Understanding by Design
One of the most effective curriculum designs is the Understanding by Design model. This type of curriculum designing has been described as backward
because teachers traditionally start curriculum planning with interesting activities and textbooks rather than looking at the big picture with the end
goals and enduring understanding in mind. Enduring understandings are obtained by students when teachers create learning experiences based on six
facets of understanding. The following facets are explored by means of essential questions students must answer and inquiry-based activities that
students must perform as evidence that they can apply the learning:
Explanation: making sense of something
Interpretation: providing understanding
Application: reflecting on real world situations
Perspective: seeing from a distance
Empathy: walking in another’s shoes
Self-knowledge: questioning our understandings in order to advance them
In the backward design model, the teacher starts with the end, the desired, results and then derives the curriculum from the evidence of learning
called for by the expectations and the teaching needed to equip students to perform.
Stage 1 – Enduring Understanding: What is worthy and requiring of understanding?
Stage 2 – Response to and Assessment of Essential Questions: What is evidence of understanding?
Stage 3 – Inquiry Experiences: What learning experiences and teaching promote understanding, interest, and excellence?
This Understanding by Design approach also requires that teachers determine acceptable levels of assessment evidence as they begin to plan the unit.
Common practice indicates that teachers think about assessment at the end of the unit, once the teaching is completed. Having teachers determine
what they would accept as evidence that students have attained the desired understanding and proficiencies before proceeding to plan teaching and
learning experiences enables them to remain focused on the desired results.
Inquiry-based learning is founded on students taking the lead in their own learning, but it still requires planning. Projects must fit into the larger
program structure, goals, and plans, but the students will be actively involved in planning the projects and asking the questions that launch their