Reading Response #3

Introduction—
The Logic of Backward Design

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The Understanding by Design Professional Development Workbook is designed primarily as

a resource for participants in Understanding by Design (UbD) workshops and under-

graduate and graduate-level courses. It is also intended to support educators develop-

ing curricula and assessments with a focus on developing and deepening students’

understanding of important ideas. The workbook builds on the ideas presented in its

companion publication, Understanding by Design, with an emphasis on the practical

issues of curriculum design.

To support learning and applying the ideas of Understanding by Design, the work-

book contains the following six categories of materials:

1. Design Templates—practical organizers based on the three stages of backward

design for use in developing a unit or course. One-, two-, and six-page versions

of the UbD Template are provided.

2. Design Standards—criteria for reviewing curricular designs as a means of con-

tinuous improvement. The UbD Standards guide self-assessment and peer

reviews, whereby colleagues provide feedback and guidance on each other’s

designs.

3. Exercises and Process Tools—thought-provoking workshop activities for

developing and deepening participants’ understanding of the key ideas of UbD.

A set of review and reflection tools is included.

4. Design Tools—a variety of practical worksheets and graphic organizers are

available to assist designers in each stage of backward design.

5. Examples—multiple examples from diverse subject areas and levels illustrate

the various elements of understanding-based designs.

6. Glossary—definitions of key terms.

We recommend that readers also access the Understanding by Design Exchange

Web site (http://ubdexchange.org). The site features electronic design templates based

on backward design, a searchable database of curriculum units and assessment tasks

created in the UbD format, and an online review process based on the Design Standards.

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Introduction

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Additional resources, such as hot links to other supportive Web sites, answers to

Frequently Asked Questions, and expert reviews are offered to members.

Product Versus Process

It is important for users of this workbook to distinguish between the goal of their design

work—producing a coherent design with clear alignment among the three stages—and

the process of achieving it. To use an analogy, think of curriculum design in terms of two

bookends. The first, a completed design in the UbD Template form; the second, a set of

design standards for reviewing (and improving) the design. Everything in between—

including the tools used, design sequence, and examples studied—is process. You’ll

notice that the design tools contain letter codes linked to the corresponding field on the

Design Template to help users see the process–product connection.

We were inclusive in selecting examples, exercises, and design tools for the UbD

Workbook because one size does not fit all. After all, curriculum design work is idiosyn-

cratic: the preferred starting points, the sequences, and the tools used will be as varied

as there are individual users in unique settings.

We have found that different people resonate with various approaches and tools,

depending on the content and their own preferred style. For example, in Stage 1 there

are six different design tools for prioritizing the curriculum and identifying the “big

ideas” worth understanding. Although each tool has proven useful to some people some

of the time, rarely would a single designer use them all.

Thus, users are encouraged to be selective and choose only those approaches and

tools that work for them. Resist the urge to work on every page or to fill in all of the

blanks on a design sheet. In other words, always keep the end result in mind, and don’t

get lost in the details!

Sequence

Curriculum design is not only idiosyncratic, but iterative. Although there is a clear logic

embodied in the three stages of backward design, the process is not rigidly linear or

step-by-step. Therefore, users of the UbD Workbook should not feel compelled to work

through the materials in a rigid sequence. Indeed, successful designers find themselves

constantly circling back to aspects of the design that need to be revised or rethought

entirely in light of reflection, feedback from others, and experience with learners.

Building a unit or course design is thus more like painting from a blank canvas than

painting by numbers, more like cooking from available ingredients than following

cookbook recipes. As educational designers, we are like architects developing a blue-

print. The architect cannot (in one fell swoop) listen to the client, review the building

codes, research materials and labor costs, and develop a blueprint by following a step-

by-step recipe. The blueprint emerges through a process of trying out ideas, getting

feedback, matching the proposed ideas to the reality of the available space and client

wishes. Each design idea affects other design ideas—and leads to a new, perhaps unex-

pected reaction by the client, who requires more changes.

On the other hand, there are some crucial givens in architecture: building codes,

budget, and the number of rooms. The challenge in design is to keep playing with the

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imaginative possibilities while ensuring that all the givens are honored. So, too, in cur-

ricular design. The designer can imagine all sorts of wonderful possibilities, but a new

idea about learning activities may require a rethinking of the proposed assessment plan.

