In the last few weeks I have been exposed to new ways of designing lessons, units, and courses. For my purposes at a 6th grade social studies teacher, I chose to design a unit of study for my class. When I began this process, I looked back at the year of learning in my class so far, and chose to focus my efforts on creating a better version of my foundations unit that starts off the school year. After all, you can't build without a solid foundation, and I noticed that there were gaps in the learning that stemmed from this unit.
In my previous blog post, I worked through the foundations unit using Fink's 3 column table (Click on the link to this post below). The 3 column table format for planning starts with the BHAG, and then breaks the planning down into learning goals, activities, and assessments. I did like the format of this template for the simple purpose of helping me organize my thoughts on paper for the unit. I also like beginning with a clearly stated goal that I can refer back to. The downside of this type of planning is it felt like each step was more of an outline than a detailed plan. I see the 3 column table as a useful first step in designing a significant learning environment, but also feel like I need to be more detailed in planning.
I worked through the same foundations unit this week using the Understanding By Design template or UbD. I took the main goals from my 3 column table from the week before and used them as part of my backward design. There is an increased need to be detailed in planning using this approach and it was helpful not only because I had to think through more of what the unit would look like for my learners, I also asked myself more questions overall with the design. I felt myself working through each area, but then going back and adding even more detail as I realized some key aspect that I missed before. I feel like the result with the UbD design creates a more thorough diagram of what this unit needs to looks like. I also did not feel like the process with more detail or going back to fix or adjust was any more time consuming than the 3 column design. I also like the W.H.E.R.E.T.O. chart in the UbD template. This helped me identify where my activities fall in the design process.
I found value in each of these templates for designing a unit of study, however I found the UbD backward design to be more beneficial to me as far as planning this unit. I felt like I missed some of the skills my learners would need to be successful with this unit using the 3 column table design. For my own way of mapping out a unit, the UbD design felt like it flowed along better with my way of thinking, and it forced me to look harder at the skills my learners would need. I do understand that the 3 column design may work better for other units that I teach, and that I am just learning to use both the 3 column and UbD templates. As I become more skilled and comfortable using these, I believe that both design styles will be useful to me.
Fink, L. D. (2005). A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. https://www.deefinkandassociates.com/. https://www.deefinkandassociates.com/GuidetoCourseDesignAug05.pdf.
Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded second edition). Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.