“top 5 things every admin and teachers needs to know about UbD”

This past week we presented at our district annual technology conference. I had the opportunity to present with Taryn Lehman, a Caruso ELA teacher as well as Amy Rubin our Director of Assessment. Even though the basis of the conference was focused on technology, we discussed the importance of how technology supports pedagogy. During our presentation, we focused on the top 5 things every admin and teacher needs to know about Understanding by Design (UbD).

In case you are wondering, “what in the world is UbD?”, check out this short video clip by Jay McTighe (co-founder of UbD along with Grant Wiggins).


The following are the top 5 elements of UbD*:

1. UbD unit is like a navigation system. When planning your unit, think of this process like planning a vacation; there are many ways that you can reach your destination. Although you could arrive at your vacation by driving, flying, walking etc., you need to have a goal and a plan in mind (i.e.where are you going and how are you going to get there).

2. In a UbD unit, the evidence collected should reflect a photo album. There is more than one way to show evidence of learning. Every unit should have a collection of photos that have a variety of ways that students can demonstrate their learning (i.e. learning logs, reflection, performance based assessments, prompts that specify performance tasks such as format, audience, topic and purpose (Brown).

3. A UbD unit is a framework that provides personalized learning experience for all students. Teachers should think of a variety of ways that students can show evidence of what they can do as well as what they know.

4. Teachers need the time to plan a viable UbD unit. Administrators can help provide time for teachers to discuss and plan a UbD unit. In my experience leading our monthly PLC team meetings, I modeled and explained UbD (click TEMPLATEUbDformat for an example). Give teachers opportunity to discuss and own the unit planning process and encourage them to plan with the end in mind!

5. When planning a UbD unit think of the acronym WHERETO. As John Brown outlines in his book, Making the most of Understanding by Design, when planning a UbD unit keep in mind:

W:where students are headed and why they are going there

H:how will students reach their destination

E:what evidence will you collect that shows evidence of what students know and can be able to do

R:constantly revise, revisit and rethink your UbD unit

E:how can students express their understanding in meaningful evaluation

T: create opportunities for tailored instruction that matches students learning needs

O: organize the unit so that students know what they are expected to understand and know and do (learning targets objectives) and how will you know they know it (evidence)

There are a variety of ways that one can accomplish a creative and engaging UbD unit. When we presented this at the tech conference we shared a presentation of additional resources that we found (click here to see more!). In addition, a quick search of “understanding by design” on Pinterest provides a plentiful amount of templates and resources.

As Jay McTigue says, “Think big, plan small, and go for the win!”. If you are planning a UbD unit for the first time and/or have additional questions, feel free to reach out!

*Many of these points that we shared during our presentation are from John Brown’s book, Making the most of Understanding by Design. To read and learn more, check out his book!

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