Givens exist here, as well, including state content standards, realistic time and resource

constraints, student achievement levels, and interest—all of which must be balanced

with our imagination.

Thus, this workbook cannot and does not provide a step-by-step procedure for

constructing a unit or course, any more than there is a foolproof procedure for devel-

oping architectural blueprints. What we have done is to organize the book according to

the three stages of backward design, while allowing designers to begin in different places

and follow varied pathways to achieve the same end—a complete design that meets

standards.

We do not intend for participants in professional development workshops and univer-

sity courses to march through the workbook page by page. Instead, think of this publi-

cation as a toolbox, and choose the tools for the job in a sequence that works for you.

We hope and trust that the Exercises, Examples, Templates, Design Tools, and Stan-

dards will lead to improved curriculum designs—units and courses focused explicitly

on important questions and big ideas worthy of understanding, more convincing evi-

dence of understanding by students, and more engaging instruction and learning for

students and teachers alike. Ultimately, observable and measurable improvements in

learning and performance will result.

I n t r o d u c t i o n

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U n d e r s t a n d i n g b y D e s i g n P r o f e s s i o n a l D e v e l o p m e n t W o r k b o o k

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A Social Studies Unit

Topic

Activities

Assessments

Topic: Westward Movement and Pioneer Life
Social Studies—3rd Grade

1. Read textbook section—“Life on the Prairie.” Answer the end-of-chapter questions.

2. Read and discuss Sarah Plain and Tall. Complete a word-search puzzle of pioneer vocabulary
terms from the story.

3. Create a pioneer-life memory box with artifacts that reflect what life might be like for a child
traveling west or living on the prairie.

4. Pioneer Day activities: Dress in pioneer clothes and complete the learning stations.

a. Churn butter

b. Play 19th-century game

c. Send letter home with sealing wax

d. Play “dress the pioneer” computer game

e. Make a corn husk doll

f. Quilting

g. Tin punching

1. Quiz on pioneer vocabulary terms from Sarah Plain and Tall

2. Answers to end-of-chapter questions on pioneer life

3. Show and tell for memory-box contents

4. Completion of seven learning stations during Pioneer Day

5. Student reflections on the unit

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© 2004 All rights reserved.®

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© 2004 All rights reserved.®

Students will understand that . . .

a. Read textbook section “Life on the Prairie.”
Answer the end-of-chapter questions.

b. Read Sarah Plain and Tall. Complete word
search on pioneer vocabulary.

c. Create a pioneer life trunk with artifacts you
might take on a journey to a new life.

d. Prairie Day activities:

1. Churn butter

2. Play a 19th-century game

3. Seal a letter with sealing wax

4. Play “dress the pioneer” computer game

5. Make a corn husk doll

6. Quilting

7. Tin punching

• Factual information about prairie life
• Pioneer vocabulary terms
• The story, Sarah Plain and Tall

a. Show and tell for the memory box and its
contents: What would you put in it? Why?

b. Quiz on pioneer vocabulary from Sarah Plain
and Tall

c. Answers to factual questions on Sarah Plain
and Tall and from the textbook chapter

d. Written unit reflection

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Activity-Oriented Design
(Before Backward Design)

Stage 1—Desired Results

Stage 2—Assessment Evidence

Stage 3—Learning Plan

Established Goals:

Understandings:

Performance Tasks:

Learning Activities:

Other Evidence:

Students will be able to. . .Students will know. . .

Essential Questions:

Topic: Westward Movement and Pioneer Life
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© 2004 All rights reserved.®

Students will understand that . . .
Understandings:

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After Backward Design

Stage 2—Assessment Evidence

Stage 3—Learning Plan

Performance Tasks:

Learning Activities:

Other Evidence:

• Why do people move? Why did the pioneers leave
their homes to head west?

• How do geography and topography affect travel and
settlement?

• Why did some pioneers survive and prosper while others
did not?

• What is a pioneer? What is “pioneer spirit”?

• Many pioneers had naive ideas about the opportunities
and difficulties of moving West.

• People move for a variety of reasons—for new economic
opportunities, greater freedoms, or to flee something.

