Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe: A summary
In “Understanding by Design,” Wiggins and McTighe (1998) lay out a conceptual framework for instructional designers. Unlike many instructional design models that come from a training background, the Wiggins and McTighe model is well suited for the academic community. Two of their biggest contributions are:
Six Facets of Understanding
From the Educational Research Service Web site:
The backwards design model centers on the idea that the design process should begin with identifying the desired results and then “work backwards” to develop instruction rather than the traditional approach which is to define what topics need to be covered. Their framework identifies three main stages:
Stage 1. Identify Desired Results
In other instructional design models this is known as defining goals and objectives. Wiggins and McTighe ask instructors to consider not only the course goals and objectives, but the learning that should endure over the long term. This is referred to as the “enduring understanding.” Wiggins and McTighe suggest that “the enduring understanding” is not just “material worth covering,” but includes the following elements:
“Backward design” uses a question format rather than measurable objectives. By answering key questions, students deepen their learning about content and experience an enduring understanding. The instructor sets the evidence that will be used to determine that the students have understood the content.
These questions focus on the following:
Once the key concepts-questions are identified, develop a few questions that apply the line of inquiry to a specific topic.
Examples from Wiggins and McTight (1998)
Specific topic question:
Asking inquiry-based questions facilitates the students “uncovering” the answer.
Stage 2. Determine what constitutes acceptable evidence of competency in the outcomes and results (assessment).
The second stage in the design process is to define what forms of assessment will demonstrate that the student acquired the knowledge, understanding, and skill to answer the questions.
Wiggins and McTighe define three types of assessment:
Stage 3. Plan Learning Experience and Instruction
In this stage it is determined what sequence of teaching and learning experiences will equip students to develop and demonstrate the desired understanding.
Understanding by Design Template
Understanding by Design Exchange Web site
First two chapters of “Understanding by Design”
PowerPoint Presentation on Basic Concepts of Wiggins and McTighe