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Understanding By Design (UbD)

     This module had us start from the end result, our established learning goals, and work the opposite direction. Understanding by backward design was the purpose. Wiggins and McTighe noted that as you began the process that some parts of the planning would feel very much like common sense (2005, pg.10) but other parts would be counterintuitive to what you may believe are good theories for good planning and assessment. I am not sure at what point I should have found the work counterintuitive, perhaps because I came to teaching via practice in a technical program and not through the traditional educational channels. The process felt very fluid and easy to understand. I became exhilarated that I knew what the next step would be and the activities easily followed based on the WHERETO (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, pg.22). I have included the chart below as the starting place for this module. My UbD template follows and then my reflection of this activity as compared to Fink's 3-Column table in the last module. All have been, dare I say "fun", to complete.

"The most effective instructional interaction is a well thought out question." - M. David Merrill                      


W- WHERE are we going? WHY? WHAT is expected?

H- HOOK all students and hold their interests?

E- EQUIP students, help them EXPERIENCE the key ideas and EXPLORE the issues.

R- Provide opportunities to RETHINK and REVISE their understanding and work.

EAllow students to EVALUATE their work and its implications.

T- Be TAILORED to the interests, needs, and abilities of the learner.

O-Be ORGANIZED to maximize initial and sustained engagement as well as effective                        learning.

  Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). WHERETO. In Understanding by design (pp. 22), Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

      It has been a very eye-opening process to  work through these units and realize that my last 18 years of teaching I could have been far more effective in both planning and facilitating learning for my students. I wouldn't mind even just going back a few semesters to the beginning of this program because I am finally beginning to understand the theories behind instructional design and how tools such as Fink's 3-Column Table and the UbD template for backward design are career altering for me and even more so for the students under my watch. I am grateful that my innovation plan left areas for expansion and we were encouraged to think outside the box. I did not fully understand what I was doing or proposing but it has been interesting to see the plan evolve as I have worked through these units on design. I now feel confident that I can evolve the plan into effective learning when at the beginning I could not even imagine that I would figure out how to make it happen. Trust the process.

       It was very helpful to use both these tools to cover the same unit of information  I approached this assignment differently than I have all the others because I created both my 3-table column and my UbD design template  before I  looked over the many different examples of both. I did go back and revise each assignment based on some of the best examples I reviewed but I am becoming much more comfortable creating in the space of my own choice and voice. It has been a difficult but very rewarding process to reach this level of understanding and I am just scratching the surface. Fink's 3-Column Table appeared to me to be better for the beginning process of lesson plan or the biggest picture. Dr. Grogan explained many times that each module focused down even further onto the instructional plan and I appreciated this most in these last two sections. Although the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) from Fink's did translate nicely to the Established Goals section of the Ubd design, I felt the need for much greater detail in the UbD template. Even though each section required much of the same data, the details of the activities and the outcomes increased dramatically from my 3-Column table to my UbD template.  I was continually forced to break down each section by reaching further by asking "What does that really mean? What do I really want? What is the end goal?" The UbD template much more naturally encourages the answers to the questions of WHERETO(Wiggins & McTighe, 2205, pg.22)? However, I believe both of these tools should be used in tandem for the most effective outcomes. I don't think those questions would have been nearly as easy to answer if I had not started with Fink's 3-Column Table. I will be using Fink's as an over-arching plan for each course but I will use the UbD design for the units within each course. 

      Although very difficult, I have continued to find some solace in that I have considered many of the elements before even if I  have not been able to implement them in the most effective way.  I am most excited that these two plans will help translate those previously random elements of learning into a cohesive and  effective plan to promote better understanding. I believe the quote below best encompasses what has happened since I began this program and I will work to ensure my students also train their mind to think. 


Education is not the learning of facts but, the training of the mind to think."

                                       -Albert Einstein



Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating significant learning experiences, revised and updated an integrated approach to            designing college courses. Jossey-Bass.


Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design (expanded second ed.). Alexandria, Virginia:               Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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