• Successful pioneers rely on courage, ingenuity, and
collaboration to overcome hardships and challenges.

• Oral or written response to one of the Essential
Questions

• Drawings showing hardships of pioneer life
• Test on facts about westward expansion, life on the

prairie, and basic geography
• Using pioneer vocabulary in context
• Explanation of the memory box contents

• Use K-W-L to assess students’ prior knowledge and identify learning goals for the unit.
• Revise Prairie Day activities (e.g., substitute Oregon Trail 2 computer simulation for “dress the pioneer” and ask for

journal entries while the simulation is played).
• Include other fictional readings linked to the identified content standards or understandings (e.g., Little House on the

Prairie, Butter in the Well ).
• Create a timeline map of a pioneer family’s journey west.
• Add nonfiction sources to accommodate various reading levels, such as Life on the Oregon Trail, Diaries of Pioneer

Women and Dakota Dugout. Guide students in using a variety of resources to research the period.
• Review the scoring rubrics for memory box, museum display, letters, and journals before students begin the

performance tasks. Include opportunities for students to study examples of these products.

2D—Explain the lure of the West while comparing the illusions of migrants with the reality of the frontier.
5A—Demonstrate understanding of the movements of large groups of people in the United States now and long ago.

Source: National Standards for United States History

• Key facts about the westward movement and pioneer
life on the prairie

• Pioneer vocabulary terms
• Basic geography (i.e., the travel routes of pioneers and

location of their settlements)

• Recognize, define, and use pioneer vocabulary in context
• Use research skills (with guidance) to find out about

life on the wagon train and prairie
• Express their findings orally and in writing

OET

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After Backward Design

Stage 1—Desired Results

Established Goals:

Students will be able to . . .Students will know . . .

Essential Questions:

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• Create a museum display, including artifacts, pictures,
and diary entries, depicting a week in the life of a family
of settlers living on the prairie. (What common misunder-
standings do folks today have about prairie life and
westward settlement?)

• Write one letter a day (each representing a month of
travel) to a friend “back east” describing your life on the
wagon train and the prairie. Tell about your hopes and
dreams, then explain what life on the frontier was really
like. (Students may also draw pictures and explain orally.)

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© 2004 All rights reserved.®

Students will understand that . . .

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After Backward Design (continued)

Stage 1—Desired Results

Stage 2—Assessment Evidence

Stage 3—Learning Plan

Established Goals:

Understandings:

Performance Tasks:

Learning Activities:

Other Evidence:

• The settlement of the West threatened the
lifestyle and culture of Native American tribes
living on the plains.

Students will be able to . . .Students will know . . .

Essential Questions:

• Stage a simulated meeting of a council of elders of a Native American tribe living on the plains to have
students consider a different perspective.

• Discuss: “What should we do when threatened with relocation—fight, flee, or agree to move (to a
reservation)? What effect would each course of action have on our lives?”

2D—Students analyze cultural interactions among diverse groups (consider multiple perspectives).
Source: National Standards for United States History, p. 108

• Key factual information about Native American
tribes living on the plains and their interactions
with the settlers

• Imagine that you are an elderly tribal member
who has witnessed the settlement of the plains
by the “pioneers.” Tell a story to your 8-year-old
granddaughter about the impact of the settlers
on your life. (This performance task may be done
orally or in writing.)

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• Whose “story” is it?
• Who were the winners and who were the losers in

the settlement of the West?
• What happens when cultures collide?

• Quiz on facts about Native American tribes
living on the plains

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Textbook-Oriented Design
(Before Backward Design)

Geometry

Stage 1—Desired Results

Stage 2—Assessment Evidence

Stage 3—Learning Plan

Established Goals:

Understandings:

Performance Tasks:

Learning Activities:

Other Evidence:

Students will be able to . . .Students will know . . .

Students will understand that . . .
Essential Questions:

a. Odd-numbered problems in full
Chapter Review, pp. 516–519

b. Progress on self-test, p. 515

c. Homework: each third question in subchapter
reviews and all explorations

• Read Chapter 10 in UCSMP Geometry.
• Exploration 22, p. 482: “Containers holding small amounts can be made to appear to hold more than

they do by making them long and thin. Give some examples.”
• Exploration 25, p. 509: “Unlike a cone or cylinder, it is impossible to make an accurate two-dimensional

net for a sphere. For this reason, maps of earth are distorted. The Mercator projection is one way to
show the earth. How is this projection made?”

