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Paperback Understanding by Design Book

ISBN: 1416600353

ISBN13: 9781416600350

Understanding by Design

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Book Overview

What is understanding and how does it differ from knowledge? How can we determine the big ideas worth understanding? Why is understanding an important teaching goal, and how do we know when students have attained it? How can we create a rigorous and engaging curriculum that focuses on understanding and leads to improved student performance in today's high-stakes, standards-based environment?Authors Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe answer these and many...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Thought Provoking, Critical, Essential

With respect to some of the previous reviewers, I really don't think they have done justice to this book. I'll completely expose my inner geek and admit that curriculum design is fascinating to me, and add that I own a considerable number of books on the topic. I am particularly interested in differentiating curricula, and I purchase books about educational theory and classroom ideas the way other women purchase shoes--insatiably. I have constantly challenged myself to create personalized lessons with meaningful learning goals throughout my teaching career, but I will say that this book has definitely changed the way I view teaching and curricular design--and for the better. I liked this book because it embraces the numerous messy variables that exist in the real world of teaching, and provides a template for you to construct meaningful, integrated learning activities for students. These messy variables include differing student interests and abilities, the struggle to keep activities engaging as well as applicable to important premises of a given discipline, as well as logistical restraints, such as time and access to resources. Other models provide neat flow charts that look beautiful, but often prove unusable given a unique teaching situation (and who doesn't have a unique teaching situation?) This philosophy expects messy variability, and gives a vision and a plan to work with that, instead of hoping everything will turn out neatly. Here are some of the huge ideas I got from this book. First, it is essential to clarify the "so what?" of whatever you are teaching--the big ideas, the principles of the field, the "It" things you want students to come away with. I have always done this instinctively, but I have not been so great about communicating those principles clearly and repeatedly to students (and parents and colleagues). The idea that students can be actively involved in the philosophy and understanding behind the curricular design (as well as, of course, make choices as part of the lessons), was a light bulb for me. Also, teaching often tends to become scattered with lots of facts and pressure to "cover" information, and clarifying these big ideas and working from there makes intuitive sense--if it doesn't connect to the big ideas you've established as critical, then the lesson doesn't belong. Perhaps these ideas seem like huge "duh" statements, but in the real world of teaching, I think very few people manage to adequately establish the critical issues, articulate and refer to them with students, and connect them to related ideas throughout the term. This book really is a valuable resource for doing the hard, thinking work that teachers really are capable of doing. It provides direction in an environment bound by paperwork and directives that have us running in circles. It is not the idea of backward design that's revolutionary, but the practicality of the technique that aligns so well with what good teachers instinctivel

Completely changed the way I look at teaching

I first learned of this excellent book at a professional development workshop that was offered by my school. I was immediately driven to buy it and learn all that I could about the backwards design process. One year later I find myself planning ALL of my units around enduring understandings and essential questions. It really makes sense that students can demonstrate understanding in various ways, and that it is our duty as teachers to allow them to do that with as many opportunities as possible. This year I finally feel that my students are really connecting with what I want them to learn, and they are seeing the "big picture." I will never design a unit the "traditional" way again!

A good read

McTighe and Williams successfully expound on a subject often mired in philosophical debate: how to assess understanding and evaluate true learning. It is an outstanding framework for developing curriculum intent on extending beyond traditional methods of teaching and preaching to students. The authors contend that true understanding can be assessed by measuring performance against six facets of understanding: explanation, interpretation, application, perspective, empathy, and self-knowledge. These facets are vital to developing curriculum and the authors do an outstanding job of presenting the material in charts, and exercises, making a difficult topic easier to understand. Comparing and contrasting covering material and uncovering knowledge serves to help teachers think like assessors, rather than activity planners. Helpful design tools are included throughout the book and teachers are instructed to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching with thoughtful and probing questions.Understanding by Design will serve as my guide for evaluating my own effectiveness as a teacher. I expect to rely on it to gauge my own competency in developing and executing lessons. Examples throughout the book illuminating the practical applications of each of the six facets are well organized and easy to follow. I found the use of keywords and charts especially helpful in furthering my own understanding of how to uncover knowledge. I am confident that if I remain faithful to the tenets of this book, I will be able to put into practice what I believe constitutes effective strategies for learning: student-centered activities which call upon students to question assumptions, draw upon past knowledge, and advance understanding through incremental learning

ideology you can put to work

"The student ...(believes).. that there is neat and clean knowledge out there and it is my job to learn (i.e., memorize) and use it as directed. A key challenge in teaching for understanding is to make the student's view of knowledge ... more sophisticated by revealing the problems, controversies, and assumptions that lie behind much given and seemingly unproblematic knowledge." I found this book on the way to another book, and I couldn't have been more delighted. Professional educators often feel the dichotomy between meeting national, state, and local goals and standards, and the real teaching that seems to have nothing to do with district benchmarks or standardized tests. These authors propose a "backwards design process" that begins with the standards or outcomes desired, but then using these as guidelines to developing essential questions & understandings that actually matter beyond the classroom, then structuring the curriculum around these posed questions. They discuss the difference between covering the material, and using questions to `uncover' the material. They using first hand examples of practice and texts to clearly exemplify what they mean. I found it exciting, inspiring, and extremely helpful.

Wiggins and McTighe have written a great book!

Wiggins and McTighe provide an outstanding framework for curriculum design and assessment in this book. As they explain, understanding is so much greater than simply knowing. Their six "facets" of understanding will enable students to really understand as the curriculum is "uncovered," rather than being "covered." Advocating that you "begin with the end in mind," the authors explain a design process that is backward to what most people do. You begin with the desired end result, followed by the development of assessment activities, asking "What would count as evidence of successful teaching?" Only after you do this do you begin to consider the design of units, activities, and actual plans. Helpful design tools that can be used throughout the process are also included. One of my favorites is the chart that contrasts the questions that would be asked if you were "thinking like an assessor" to those that would be asked if you were "thinking like an activity designer." I believe this book should be read by any educator concerned about students' understanding and interest in what is taught in school today.
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