Reflection / by Tyler Wood

Why use the UbD model for future classroom planning?

Each of the previous sections have been laying out the research and ideas that back up the backward design concept. As mentioned in the introduction,  the backward design model actually fits right into what I have been trying to do since I started teaching, so I support this method. However, using this method for planning single lessons can be very tricky and too compact to allow of the essential questions to fulfil their duties as the framework for the unit. 

The way in which I will be using this template for design is in the very essence of how I design my curriculum. I will be implementing it in the way I see the learning, the very mindset coming into it. Once learned, this method is hard to retract upon. Once one has used the end, standard or learning objective, as the basis of planning it is rather unorthodox to try not to do that every time. When the Ancient Egyptian Imhotep first designed the pyramid there was no turning back on having a grand vision for future plans. Once architecture was born the days of throwing together mud huts without a thought of the end result was out the window. The Egyptians never looked back. This method is the very same. It is not the first time the end results were the focus of design for educational planning, but it has been a very detailed account of how that planning works based on research. 

If you are building a pyramid, what is the first thing you want to do? You want to figure out what it will look like finished. The first question one must ask is, what will my students look like 'finished'? What do I want my students to be able to do when they are done with this unit? This is oddly not thought about, especially when given a curriculum based on a book, because it has already been done. I admit following the lessons without looking too far down the line when I first started. I now really think through what I want my students to accomplish first, before anything else. 

After you have your idea of what your pyramid will look like, what is next? You will need to figure out how to create this masterpiece. How will we know if the students are 'finished'? After figuring out what you want the students to know, we have to figure out how we will know they have reached their goal. This is the next step, finding out what evidence will we need from the students. This seems very logical, but this is where pre-determined books can get in the way. As Wiggins and McTighe mention, textbooks should be a "resource that supports the desired results" (p. 231) not the curriculum. This is one of the challenges with implementing this method, as logical as it is. I will have to work around the pre-determined curriculum to attempt to reach the desired results in the class. 

The strongest part of this planning model is the framing of the units using essential questions, the laying out the building lines for your pyramid with string. I have gone into more detail previously on essential questions, but the use of an intriguing line of reasoning as the basis of the unit not only creates an easy to follow plan for the teacher so as to not get too off-topic with teachable moments, but helps build motivation for the students as well by creating a real dilemma that your learning outcomes can help them answer. It is a bit of a learning trap set by the question to draw them into the outcomes without being too strict to the day-to-day plans. I appreciate the wiggle room allowed with this method. It allows for spontaneity and creativity in designing plans. 

One thing I am happy with at my current school is the culture of sharing. The pyramids weren't built single-handedly. The collaboration in my school fits very nicely into the collaboration called for by Wiggins and McTighe for implementing the backward design model properly without too much work. We need to work smarter, not harder. Collaboration is one of the main keys for this to happen with the wonderful side-effect of lowering competition among teachers and allowing for better relationships at work which sets a good example for students. 

I mentioned the challenges to actually implementing this method in the introduction, but aside from the pragmatic challenges, I see no reason why this method is not a way we should all be teaching. Now let's built a pyramid. 

Click below for a table of some ideas for future UbD planning ideas using Common Core Standards. 

Future Planning Ideas (Google Docs)


Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2006). Understanding by design. (2nd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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