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Understanding by Design (ASCD)

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  1,071 ratings  ·  83 reviews
The highly anticipated second edition of "Understanding by Design" poses the core, essential questions of understanding and design, and provides readers with practical solutions for the teacher-designer. The book opens by analyzing the logic of backward design as an alternative to coverage and activity-oriented plans. Though backward from habit, this approach brings more f ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 384 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by Pearson (first published October 1st 1998)
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As a rule, if I review a book, I read every word of the book. There have been a few exceptions (this brings the total up to 4, I believe...)

There was a lot of good content in this one. The concept is pretty solid, and I think most teachers are using Backward Design by now. I remember learning about it in my undergrad methods courses, but it wasn't nearly as in depth as it was here.

Basically, as the title implies - you start with what you want kids to know, and develop the curriculum from there.
Garrett Zecker
Understanding by Design is a technical publication for building curriculum using the backward design process. This book helps instructors support their work by implementing Essential Questions so that a course can be built around the end result and focused on understanding rather than milestones and tasks. It is a pretty basic lesson planning guide – almost a 101 for teachers of anything. It lacks a few fundamental ideas, such as using taxonomy as a basis for questioning, but I think that the bo ...more
Michael Burnam-fink
This book should be required reading for educators at all levels. Like all great ideas, Understanding by Design presents a process that seems like common sense, is surprisingly difficult to implement properly, but could have astounding results. The premise behind Understanding by Design is that learning doesn't happen by accident, or merely by hard work on the part of students and teachers, but from the deliberate mastery of skills in pursuit of hard questions. Understanding by Design doesn't re ...more
DWRL Library
Wiggins offers ideas for designing curriculum to engage students in exploring and deepening their understanding of important ideas, and creating assessments that reveal the extent of their understanding. This is not a step-by-step guide on how to design a course, but rather a conceptual framework and design process. It offers a way of thinking about your course, but does not offer individual lesson plans.

I read the book at the same time I was putting together my 309K proposal, and found it very
This book is tough to get through but a must read for anybody who wants to be a leader of teachers. The concepts involved in backward design can be used for everything from unit planning to curriculum writing to professional development. Unfortunately not enough administrators have read this book. I absolutely loved it.
This book covers an eminently critical topic in contemporary education practice -- developing curriculum that covers all the essential concepts in a course in an engaging and measurably effective manner. Wiggins and McTighe expertly present a lot of great material, both theoretical and practical to help teachers, administrators, schools, and districts to develop their own Understanding by Design units. No serious educator should be able to walk away from this book with nothing new to add to thei ...more
Erica Paythress
Enduring understandings have lasting value beyond the classroom. It is what students should understand, not just know or do after studying a subject. This course learning will stay the students for a lifetime to recall when need.

Learning outcomes are how we determine what was learned. It is assessing the outcomes that educators determine if students achieved their goals and met learning objectives. It let the teacher gage the level the students have learned and aids in accountability among teac
Mark Feltskog
When I was a forklift operator, I topped out in terms of skill pretty quickly. And one need only receive one or two truckloads of any kind of merchandise to master the warehouse worker's skills. One of the great things about being a teacher, for me, is that it is a career that offers virtually endless opportunities to improve as a practitioner; it is, therefore, never boring. Grant P. Wiggins and Jay McTighe's Understanding by Design is in all respects a guide to keep one's teaching career stimu ...more
Henry Wijaya
Mar 19, 2013 Henry Wijaya rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: teachers
Recommended to Henry by: Professor Lesley Bartlett
It is a great book for teachers to help them evaluate what they have been doing in their teaching works. Reading this book makes me revisit all works that I have done related to the actual teaching in the classroom, my preparation before that, and my follow up after that. Furthermore, it also makes me rethink about curriculum design and material development.
It is scary to think how easy it is for a teacher to design a curriculum, develop the materials, teach the students, and evaluate the outcom
This thing is such an institution at Teachers College we use UbD as a verb. As in, "Did you UbD this novel yet?"


