Understanding by Design, one more go


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Is this backward or forward design?

I have so far written three posts about understanding by design. The first is about my issues about DepEd’s adoption of understanding by design (UbD), the second is about the information posted about UbD Philippines in WikiPilipinas and the third is about curriculum change and UbD. These posts are very popular especially for readers from the Philippines. This is understandable as our Department of Education wants teachers to implement UbD this June 2010, barely two months from now. I don’t know if there’s a training out there about UbD for our public school teachers. Maybe they will have one, a week before the school year starts this June.

Anyway, I am writing this post because some readers land on this blog searching for things like “how to teach algebra using UbD”, “teaching integers the UbD way”, etc. I don’t know if they are just looking for lesson plans using UbD which they will never find in this blog or there’s a misconception out there that UbD is a way of teaching. It is not. It is more a way of planning your lesson rather than how to teach your lesson. In fact the only difference that I see between UbD and the current way of planning the lesson is in the format, not in the way you will actually teach the lesson. UbD says theirs uses backward design. In this model you start with thinking on how you will assess understanding before selecting and organizing your learning activities.  For lack of term, let’s call the traditional method forward design. In this model you think about how you will assess understanding after selecting and organizing your learning activities. In both models of course you start with your learning goals. In UbD it’s called enduring understanding, in the traditional one it is called objectives.

I attended an international conference on science and mathematics teaching a few months ago. One of the parallel session presenter reported her research which compares the use of UbD way of planning the lesson and their so called usual way of planning the lesson for science. She said the class taught using UbD performed better than the one taught using the traditional one. So I asked why is that? She said that it’s because the class taught using UbD used inquiry-based teaching and the class taught using the traditional lesson plan format was taught by lecture method. So I asked further: In your country’s traditional way of planning the lesson, is it not possible to organize the lesson using inquiry-based teaching and teach it that way. She said, “of course we can, and we do. It depends upon the teacher”. There you go. Backward or forward design,  it’s still the teaching and not the format nor the way the lesson plan is prepared that spells the difference in learning.

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19 Responses to Understanding by Design, one more go

  1. Samuel Soliven says:

    I find the discussion interesting. I was able to attend the UbD-DepEd-FAPE National Conference in February 2010. It was more on dispensing information about UbD and Differentiated Instruction. Of course fundamental topics about them must be understood. Of course, we received several books and brochures. I did my best to dissect them. There, I learned about the UbD template. I look at UbD as a planning model for curricular and instructional implementation. It sets a direction not only for a day or two but even more seeing to it that the Facets, WHERETO, GRASPS, E-FU-T-D are considered. The principles and methods that we learned in our Education subjects when we were college do not mean that they are passe but these are UbD and DI enrichment.

    Then, I attended a Regional UbD conference. I was able to weave for clarity these things. It is true, little by little these will sink into our educational paradigms. Let us continue understanding UbD & DI, implement eventually and let us hope that optimism resides in us to be able to track its desired consequence.

    Right now, our private high school is not implementing it yet. I still have to help my teachers appreciate these. We are determined that we will be more prepared to implement them in SY 2011-2012.

  2. lee s. lipata says:

    ***components of learning plan

  3. lee s. lipata says:

    4 days seminar about UbD for teachers like us is not enough…We just advised to attend the seminar last June 7,2010 and day one half day,day two lecture,day three UbD planning,day four execution…with out giving any materials to use?With out explaining to us what is UbD,and what are the inclusion of learning plan?Or what are the componens of the learning plan.I thought the DepEd should give us hard copy of template on learning plan and Unit Plan so that it will not take us 2 to 3 hours to make our own learning plan..and implementation of this UbD started at the opening of classes.And it is advisable to use if the class size is only 40 students per room not like us , as 65 students per classroom…how about other schools who have 65 or more students per class?New curriculum is not the answer for the development and competencies of students.It should be the HIRING of new teachers to replace retired teachers and building new classrooms.Teachers are too tired for 5 teaching loads with 65 students per section plus an advisory class… As for me,I just use explore,firm up,deepen and transfer as my learning plan.

  4. juvy says:

    UBD as what i have learned is more like of looking into the learners’ perspective. its making the learners find meaning on every lesson they are having thus putting a lasting value to every lesson learned. suppose the lesson is about the national symbols.the skill shud not focus only to let learners know the different symbols of their country yet it is why should it be necessary for them to know their national symbols….thats the lating value… (mine isn’t more of a comment rather an addition to this posted blog)

    • erlines says:

      UbD is a framework for curriculum planning e.g lesson plans. It is a way of planning not a way of teaching. Current reforms in teaching all give emphasis on organizing the lesson from the learners’ point of view not just UbD.

