Understanding by Design

EVERYBODY IS JUMPING ON THE “NEW” EDUCATION BANDWAGON CALLED UNDERSTANDING BY DESIGN AS A FOCUS OF RECENT CURRICULAR REFORMS. IT IS IMPLEMENTED ON THE FIRST TWO YEARS OF THE SECONDARY EDUCATION.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN THE UBD? WHAT DO YOU NOT LIKE? WRITE DOWN YOUR REASONS /REACTIONS. CITE THEORIES TO SUPPORT YOUR ANSWER.

I. INTRODUCTION/BACKGROUND
UNDERSTANDING BY DESIGN IS A CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK FOR EDUCATION ANCHORED ON THE TENET OF “TEACHING FOR UNDERSTANDING”. THE EMPHASIS OF UBD IS ON “BACKWARD DESIGN”, THE PRACTICE OF LOOKING AT THE OUTCOMES IN ORDER TO DESIGN CURRICULUM UNITS, PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS, AND CLASSROOM INSTRUCTIONS. THE UBD FRAMEWORK WAS DESIGNED BY NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED EDUCATORS GRANT WIGGINS AND JAY MCTIGHE.
DEFINED BY WIGGINS AND MCTIGHE, UNDERSTANDING BY DESIGN IS A “FRAMEWORK FOR DESIGNING CURRICULUM UNITS, PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENTS, AND INSTRUCTION THAT LEAD STUDENTS TO DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF THE CONTENT YOU TEACH,” UBD EXPANDS ON “SIX FACETS OF UNDERSTANDING”, WHICH INCLUDE STUDENTS BEING ABLE TO EXPLAIN, INTERPRET, APPLY, HAVE PERSPECTIVE, EMPATHIZE, AND HAVE SELF-KNOWLEDGE ABOUT A GIVEN TOPIC.
BECAUSE OF ITS SUCCESS IN THE UNITED STATES, THE UBD FRAMEWORK SLOWLY MADE ITS WAY INTO THE PHILIPPINE EDUCATION SYSTEM. EARLIER IMPLEMENTED IN THE PRIVATE SCHOOLS, THE INTEGRATION OF THE UBD FRAMEWORK IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM WAS BEGUN AS EARLY AS 2007, WITH AN ORDER BY THEN MAYOR ENRICO “RECOM” ECHIVERRI THAT THE FRAMEWORK BE IMPLEMENTED IN THE BASIC EDUCATION CURRICULUM OF CALOOCAN CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS. THIS MOVE WAS BACKED BY SENATE RESOLUTION 1295, FILED BY SEN. MANNY VILLAR IN AUGUST 2009, WHICH SUPPORTS THE IMPLEMENTATION OF UBD FRAMEWORK IN THE BASIC EDUCATION CURRICULUM.

