Teaching for understanding

I am encouraged once again to see the discussion in the blogosphere about making sure we use Web 2.0 tools to support learning and a new pedagogy in the classroom. Chris Lehmann writes about using the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework by Wiggins and McTighe. We need to make sure we are not doing “activities” just for the sake of their newness or cool factor. With such limited time during the day, each of our assignments must be focused on student understanding and our goals and objectives. Lehmann writes:

Understanding by Design… we owe it to ourselves and our kids to step back and ask ourselves questions like:

  • How does the use of this tool contribute to a students’ understanding of the unit / project / class.
  • How does the use of the tool enhance a students’ ability to communicate their ideas / refine their presentation skills?
  • Does the tool change the frame or lens with with students can view their learning process?
  • Does the tool powerfully expand or change students’ learning network?
  • Is the tool more fun than useful? (Not that fun is bad, I like fun, but let’s also acknowledge that, in schools, our learning should be “serious fun.”)

The underlying theme is that we must design our lessons purposefully and thoughfully. I admit it – I am guilty of incorporating a new gadget or tool, or “fun” activity into my lessons just for the sake of the activity – with no real goal or purpose in mind. But after reading UbD, I see now how I could have still used those same tools – but redesigned the lesson in a way that using the tool led to learning and a better understanding of the goal in mind – AND- the students too would know WHY they were doing the activity – a key point that too often we assume they know why (ask them!).

With the school year looming a month away – it’s time for me to pull out my Understanding by Design book and reread sections so my frame of mind is properly set for lesson planning.

You might also want to check out the UbD wiki where you can post your UbD curriculum units.

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