • Why are there so many health problems in the United States caused by poor eating despite available information?


Slide 1

Performance Tasks Based on 6 Facets of Understanding

  • Study a common phenomenon (e.g. weather data). Reveal subtle and easily overlooked patterns in the data.

  • Do a trend analysis of a finite data set.

  • Develop a new statistic for evaluating the value of a baseball player in key situations.

  • Explain (math)

  • Interpret

  • Apply


Slide 1

6 Facets (math)

Pages 168-169

  • Perspective

  • Empathy

  • Self-knowledge

  • Examine the differences when using various measures (e.g., mean, median, for calculating grades)

  • Read Flatland and a set of letters between mathematicians explaining why they fear publishing their findings; write a reflective essay on the difficulty of explaining new ideas, even abstract ones.

  • Develop a mathematical resume with a brief description of your intellectual strengths and weaknesses. P.158


Slide 1

Three Types of Classroom Assessments

Stage 3

Assessmentfor Learning

Stage 2



Slide 1

Transfer implies autonomous i.e. independent ability

  • Over time, the student must be required to figure out what to do on their own, then do it: judge, act, self-assess, self-adjust

  • Both meaning and transfer situations are inherently ambiguous – they challenge our understanding and ability.


Slide 1

Gradual Release of Teacher Responsibility

  • I do, you watch

  • I do, you help

  • You do, I help

  • You do, I watch

    • This is a general schema for the development of transfer ability at any age, in any subject


Slide 1

To make meaning of things via ideas is to...

  • ‘Connect the dots’ -

    • Make sense of (seemingly isolated) experiences, data, or facts

    • Identify the gist, point, purpose, significance, big idea

    • Draw appropriate (but not obvious) inferences (e.g. motive)


Slide 1

The need to understand is also key to engagement

  • “The art of holding interest lies in raising questions and delaying the answers...”

    – David Lodge, The Art of Fiction


Slide 1

UBD Template – AMT based




Transfer goal refers to Big Ideas


Essential Questions






Slide 1

State tests demand autonomous transfer!

  • Every formal testing situation requires meaning and transfer!

  • Consider the needed prior release of teacher responsibility:

    • Student gets no hints, scaffold, context clues

    • Student has to figure out which prior learning is relevant, with no teacher assistance.


Slide 1



Slide 1

A quick recap

  • What is understanding? P. 23

  • Backward planning (138-140)

  • Acquisition, make meaning, transfer

  • Big Ideas (67-79)

  • Transfer goal with a big idea: I want my students to learn _____ (big idea) so that on their own later on they can _________.

  • Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions (89-111)

  • Performance Task (136-207)

  • WHERETO (214-226)

Slide 1

WHERETO pages 214-226

  • Do not front load with acquisition

  • To hook the learner (begin with make meaning or transfer)

  • Give frequent feedback

  • Remember the release of responsibility (I do, you watch; I do, you help; you do, I help; and you do, I watch)

  • Allow for self-evaluation