Students must have a deep understanding of educational material to effectively use academic knowledge in real life situations, and the district K-12 curriculum must support that goal in the classroom.
As the foundation for a district-wide analysis of curriculum design, Warwick Valley Central School District teachers recently participated in professional development training to learn about the educational concept, Understanding by Design (UbD), which focuses on curriculum and teaching.
Understanding by Design® (UbD™), widely used since the late 1990s, 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.
District teachers at all grade levels will receive UbD training, with individual grade K-6 teachers attending smaller sessions and grade 7-12 teachers attending by academic department (ie science, math, etc.). Trainers from Standards Solutions, LLC recently conducted workshops to provide an introduction to the UbD concept.
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 key ideas.
The two key ideas of UbD are contained in the title:
1) focus on teaching and assessing for understanding and learning transfer
2) design curriculum “backward” from those ends
Basic concepts of UbD are “begin with the end in mind” and “look at what you need students to leave with, and remember in ten years.” Explained one trainer, “Students need to have a deep understanding of educational material, and teachers need to ask if students can use and apply what they’ve learned in real life situations.”
Curriculum mapping is a process for recording an overview of what content and skills are actually taught in a classroom, school, or district over the course of the school year. It also involves ensuring that there is continuity in the curriculum from grade to grade.
Using the calendar as an organizer, teachers describe or “map” a year’s curriculum in monthly or grading period “chunks” as it is actually taught. The resulting document is a chart or map of the content, skills, and assessments that describe learning in a classroom, and the knowledge and skills that students are expected to master over a period of years.
The Curriculum Team leaders at the elementary level presented at both Park Avenue and Sanfordville the idea of “curriculum mapping” to faculty, and worked on a variety of activities to help promote the understanding of curriculum mapping.
Supporting the district curriculum design initiative
This professional development supports the district’s curriculum design initiative, and UbD is vital to the design of the curriculum mapping process. The training is designed to help teachers understand the rigor necessary in the curriculum, and open up conversation in buildings and within departments.
Most of the Understanding by Design (UbD) training sessions have now been offered for all departments and grade levels, with training for the Music and Art departments scheduled for January.