In two different classes this week I have been introduced to the concept of Understanding by Design (UbD). It was a way of looking at the curriculum and planning from the desired end result and working backwards from there. You find or create the big idea found in the curriculum and then develop essential questions that will help students come to understand the big idea. From your essential questions you plan activities, projects, etc. that will help students answer these questions and begin to make meaning of the content that is being learned, enabling them to better wrestle with or address the beginning big idea. It really seems far more effective than matching activities and content with no defined purpose but the content itself.
My brilliant sister-in-law used UbD in creating her Romeo and Juliet unit titled, “Love, a Fair.” See? Brilliant. She wasn’t just having her students read Shakespeare because that’s what English classes do, it was for the purpose of looking at deeper issues involving love, the cost of loving, and helping students make sense of the work in relation to their own lives. And while the ECS class that covered UbD didn’t feature a horrible rap video like my ESST class on UbD, it did talk more about how assessment fits in. Varying assessments by tasks, content, and time can all help to provide the teacher with a clearer picture of student learning and understanding of the big idea.
It definitely feels like a more difficult way to plan, but it feels so worth it when I remember some of the classes I have endured that served no greater purpose than the final test.