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Understanding by Design.

June 29, 2018

Learning plans. If you are in education, then you have experienced your fair share of learning plans - spending hours "unpacking the standards" and filling out your district's homemade or adopted learning plan format for your units. I have seen my fair share of learning plans, but have recently been introduced to two new ones I personally haven't heard of - Wiggins & McTighe's Understanding by Design and Fink's 3 Column Table. These designs follow the planning backwards model, where you start with your end goals in mind. 


Last week I dove head first into Fink's 3 Column Table to design my course plan for how I was going to equip my fellow Innovative Learning Specialists in my district with the skills and mindset they would need to implement their own makerspace at their school. This week I did the same, but used Wiggin's and McTighe's Understanding by Design template. Click the images below to view both plans. 
















It was an eyeopening experience, doing one learning plan and then doing another using the same information. I really enjoyed doing both since they gave me two different perspectives on my disruptive innovation plan. For the purposes of these designs, I used the 4 day "makerspace conference" training I am giving my fellow Innovative Learning Specialists in my district as my course or unit. 

The 3 Column Table allowed me to create a nice overview of my entire conference by starting with the big overall goal, or BHAG (big hairy audacious goal). I was able to get a feel of everything I wanted my co-workers to walk away with at the end of the 4 day conference and write out tangible goals along with activities that would equip them with the skills and knowledge needed and assessments to ensure that they met the goals. 


Understanding by Design on the other hand is more granular in it's structure and isn't meant to achieve 1 giant goal, but instead a few smaller goals. I couldn't plan out all 4 days using this model at once, it is better suited for designing 1 day at a time. In my eyes, the 3 Column Table is my conference's overview or outline and the Understanding by Design is my daily lesson plan because it allows you write out each step numerically of what you are going to do. 


Since the 3 Column Table is more of an overview of my entire 4 day conference and the Understanding by Design is 1 day at a time, I needed to chunk the 6 components of my table into smaller pieces for my Understanding by Design. 


To do this I took the first two components of the 3 Column Table,

 and created attainable goals for the first day of my 4 day conference. 

Now to just finished chunking the rest of my table into bite size (or day sized) pieces to create 3 more Understanding by Design plans for the other 3 days of my makerspace conference! I am a huge fan of both of these models, seeing the benefit of outlining your entire unit using Fink's 3 Column Table and then going into more detailed planning using Wiggin's and McTighe's Understanding by Design. 


One step closer to bringing my Disruptive Innovation Plan to life!! 






Fink, L.D. (2003) A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design, Expanded 2nd Edition. Pearson. ISBN 0131950843



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