Heading where I’m going and where I want to end up

Posted: November 8, 2010 in Uncategorized


 “Understanding by Design” by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe

 As part of North Vancouver focus Group looking at Backward Design, I was first introduced to this book in the fall of 2009. It has helped me to take a look at what I’m doing by suggesting other ways of looking at my practice.

 Wiggins and McTighe argue that “too many teachers focus on the teaching and not the learning” i.e. what will I, the teacher, require to teach, instead of what will my students need in order to learn. The shift then goes from such questions as “What book will we read?” or “What activities will we do?” to “What should they walk out the door able to understand, regardless of what activities or texts we use?” and “What is the evidence of such ability?”. This appeals to me as being a much more desirable outcome for my students. So how can I go about it?

The authors suggest the solution can be found in Backwards Design with, put in its simplest terms, these three stages:

Step one: identify desired results

Step two: determine acceptable evidence

 Step three: plan learning experiences and instruction

 It sounds simple and straightforward but it posed me more of a challenge than I had expected. To clarify, to put down in writing the exact desired results requires more than just copying down objectives laid down by Ministry guideline. It means I have to have a clear idea of what students will be able to when they reach these objectives.

 The extra time and effort required in identifying these results will make determining the acceptable evidence that much more important. Is the evidence I’m requiring of my students indeed determining what I’ve established in the first step? Is there a clear connection between the two? And if not, in which step of planning does the fault lie, first or second?

 Once the first two steps have been “locked down” I find the guidelines very helpful in determining the actual learning experiences I intend to use in step three of unit/lesson planification. Again, making sure they serve the previous steps ensures I’m staying on task and that the day to day learning in my class is heading where I want it to. It helps me make sure “I’m heading where I’m going and where I want to end up”


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