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Understanding by Design

Understanding by Design
What is Understanding by Design (UbD)?
* A Framework to plan instruction and assessments
that transfers knowledge.
* Backwards teaching – begin with the end in mind
• Three stages
“In teaching students for understanding, we must grasp the key idea that we
are coaches of their ability to play the ‘game’ of performing with
understanding, not tellers of our understanding to them on the sidelines.”
(Bowen, 2017)
Stage One
Stage Two
Stage Three
Identify desired
Determine how to
measure results.
Plan learning
experiences and
Transfer of Knowledge
Traditional approach…
UbD approach
Textbook IS the course
Textbook is a resource
Excel in the lesson
Excel in using the lesson in other settings
Learn math
Use math for real world problems
Memorize historical facts
Recognize historical patterns
Plan by content categories
Plan by learning goals desired
Students are bored
Teachers create interest
Get an A
Transfer useful understanding
Syllabus rules
Understand essential questions
Essential questions guide
Stage One…
Desired Results - ACQUIRE
Determine learning goals that lead to understanding and connections in
real life settings.
Where are we going?
What will student understand?
How will student transfer knowledge learned to other settings?
Stage Two…
Evidence – Making Meaning
Determine what is student now able to do.
Look at how a student can demonstrate understanding of knowledge
Plan quizzes, portfolios, assessments, peer feedback, tests, reflections to
capture performance abilities for evaluation.
Can student: explain, interpret apply, shift perspective, show empathy,
and self-assess? (Wiggins, 2011)
Stage Three…
Learning Plan - TRANSFER
Choose instructional practices, strategies and events to be used
Select resources to support end result.
Determine sequencing of learning strategies and activites.
All three stages must relate to the other.
All activities or exercises are tied to meaning-making, transfer, acquisition
All lessons and activities in each stage are tied to standards.
UbD is a tool to use to move past the age old question, “Why do we have to
learn this?”.
Keywords in UbD
Alignment – assess content that is being transferred at all stages
Meaning-making – students own and understand, rather than rote
repetition for a grade.
Transfer – student has authentic knowledge and can use it in another
Acquisition – a means to understand and use content knowledge
Essential questions – what information is required for meaning and transfer.
Socratic questioning allows for student effort in gaining understanding,
rather than teacher “teaching”.
Assessment – Six facets
Before planning,
teachers must
think about how
to measure and
asses successful
Students must show they can:
Explain concepts
Interpret data
Apply in new settings
See the big picture
Show empathy
Demonstrate self-wareness
Benefits for Students
Student owns and actively internalizes meaning
Student can transfer learning to new situations
Student can build on learning to deepen understanding
Student acquires knowledge base but can equally apply.
Benefits for Teachers
Encourages development of short-term and long-term teaching goals.
Makes the most of teachable moments.
Levels the learning responsibility to partnership with student.
Download and create a copy of the UbD template for teaching planning:
For the remainder of the training:
Collaborate with your table partners and review the stages and facets of IbD
planning. Choose a goal for knowledge, Determine assessment activities,
Create opportunities for application.
Bowen, Ryan S., (2017). Understanding by Design. Vanderbilt University
Center for Teaching. Retrieved [January 12, 2019] from
Schrio, M. (2013). Conflicting visions and enduring concerns. Retrieved
from ttps://viewer.gcu.edu/rRxBPH
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2011). The Understanding by Design guide to
creating high-quality units. Alexandria, VA: ASCD
Wiggins, G. (2012, February 12). What is UbD? [Video file]. Retrieved from
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