As educators, we are constantly striving to create impactful and meaningful learning experiences for our students. The Understanding by Design (UBD) framework provides a powerful approach to curriculum writing that enables us to design instruction with the end goals in mind. By incorporating the UBD framework and its practices into our curriculum development process, we can enhance our ability to create effective and engaging learning experiences.
In this blog post, we will explore why the UBD framework is a valuable tool for curriculum writing and how it can empower educators in their quest to design transformative educational experiences.
Focusing on Student Understanding
The UBD framework places a strong emphasis on student understanding as the ultimate goal of education. By starting with the end in mind, educators can identify the desired results they want their students to achieve. This approach ensures that curriculum development is driven by clear learning objectives and enduring understandings. By prioritizing understanding over mere content coverage, educators can design instruction that promotes deep learning and critical thinking. The UBD framework encourages educators to design activities, assessments, and learning experiences that allow students to apply their knowledge in real-world contexts, fostering the long-term transfer of learning.
- Math Education: In a math class, educators using the UBD framework may want to develop students’ ability to solve complex real-world problems using mathematical concepts. They would then design learning experiences that promote deep understanding and critical thinking, such as engaging students in problem-solving activities that require them to apply their mathematical knowledge in practical situations. Assessments would focus on students’ ability to transfer their learning by solving similar problems in different contexts.
- History Education: In a history curriculum, educators may be looking to grow students’ ability to analyze historical events and draw connections between the past and present. They would design learning experiences that foster critical thinking and historical understanding, such as engaging students in primary source analysis and debates about the implications of past events. Assessments might include tasks that require students to apply their knowledge by examining current events through a historical lens.
- Science Education: In a science class, educators need to develop students’ ability to apply scientific principles to real-world phenomena. They would design learning experiences that promote deep understanding and scientific inquiry, such as conducting experiments and investigations that allow students to explore scientific concepts in practical contexts. Assessments would focus on students’ ability to transfer their knowledge by applying scientific principles to new situations or designing their own experiments.
- English Learners: In an English Learner class, educators could use the UBD framework to improve students’ ability to communicate effectively in English in both written and spoken forms. They would design learning experiences that prioritize understanding and language acquisition, such as engaging students in interactive activities, role-plays, and discussions that promote language usage and fluency. Educators would incorporate authentic materials and real-world contexts to help students apply their language skills in practical situations. Assessments would focus on students’ ability to effectively communicate their ideas and demonstrate language proficiency through writing assignments, presentations, and oral assessments.
Summer Curriculum Writing Boot Camp UbD Framework for English Learners
This four-day workshop will support the development of meaningful and authentic ELD units of study. Using the Understanding by Design for the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Classroom framework (Heineke & McTighe, 2018), participants will create one holistic unit of study to implement at the start of the school year, as well as build the foundational understandings of backward-designed ELD curriculum to continue to apply throughout the school year.
UbD Framework for ALL Curriculum Writing Teams
How might we design learning experiences that increase the likelihood that students will deeply understand content and be able to apply it in meaningful and authentic ways? For over 25 years, educators around the world have used the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework to create challenging and engaging curriculum. In this design workshop, participants will explore the key ideas of UbD and apply their learning to create a unit of study.
Backward Design for Coherent Instruction
One of the strengths of the UBD framework is its emphasis on backward design. By first identifying the desired results and acceptable evidence of learning, educators can then plan the learning experiences and instructional strategies that will best support those goals. This intentional and coherent approach ensures that every component of the curriculum is aligned with the desired outcomes. It helps educators create a logical and sequential progression of instruction that guides students toward mastery. The backward design also allows for flexibility and adaptability, enabling educators to tailor instruction to meet the diverse needs of their students while maintaining a clear focus on the end goals.
Promoting Transferable Knowledge and Skills
The UBD framework recognizes the importance of developing students’ ability to transfer their learning to new situations and contexts. Long-term transfer goals are central to the UBD approach, aiming to equip students with knowledge and skills that extend beyond the immediate learning environment. By designing a curriculum with transfer in mind, educators help students develop the critical thinking, problem-solving, and metacognitive skills necessary for success in the real world. The UBD framework fosters a love for learning and encourages students to become lifelong learners who can apply their knowledge and skills in meaningful ways throughout their lives.
Through its backward design approach, the UBD framework enables educators to design a curriculum with clear learning objectives and enduring understandings. By incorporating these elements into the curriculum writing process, educators can create effective and engaging learning experiences with prioritization of student understanding.