An Introduction to Understanding by Design (UbD)



Understanding by Design® (UbD™) is a framework for improving student achievement. Emphasizing the teacher’s critical role as a designer of student learning, UbD™ works within the standards-driven curriculum to help teachers clarify learning goals, devise revealing assessments of student understanding, and craft effective and engaging learning activities.

Developed by nationally recognized educators Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Understanding by Design® is based on the following key ideas:

A primary goal of education should be the development and deepening of student understanding.

  • Students reveal their understanding most effectively when they are provided with complex, authentic opportunities to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self-assess. When applied to complex tasks, these “six facets” provide a conceptual lens through which teachers can better assess student understanding.
  • Effective curriculum development reflects a three-stage design process called “backward design” that delays the planning of classroom activities until goals have been clarified and assessments designed. This process helps to avoid the twin problems of “textbook coverage” and “activity-oriented” teaching, in which no clear priorities and purposes are apparent.
  • Student and school performance gains are achieved through regular reviews of results (achievement data and student work) followed by targeted adjustments to curriculum and instruction.
  • Teachers become most effective when they seek feedback from students and their peers and use that feedback to adjust approaches to design and teaching.

A detailed slide presentation to “backward planning” can be viewed here. Several other slide presentations are on the same page as the link. 

An Overview of UbD and the Three Page Template can be found here. While you can pay for a subscription to UbD online, a less expensive way would be to purchase the ASCD published book on UbD* (see the link below) and use the web as an open resource. 


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