thing 13: Understanding by Design®


Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2014). Improve Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction Using the Understanding by Design® Framework.


Understanding by Design (UbD), developed by Wiggins and McTighe, is one of the Framework’s primary theoretical influences. The UbD Framework includes a three-step backwards design process intended to help educators plan instruction in a way that supports student understanding and transfer of knowledge. In this thing, we’ll walk practice applying the Understanding by Design framework.

1. Think about an upcoming teaching scenario. Based on what you’d like students to learn as a result of the experience, identify one learning outcome to represent your desired results. This could be an outcome you’ve already developed, or an outcome you create as part of Assessment Thing #2.

2. How could students demonstrate to you that they’ve met this outcome? Brainstorm 2-3 types of evidence that you help you see what students have learned. Refer to Wiggins and McTighe’s “Six Facets of Understanding” (page 5) for inspiration.
3. Once you’ve identified evidence/artifacts that would help you evaluate students’ progress, consider what kinds of activities, resources, or learning experiences would support students in their learning and produce the evidence you’re looking for. Describe 2-3 possible learning activities that would prepare students to create the evidence of student learning you listed in step 2.

Optional step for overachievers: Wiggins and McTighe suggest that learning experiences and instruction can address transfer, meaning making, or knowledge acquisition (page 6). Which of these components do your proposed learning experiences address?



  1. Outcome: Students will be able to articulate connections between some certain aspects of the publication cycle and their specific research needs.

    Evidence of Learning:

    (1) Students will be asked open ended questions about the Boston Marathon Bombing. They can find answers to these questions through Internet searches on the keywords within the prompts.

    (2) One question explicitly asks about publication dates for books, and another questions asks students to analyze Google Scholar results by asking them a scenario-based question and giving them the tools to do it.


    I was inspired by the use of forms to create an asynchronous learning activity on the open web (vs within a CMS/ LMS or behind a sign-in screen) and the frame-by-frame (really, concept-by-concept) videos that Oklahoma State University designed (found on the ACRL Sandbox). See this libguide page for the activity:

    I like hands-on, practical lessons that require students to experience IL in real situations that they find themselves in; and then redirecting them to the objective. I thought that using a real event – and the Boston Marathon Bombing gets used a lot in ILI – and then asking students to essentially recreate the searches themselves with prompts to be skeptical about the information type, creation process, and publication time.

    I don’t really have another activity apart from a F2F version of the lesson that’s embedded (atop the form) from University of Nevada Las Vegas and then having students fill out the form in class so we can discuss the answers.



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