In effective classrooms, teachers consistently attend to at least four elements: whom they teach (students), where they teach (learning environment), what they teach (content), and how they teach (instruction). If teachers lose sight of any one of the elements and cease investing effort in it, the whole fabric of their work is damaged and the quality of learning impaired.
Understanding by Design focuses on what we teach and what assessment evidence we need to collect. Its primary goal is delineating and guiding application of sound principles of curriculum design. It also emphasizes how we teach, particularly ways of teaching for student understanding. Understanding by Design is predominantly a curriculum application design model.
Differentiated Instruction focuses on whom we teach, where we teach, and how we teach. Its primary goal is ensuring that teachers focus on processes and procedures that ensure effective learning for varied individuals. Differentiation is predominantly an instructional application design model.
Quality classrooms evolve around powerful knowledge that works for each student. They require quality curriculum and quality instruction. In tandem, UbD and DI provide structures, tools, and guidance for developing curriculum and instruction based on our current best understandings of teaching and learning.
That the two models stem from current best understandings of teaching and learning. It is useful to view the “axioms” and “corollaries” that demonstrate ways the two models interface. The axioms are fundamental principles of Understanding by Design. The corollaries demonstrate the way in which Differentiated Instruction works to ensure that each student will have access to and support for success with the axioms. Together, the axioms and corollaries illustrate some ways in which UbD and DI work in tandem toward shared goals.
The primary goal of quality curriculum design is to develop and deepen student understanding.
Evidence of student understanding is revealed when students apply (transfer) knowledge in authentic contexts.
Corollaries for Axiom 2
Effective curriculum development following the principles of backward design helps avoid the twin problems of textbook coverage and activity-oriented teaching in which no clear priorities and purposes are apparent.
Corollaries for Axiom 3
Regular reviews of curriculum and assessment designs, based on design standards, provide quality control and inform needed adjustments. Regular reviews of “results” (i.e., student achievement) should be followed by needed adjustments to curriculum and instruction.
Corollaries to Axiom 4
Teachers provide opportunities for students to explore, interpret, apply, shift perspectives, empathize, and self-assess. These six facets provide conceptual lenses through which student understanding is assessed.
Corollaries to Axiom 5
Teachers, students, and districts benefit by “working smarter” and using technology and other vehicles to collaboratively design, share, and critique units of study.
Corollaries to Axiom 6
UbD is a way of thinking, not a program. Educators adapt its tools and materials with the goal of promoting better student understanding.
Corollaries to Axiom 7
Together, backward design and differentiation describe a comprehensive way of thinking about curriculum, assessment, and instruction, stemming from a shared understanding of what constitutes effective teaching and learning. In the instructional planning of teachers guided by backward design and differentiation, we should expect to see systematic attention to content goals they plan to teach and to the students who will learn them. Teachers will focus on clarity of goal and flexibility in arriving at the goal.
Copyright © 2006 by Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. All rights reserved.