II. BODY/CONTENT
TEACHERS, ACCORDING TO UBD PROPONENTS, TRADITIONALLY START CURRICULUM PLANNING WITH ACTIVITIES AND TEXTBOOKS INSTEAD OF IDENTIFYING CLASSROOM LEARNING GOALS AND PLANNING TOWARDS THAT GOAL. IN BACKWARD DESIGN, THE TEACHER STARTS WITH CLASSROOM OUTCOMES AND THEN PLANS THE CURRICULUM, CHOOSING ACTIVITIES AND MATERIALS THAT HELP DETERMINE STUDENT ABILITY AND FOSTER STUDENT LEARNING.
BACKWARD DESIGN AIMS AT ELIMINATING TWO COMMON FLAWS IN THE TRADITIONAL METHOD: COVERAGE-FOCUSED TEACHING AND ACTIVITY-FOCUSED TEACHING. IN COVERAGE-FOCUSED TEACHING, EDUCATORS TRY TO COVER ALL TOPICS AS SPECIFIED BY A TEXTBOOK FOR THE WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR, BUT END UP WITH STUDENTS WHO DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY THEY ARE BEING TAUGHT THIS MUCH INFORMATION. IN ACTIVITY-FOCUSED TEACHING, EDUCATORS COME UP WITH ALL SORTS OF ACTIVITIES THAT STUDENTS PARTICIPATE IN AND ENJOY, BUT AGAIN, STUDENTS DO NOT COMPLETELY UNDERSTAND WHY. THIS IS WHAT BACKWARD DESIGN AIMS TO RESOLVE: TO MAKE STUDENTS UNDERSTAND AND GAIN A DEEPER INSIGHT INTO WHY THEY ARE BEING TAUGHT INFORMATION OR MADE TO PARTICIPATE IN ACTIVITIES.
UBD HAS FOR ITS GOAL THE APPLICATION OF LEARNING TO REAL LIFE. AS SUCH THIS CANNOT BE DONE ON A SINGLE DAY, ON A SINGLE LESSON. BUT EACH SINGLE DAY AND EACH SINGLE LESSON SERVES AS SCAFFOLDING TOWARDS REAL LIFE APPLICATION.
IN ENGLISH PARTICULARLY, UBD SEEMINGLY PRESENTS THE SAME LESSONS EACH GRADING PERIOD FROM FIRST YEAR TO FOURTH YEAR. BUT THIS IS NOT SO. EVERY YEAR, THE LESSONS BECOME MORE COMPLEX ALTHOUGH BASICALLY IT IS UNDER THE SAME “CATEGORY.” YOU MAY ASK, WHO DECIDES TO MAKE IT MORE COMPLEX? THE ANSWER TO THAT IS SIMPLY EACH ONE OF US, THE TEACHERS. IT IS WE OURSELVES WHO KNOW OUR STUDENTS THEREFORE WE SHOULD DIAGNOSE WHAT OUR STUDENTS HAVE LEARNED FROM THE UBD OF LAST YEAR. FROM THERE, BUILD UP THE LESSONS.
UBD IS NOT ABOUT QUANTITY BUT QUALITY. UBD IS ABOUT TRANSFER OF KNOWLEDGE NOT ABOUT HOW MANY POETRY LESSONS WE HAVE CONDUCTED. OUR MAIN CONCERN SHOULD BE WHETHER OUR STUDENTS ARE ABLE TO TRANSFER WHAT WE HAVE TAUGHT THEM. TRANSFER TO REAL LIFE CONCERNS SHOULD BE OUR DAILY GOAL. WE CONDUCT OUR LESSONS WITH THE OBJECTIVE THAT THEY WILL BE ABLE TO TRANSFER IT.
BUT IT IS SAID THAT THERE ARE ALWAYS TWO SIDES IN A COIN. ON ONE SIDE, UBD EMBRACES THE NUMEROUS MESSY VARIABLES THAT EXIST IN THE REAL WORLD OF TEACHING, AND PROVIDES A TEMPLATE 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.
ON THE OTHER HAND, THE SIX FACETS OF UNDERSTANDING ALLOW THE TEACHER OR ASSESSOR TO ASSERT THAT THE PARTICIPATOR IN A LESSON INFLUENCED BY UNDERSTANDING BY DESIGN HAS BEEN ADVANCED FURTHER ALONG AN ARBITRARY LINEAR SPECTRUM CALLED “UNDERSTANDING” THAN MIGHT OTHERWISE HAVE BEEN THE CASE. NO MORE AND NO LESS.

IT IS THEREFORE A USEFUL RUBRIC FOR ACCOMPLISHING SOME PRAGMATIC CLASSROOM TASKS, BUT IT HAS NOTHING NEW TO SAY ABOUT UNDERSTANDING.
IF YOU PLAN LESSONS THAT MAY BROADLY BE DESCRIBED AS
* OPEN ENDED
* BASED ON STANDARDS
* CONTAINING CLEAR CRITERIA FOR STUDENT SUCCESS
* INCLUDE DIFFERENT WAYS TO ENSURE STUDENT ENTHUSIASM
* FLEXIBLE ENOUGH TO ACCOMMODATE THE “TEACHABLE MOMENT”
* ACCESSING THE HIGHER ECHELONS OF BLOOM’S TAXONOMY
* INTEGRATING SKILLS
THEN THE LIKELIHOOD IS YOU WON’T LEARN ANYTHING NEW FROM UNDERSTANDING BY DESIGN. IF YOU DON’T ALREADY DO THE ABOVE, UNDERSTANDING BY DESIGN MAY BE A USEFUL TOOL TOWARDS SELF-IMPROVEMENT AS A TEACHER.

III. CONCLUSION
IN GENERAL, UBD IS THE SAME SHEEP IN DIFFERENT COAT BECAUSE MANY TEACHING STRATEGIES HAVE ALREADY BEEN IN USE IN THE FIELD SUCH AS THE DEDUCTIVE AND THE INDUCTIVE METHODS OF DELIVERING THE LESSON. BACKWARD DESIGN AS A PROBLEM-SOLVING STRATEGY CAN EVEN BE TRACED BACK TO THE ANCIENT GREEKS. IN HIS BOOK “HOW TO SOLVE IT” (1945), THE HUNGARIAN MATHEMATICIAN GEORGE POLYA NOTED THAT THE GREEKS USED THE STRATEGY OF “THINKING BACKWARD” BY KNOWING WHAT YOU WANT AS A SOLUTION IN ORDER TO SOLVE A PROBLEM.
OTHER TENETS OF UBD HAVE ALSO BEEN SUPPORTED BY STUDIES INFLUENCING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT IN AMERICAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, SUCH AS ONE BY SMITH, LEE AND NEWMANN IN 2001 WHICH SHOW THAT INTERACTIVE METHODS OF TEACHING HELP STUDENTS LEARN MORE IN READING AND MATHEMATICS. INTERACTIVE TEACHING–DEFINED BY THE STUDY AS “APPLICATIONS OR INTERPRETATIONS OF THE MATERIAL TO DEVELOP NEW OR DEEPER UNDERSTANDINGS OF A GIVEN TOPIC” — ARE SIMILAR TO THE METHODS ESPOUSED BY THE UBD.

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