Many people may be familiar with the Understanding by Design work of Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. I was first introduced to their work in 2003 when teaching at Bonn International School. I have continued to adhere to their philosophy but it wasn’t until recently that I picked up their book and re-read it. And in doing so, I experienced renewed surprise at how in-depth and thorough their work is and how ‘watered down’ it seems to have gotten where it matters the most – in the classroom.
Some people love to throw buzz words around and ‘backward design’ appears to have suffered in the overuse of edu-speak. When you read the book, the way in which the planning process is laid out is so detailed and thorough with such a strong emphasis on understanding (versus simple knowledge acquisition). The blueprint for deriving authentic assessments is also incredible thorough and the whole process really helps you to stop thinking like an activity planner and start thinking like an assessor with your goal being to provide a meaningful context in which kids can develop their understanding.
So, what are the three brilliant resources?
1. UbD Design Guide Worksheets – This is a series of examples of what UbD performance tasks look like. It is really helpful for me to see a ‘worked example’ and this file does a great job of walking you, step-by-step through the process with examples of a myriad of assessment possibilities to determine understanding.
2. Techniques to Check for Understanding – From pp.166/167 of their book, this file is 2 pages of 8 techniques that you can use to check for understanding from your students. These could be used anytime but in particular would be good to modify as needed for exit tickets to give your students at the conclusion of lessons.
3. Essential Questions – This is probably my favorite of the three resources. As teachers, we ask so many questions – but are they essential? This is a longer read than the other two resources but very thorough and detailed and will definitely give you a lot to work with when designing questions to ask in your classroom.