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What is Understanding By Design?

It's Planning & Thinking Rather Than Covering the Textbook

It's Teaching & Assessing for Understanding & Transfer

We want students to understand the transferable skills and the big ideas.  This implies that we will assess for understanding - not just knowledge.  Can our students show understanding? Can they explain a concept in their own words? Can they teach it to someone else?  Ultimately, the end goal is understanding and transfer. It's not marching through a textbook. It's not solely fun activities.
Therefore, we should ask the following questions as we plan our units of study and map out our curriculum:

Stage 1: Identify Desired Results

Key Questions:

  • What should students know, understand, and be able to do?

  • What is the ultimate transfer we seek as a result of this unit?

  • What enduring under­standings are desired?

  • What essential questions will be explored in-depth and provide focus to all learning?


Stage 2: Determine Assessment Evidence

Key Questions:

  • How will we know if stu­dents have achieved the desired results?

  • What will we accept as evidence of stu­dent understanding and their ability to use (transfer) their learning in new situations?

  • How will we evaluate student performance in fair and consistent ways?

Stage 3:  Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction

Key Questions:

  • How will we support learn­ers as they come to understand important ideas and processes?

  • How will we prepare them to autonomously transfer their learn­ing?

  • What enabling knowledge and skills will students need to perform effectively and achieve desired results?

  • What activi­ties, sequence, and resources are best suited to accomplish our goals?

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