      The DepEd’s UbD adaptation prescribed a way of organizing the lesson (Stage 3): Explore, Firm Up, Deepen and Transfer. Some teachers doing UbD plan their lessons according to this without going through Stages 1 and 2 of UbD. Its Stages 1 and 2 which makes UbD, UbD. These two stages are supposed to inform Stage 3.

      • Hi! It’s been a while since I last popped in. I’m glad to see some new comments, and so I add in some myself.

        I agree with you that schools now are starting with changes in formats in their curriculum and lesson plans, which however does not, or has not YET translated to changes in how teachers teach, and consequently, how students learn. I therefore disagree with your statement that UbD is “not a way of teaching”.

        For teachers teaching for many years now, many things we do now are habits. And we know habits, both good and bad, are hard to break. Change takes time. My estimate is that after three years of “soaking up” in the changes in format, and with more training and re-learning, teachers will see how their ways of teaching will be changed for the better.

        I like UbD not because I believe it will work wonders overnight. It won’t. I like it because I believe it presents some way towards improvement…. Teaching the essentials, not the trivial stuff. Pushing for heart-and-hand learning, beyond head learning. Emphasis on analysis and utility, not just memorization.

        We’re just getting started. Let’s not shoot UbD because it’s not yet delivering results. Of course, we should work and hope for the other necessary reforms in education for us to have results sooner than later. UbD is good, but it takes more than just UbD to solve our problems.

      • erlines says:

        UbD is a framework for planning the lesson. Check out the site of the original proponent of UbD. Most of our teachers understands UbD in terms of Stage 3 only which the Deped re-interpreted as Explore, Firm-up, Deepen and Transfer. Nowhere in the original UbD will you find this. UbD itself does not prescribe a particular way of teaching. Note that without going through Stages 1 and 2, you are not using the UbD framework. Most teachers go straight to Stage 3. Some of them who were given prepared learning plan do not even bother to read what’s written in Stages 1 and 2. It’s funny that in the US, they promote UbD so that their teachers will make their own plan and be able articulate the enduring understanding they should focus on when they prepare the instructional design/activities. Here UbD is being promoted so that teachers will no longer make their own plans.

        The DepED framework Explore, Firm-Up, Deepen, and Transfer for teaching has a lot of potential. The problem is it is being interpreted in different ways by different teachers. One of which is dividing a chapter into four parts corresponding aspect of the framework.

  5. mba delhi says:

    I really appreciate the kind of topics you post here. Thanks for sharing us a great information that is actually helpful. Good day!

  6. Pingback: Enduring understanding « keeping math simple

  7. _|¯|O says:

    Finally, someone standing up against UbD.

    I know it’s not that bad but I hate it how speakers and administrators “worship” UbD, when it’s just a format.

    And unfortunately for Math teachers, the format is not very applicable to Math. It messes up a lot of things for us.

    • Hi! I’m quite sad that some people actually say that UbD is just a format… of documents like lesson plans and syllabus. Yes, the changes in formats are necessary, but it doesn’t end there. UbD is a framework for teaching and learning. The change in format should lead to significant changes on how teachers teach, and how students learn.

      So, how will teachers go beyond the change in formats? Teachers should continue reading, learning, and reflecting on their practice. When one acknowledges that there’s a lot of room to improve, then change will be seen as necessary, and not just a burden.

  8. However, with due respect to the wisdom of the UbD framework, teachers who have good content knowledge will really be helped to be more effective. We have good teachers who really know their stuff, but somehow are shackled to teach in the traditional ways, maybe because of administrative and parental pressures. Or maybe, the traditional way is the only way they know… or that they think they are fine with the straightforward way: lecture, drills, homeworks, exams, such that they don’t see the need to ‘level up’. These kinds of teachers will greatly benefit from doing UbD.

    • erlines says:

      I agree with you about teachers benefiting in UbD if they have strong content knowledge. The curriculum framework is another factor. The curriculum framework in the US supports UbD. Ours? Well, you know how it looks like. I wonder where many of our teachers will get support for articulating the big ideas or “enduring understanding” when they plan the lesson

  9. Hahahah! The last paragraph captures it very well. No amount of re-designing will solve our problems if we don’t address the need for teachers who really know their stuff. No amount of reformatting will help a teacher with mediocre content knowledge to suddenly become an effective teacher.

  10. xtian says:

    i agree with you ma’am

  11. Amit says:

    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.Any way Ill be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon
    bba india

  12. Pingback: Tweets that mention Understanding by Design, one more go « assessing and teaching K-12 mathematics -- Topsy.com

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