Topic: Surface Area and Volume (geometry)

• How to calculate surface area and volume for
various 3-dimensional figures

• Cavalieri’s Principle
• Other volume and surface-area formulas

• Use Cavalieri’s Principle to compare volumes
• Use other volume and surface-area formulas

to compare shapes

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Students will understand that . . .

After Backward Design
Geometry

Stage 1—Desired Results

Stage 2—Assessment Evidence

Stage 3—Learning Plan

Established Goals:

Understandings:

Performance Tasks:

Learning Activities:

Other Evidence:

• The adaptation of mathematical models and ideas
to human problems requires careful judgment and
sensitivity to impact.

• Mapping three dimensions onto two (or two onto
three) may introduce distortions.

• Sometimes the best mathematical answer is not the
best solution to real-world problems.

Students will be able to . . .Students will know . . .

Essential Questions:

a. Odd-numbered problems in full
Chapter Review, pp. 516–519

b. Progress on self-test, p. 515

c. Homework: each third question in subchapter
reviews and all explorations

• Investigate the relationship of surface areas and vol-
ume of various containers (e.g., tuna fish cans, cereal
boxes, Pringles, candy packages).

• Investigate different map projections to determine
their mathematical accuracy (i.e., degree of
distortion).

a. Read Chapter 10 in UCSMP Geometry

b. Exploration 22, p. 504

c. Exploration 22, p. 482

d. Exploration 25, p. 509

IL MATH 7C3b, 4b: Use models and formulas to find surface areas and volumes.
IL MATH 9A: Construct models in 2D/3D; make perspective drawings.

Source: Illinois Mathematics Standards

• Formulas for calculating surface area and volume
• Cavalieri’s Principle

• Calculate surface area and volume for various
3-dimensional figures

• Use Cavalieri’s Principle to compare volumes

• Packaging problem: What is the ideal container
for shipping bulk quantities of M&M’s packages
cost-effectively to stores? (Note: the “best”
mathematical answer—a sphere—is not the
best solution to this problem.)

• As a consultant to the United Nations, propose the
least controversial 2-dimensional map of the world.
Explain your mathematical reasoning.

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• How well can pure mathematics model messy, real-
world situations?

• When is the best mathematical answer not the best
solution to a problem?

© 2004 All rights reserved.®

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© 2004 All rights reserved.®

UbD: Stages of Backward Design

The backward design approach consists of three general stages:

Stage 1. Identify Desired Results. In Stage 1 we consider the goals. What

should students know, understand, and be able to do? What big ideas are worthy of

understanding and implied in the established goals (e.g., content standards, curriculum

objectives)? What “enduring” understandings are desired? What provocative questions

are worth pursuing to guide student inquiry into these big ideas? What specific knowl-

edge and skills are targeted in the goals and needed for effective performance?

Stage 2. Determine Acceptable Evidence. In the second stage we consider evi-

dence of learning. How will we know if students have achieved the desired results and

met the content standards? How will we know that students really understand the iden-

tified big ideas? What will we accept as evidence of proficiency? The backward design

orientation suggests that we think about our design in terms of the collected assessment

evidence needed to document and validate that the desired results of Stage 1 have been

achieved.

Stage 3. Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction. With identified results

and appropriate evidence of understanding in mind, it is now time to finalize a plan

for the learning activities. What will need to be taught and coached, and how should it

best be taught, in light of the performance goals? What sequence of activity best suits

the desired results? In planning the learning activities, we consider the WHERETO ele-

ments (described later) as guidelines. Those guidelines can be summed up in a ques-

tion: How will we make learning both engaging and effective, given the goals and

needed evidence?

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1. Identify

desired

results.

2. Determine

acceptable

evidence.

3. Plan learning

experiences

and instruction.

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Students will understand that . . .

1-Page Template

Stage 1—Desired Results

Stage 2—Assessment Evidence

Stage 3—Learning Plan

Established Goals:

Understandings:

Performance Tasks:

Learning Activities:

Other Evidence:

Students will be able to . . .Students will know . . .