But I certainly can't think of a better way to plan than the approach so laboriously extolled in this tome. It's a smart, methodical way to make truly rigorous curricula that demand authentic learning, not coverage or cute performance tasks. And I'd say it's worth it to give the opening chapters a thorough read. Most teachers only get a forced march through the UbD Workbook tem
Alyssa Shepherd
Companion to the workbook. This is the nuts and bolts of the planning. However, you need to see if you can get the school headed in this direction. It doesn't help the school if you are the only one backwards designing. It will help your classroom, but think Macro, and how this will help all of the children in your sphere of influence.
This book was assigned for a graduate Information Literacy course I took for my Master's in Library Science program. I thought it was a smart choice for an info lit book since it is not a "library science" course book. I have fifteen years teaching experience and I learned new and fresh ideas from this book for developing lessons using the authors' backward design process. I had been using a version of backward design for many years now, especially for teaching conversational English and recentl ...more
محمد النجيمي
It's good to read such a book that cares so much about understanding and the importance of backword design. There are lots of examples that explain different stages of planning and facets of understanding and components of performance task. All that is helpful in clarifying the concept and application.
Jan Michael
Trains one how to design powerful unit lessons using the latest trends in pedagogy. Combining constructivist, project-based, problem-based, metacognitive strategies, the book ensures that any educator creates a learner-centred classroom. Drift is, one's understanding is designed.
Even if you ultimately decide that "backwards design" is not for you, this book is still worth reading. Lucid and well explained. I particularly appreciated the distinction made between knowledge and understanding.
Somewhat thick verbiage makes it a little hard to read, but the main point of the book is about a more effective way to teach current curriculum to students and the basic premise should be fairly obvious to anyone who teaches regularly - you think about the learning outcome and devise essential questions and discussion points to get students to your level of understanding of a topic.

Helpful in working through a unit of instruction, but not something aimed at the larger questions of why do we eve
Interesting academic read. Backwards design is something that many people I think have been doing but not to the detail the Wiggins describes it in. I used the design for my new Catcher unit and I like were it has taken me. I feel more confident in why I am teaching what I am teaching, and that makes it easier to explain to my students. The only problem is how time consuming it can be to revamp a unit, especially during the school year. Naturally teachers do not get nearly enough time to accompl ...more
This book basically covers the lesson planning idea of 'beginning with the end in mind'. This is not a new concept and most schoolS require you to plan this way. I am actually kind of saddened that my masters program would have us read this and have us base an entire course off of it.
I read this as part of a digital book club for teachers but purchased the PD workbook and essential questions book as well. I think this is extremely helpful in supporting laser-focused teaching with respect to student outcomes.
Vicky Kennard
Easy to read and has done good stuff that all teachers should know and use
A useful book for backward design, but incredibly redundant.
Stan Golanka
The standard for curriculum design.
There is no better book for curriculum design and deployment. I came to the party late, considering my old unit designs to be extraordinary. Oh how wrong was I. The key however comes in that my old aligned plans and units were the best teachers can be expected to do without the added piece of time. To create units and instruction from this model you have to have lots of it. I'm blessed to have it now in my new position, but until PLCs can address the time issue, we won't see more than pockets of ...more
Jay Salikin
Feb 20, 2011 Jay Salikin is currently reading it
Three stages of backward design:

1. Identify desired results (To what extent does the design focus on the big ideas of targeted content?)
2. Determine acceptable evidence (To what extent do the assessments provide fair, valid, reliable, and sufficient measures of the desired results?)
3. Plan learning experiences and instruction (To what extent is the learning plan effective and engaging)

To what extent is the entire unit coherent, with the elements of all three stages aligned?
Leanna Aker
This is a solid concept, and a very thorough book that appeals to theory, reason, and practicality in promoting Understanding by Design as a way to design units. In using this book with pre-service teachers, they all complain that the design is too convoluted and complex. I wish there was a version of this book for novices to UbD and veteran teachers. I think that the "sell" gets lost in the complexity of it. However, definitely this is best practice and a good read.
Debra S
No rating as I didn't actually read this title. I skimmed it. I think I picked up the first edition and was actually looking for the 2nd edition. I saw a presentation on library instruction design based on the principles of Wiggins and McTighe. The presentation was assume. Lots of good ideas on what you can and can't accomplish. Big plug for backward planning.

Still think I will ferret out the 2nd edition at some point, but will probably skim it as well. :-)
I love this book. The overall idea gives a strong path towards success. Coming from an engineering/ISO/quality system background, much of the ideas in UdD are somewhat familiar with me. I've already taken the ideas of Enduring Understandings and Essential Questions, and applied them to some units. You can also see the impact and influence of this book on new curriculum design, from new AP courses to curriculum changes in my home province of BC.
James Purkis Purkis
While I had been working with UBD before I read this book, I found this detailed and full of good advice for implementing "teaching for understanding". While I found sections dense to read, it was worth trudging through these sections to get to the nub of what the writers were saying. This new way to approach my lessons has been transforming my teaching over the past year and this book helped reinforce the ideas I have been implementing.
Man, is this a thick read. Just tough to get through, but it does give a fantastic method for planning units in the classroom. Its suggestions are unbeliveably time consuming, but if you could do one or two units a year, your students learning would improve exponentially. I found it exceptionally helpful to work through this book with my grad school cohort. I'd suggest that you have a group of people with which to struggle through the concepts.
This was by far the best book assigned in my Master of Education coursework so far, and one which will stay on my bookshelf. This book reframes lesson planning by focusing on learning objectives and then using the "backwards design" approach to design learning experiences and assessments that are truly made to get the student where they need to be. It will be useful for educators working in the classroom at any level, K-16.
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