With so many states having adopted the Common Core Standards, there is renewed discussion of how we use standards to guide our instructional planning. We don’t “teach the standards;” rather, we teach so our students will achieve the standards.
Wiggins and McTighe’s masterpiece Understanding by Design, or UbD (ASCD, expanded 2nd ed., 2006), gives us a comprehensive guide to “beginning with the end in mind,” or as some of my university colleagues call it, “reverse engineering.” When we start our planning by asking what we want our students to know and the things we want them to be able to do, we begin on a strong footing that can be a North Star for our instruction.
Wiggins and McTighe’s encourage us to keep thinking from there. Once you know what goal they need to reach, how are you going to measure them to make sure they reach it? This is the heart of assessment: measuring to see if students have met the standard, if they’ve learned what you set out for them to learn.
Only after you know these to things, the authors point out, are you able to effectively plan their learning experiences. That’s how we can design for understanding.
The UbD framework makes so much sense when you see it on this screen, doesn’t it? Of course that is how we should plan lessons. It’s so logical!
Yet despite this sage wisdom, there is often a tension between what we know we should do as instructional planners and what we do. As schools, to meet ever-more-severe budget reductions, continue to shed staff, expand class size, and meet growing quantities of mandates, sometimes the thing that gets pushed to the wayside is the very thing that should center us: instructional planning.
What are you doing to align the assessments you give — feedback, rubrics, checklists, or qualitative feedback — with the standards or objectives you set out to achieve?