Understanding by Design
In Minnesota, Districts must make local decisions about how state standards will be taught, and we use the backward-mapping Understanding by Design (UbD) process to focus on essential learning (locally approved standards), common summative (performance-based) assessments, and engaging learning experiences (via the Instructional Framework). The UbD curriculum mapping approach provides content leaders with the tools to organize and communicate District plans for addressing state content standards.
System alignment under the UbD mapping tools provides families with a guaranteed and viable curriculum. We use local, state and national assessment data to evaluate the effectiveness of our academic program and review results regularly. We formally announce changes in each content area on a five-year cycle. These changes are proposed to the School Board in public session, and all approved recommendations become the roadmap for future content-area work. The UbD units that are produced in each course that go before the School Board for approval are the evidence of staff commitment to learning outcomes.
- Stage One provides information about the essential learning and essential questions, and it is consistently applied - or taught - across the District. Content leaders bundle state standards into essential learning in an effort to prioritize their work, giving emphasis to aspects of the content that require special focus. Stage One includes the key element “essential questions,” which strives to synthesize the learning into questions that are universal or broad in scope yet meaningful to students.
- Stage Two is the area where evidence of learning is captured through formative and summative assessments and both traditional and performance-based assessments. Common assessments, which are assessments deployed and analyzed across classrooms, are an important part of our program-evaluation process.
- Stage Three is the instructional plan for the unit, and maps directly to the essential learning/questions in Stage One and the evidence captured in Stage Two. The Instructional Framework provides guidance for designing engaging student experiences during the unit planning process. Stage Three provides sequential information as well as details about necessary and/or available resources. It is important to note that Stage Three is a guide and is not prescriptive in nature. Teachers are encouraged to design learning experiences specifically geared towards the students in front of them.