Essential Questions:

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1-Page Template with Design Questions

Stage 1—Desired Results

Stage 2—Assessment Evidence

Stage 3—Learning Plan

Established Goals:

Understandings:

Performance Tasks:

Learning Activities:

Other Evidence:

• What are the big ideas?
• What specific understandings about them are

desired?
• What misunderstandings are predictable?

Students will be able to . . .Students will know . . .

Students will understand that . . .
Essential Questions:

• Through what other evidence (e.g., quizzes,
tests, academic prompts, observations,
homework, journals) will students demon-
strate achievement of the desired results?

• How will students reflect upon and self-
assess their learning?

What learning experiences and instruction will enable students to achieve the desired results? How will
the design

W = Help the students know Where the unit is going and What is expected? Help the teacher know Where
the students are coming from (prior knowledge, interests)?

H = Hook all students and Hold their interest?
E = Equip students, help them Experience the key ideas and Explore the issues?
R = Provide opportunities to Rethink and Revise their understandings and work?
E = Allow students to Evaluate their work and its implications?
T = Be Tailored (personalized) to the different needs, interests and abilities of learners?
O = Be Organized to maximize initial and sustained engagement as well as effective learning?

• What relevant goals (e.g., content standards, course or program objectives, learning outcomes) will this
design address?

• What key knowledge and skills will students acquire as a result of this unit?
• What should they eventually be able to do as a result of such knowledge and skill?

• Through what authentic performance tasks
will students demonstrate the desired
understandings?

• By what criteria will performances of
understanding be judged?

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• What provocative questions will foster inquiry,
understanding, and transfer of learning?

© 2004 All rights reserved.®

00–Introduction–1-28 2/3/04 12:10 PM Page 14

I n t r o d u c t i o n

15© 2004 All rights reserved.®

Alignment: The Logic of Backward Design
Westward Expansion and Pioneer Life

(What Do the Desired Results Imply?)

Stage 3Stage 2Stage 1

If the desired result is for

learners to . . .

Then, you need evidence of

the students’ ability to . . .

Then, the learning activities

need to . . .

Understand that . . .

• Many lives were sacrificed and
hardships endured to settle the
West.

• Many pioneers had naive ideas
about the opportunities and
difficulties of moving west.

• All pioneers display great
ingenuity, courage, and
collaboration in overcoming
obstacles.

And thoughtfully

consider the questions . . .

• Why do people move? Why did
pioneers leave their homes to
head west?

• What is a pioneer?

• Why did some pioneers survive
and prosper while others did
not?

• Infer from examining primary
and secondary accounts why the
migrants left home to travel
west and what pioneers’ lives
were really like.

• Find and select appropriate
information sources about
westward movement and pioneer
life (e.g., in the library and on the
Internet).

• Use pioneer terms and historical
facts accurately in various
contexts.

Then, the tasks to be

assessed need to include

some things like . . .

• Create a museum display, includ-
ing artifacts, pictures, and diary
entries, depicting a week in the
life of a family of settlers living
on the prairie. (What common
misunderstandings do folks
today have about prairie life?)

• Write one letter a day (each
representing a month of travel)
to a friend “back east” describ-
ing life on the wagon train and
the prairie.

• Pass a test on basic facts
about westward expansion
and prairie life.

• Respond orally or in writing to
one of the Essential Questions.

• Create drawings showing
hardships of pioneer life.

Help students
1. Learn about westward movement

and prairie life,
2. Empathize with the pioneers and

their challenges and
3. Show what they have learned by:

• Reading, viewing, and discus-
sing primary and secondary
information sources.

• Reading and discussing rele-
vant literature, such as Little
House on the Prairie.

• Using computer simulations,
such as Oregon Trail 2.

• Making the big ideas real
through experiential activities
(e.g., Prairie Day) near the
outset of the unit and dis-
cussing and reflecting on the
meaning of the experiences.

• Gathering additional informa-
tion through research.

• Showing what an interesting
and effective museum display
is like.

• Offering models and providing
guided practice in writing let-
ters and journals.

• Providing feedback on the
performance and product work
under construction.

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00–Introduction–1-28 2/3/04 12:10 PM Page 15

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