My issues with Understanding by Design (UbD)

By | January 7, 2010

Everybody is jumping into this new education bandwagon like it is something that is new indeed. Here are some issues I want to raise about UbD.  I am quoting Wikipedia in this post but this is also how UbD is explained  in other sites.

Understanding by Design, or UbD, is an increasingly popular tool for educational planning focused on “teaching for understanding”.

Is not teaching for understanding been the focus of all curricular reforms, then and now? No curriculum reformer wants to be caught in the company of rote learning, never mind that it’s how curricula are implemented, regardless of its form, kind and  substance in many classes. Teaching for understanding is not something new.

UbD expands on “six facets of understanding”, which include students being able to explain, interpret, apply, have perspective, empathize, and have self-knowledge.

I wonder which of these facets has not been a part of what it means to understand then. I’m not sure in other subject areas but these facets of understanding such as explain, interpret, and apply does not capture what it means to understand mathematics.

To facilitate student understanding, teachers must explain the “big ideas” and “essential questions” as well as the requirements and evaluative criteria at the start of the class.

Back in college we attribute it to Ausubel who promoted the idea of using advance organizers.  Of course, you don’t tell your students right away how they will be assessed. They don’t have those rights, then. Also, this method only works for some topics. In mathematics if the approach is Teaching through Problem Solving or Discovery method, this is a no-no as it might limit the students thinking in exploring their own ways of working with the task at hand.

The emphasis of UbD on “big ideas” is welcome development but shouldn’t this be contained in the curriculum framework? The “essential questions”, those elusive questions that teachers have difficulty formulating since probably the time the  education community was talking about “art of questioning” are also good reminders to all of us that ‘hello, processing questions before or after any activity are what make and unmake a lesson’. But isn’t it that one can only identify the enduring understanding required and formulate good questions if he/she has a very good content knowledge (CK) and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)?. Shouldn’t the money and time for training teachers how to design a lesson using UbD be spent instead on deepening their understanding of CK and PCK? Shouldn’t we make sure first that we have a good curriculum framework that articulates what are important for students to know and understand in each subject area and in each content topic?

The emphasis of UbD is on “backward design”, the practice of looking at the outcomes in order to design curriculum units, performance assessments, and classroom instruction.

In my part of the globe, there is a national curriculum which is a collection of SMART objectives. These learning objectives have always been stated in terms of outcomes. Weren’t they called competencies? Aren’t these competencies tell what to assess? The trouble is, our list of competencies consist of factual and procedural knowledge and very little on problem solving and reasoning which never really get taught because they are all found at the end of each chapter!

According to Wiggins, “The potential of UbD for curricular improvement has struck a chord in American education. Over 250,000 educators own the book. Over 30,000 Handbooks are in use. More than 150 University education classes use the book as a text.”

That explains everything. Everybody is hooked on the book that no one found time to do research if it works or not. Of course, on this part of the world where I come from I could not possibly have full access to current studies in educational planning and curriculum conducted elsewhere. I’m pretty sure though that we don’t have a study here yet. This is actually my issue. We’re jumping on a bandwagon created elsewhere without checking first if it will run on our roads.

More

Understanding by Design recommends a structure for curriculum planning, for designing instruction. It is not surprising that this is a welcome development because of lack of the same when it comes to this area. College education and in-service programs have failed to equip teachers the knowledge and skills to identify the important ideas in their major field of study.

Click here for the proposed stages of lesson development by UbD (thanks Jimmy Wysocki). Imagine it in the hands of our classroom teachers. Imagine how their faces will look like if you tell them “these elements should be in your written lesson plans”! And when they look for resources, all they have is an anemic curriculum framework and textbooks teaching facts that can be Googled. They will follow the directives, of course, as they have always done in the past in this part of the globe. They won’t just have time anymore to study and prepare  for the actual teaching of the lesson, especially in examining how their students learn specific topic. Surely, they will have a very neat plans complete with the elements. But lest we forget, learning is still more a function of the experiences students engages in, that is the lesson, and not in the lesson plans format.

Lastly, UbD is a one size fits all for all subject areas. That’s what make it highly suspect. Click here and here for sequels of this post.

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76 thoughts on “My issues with Understanding by Design (UbD)

  1. zip

    We don’t need the best curriculum, because even if how best is that curriculum, it might not be the best for many..specially those barangay schools..what we really need is the best teacher who can not just teach but dig where our nation must be planted for it to grow…even if how best is the curriculum, if the teacher will only depend on what is in that materials provided (i’m not saying all, but its a fact that there are really many who are doing it)their concern is to finish the topic without looking at the outcome..it’s all nothing..we need best best best teacher…it is always in the teacher…

    Reply
  2. Diane

    My school has recently “embraced” UbD. I am not so enamored. My primary concern is that I can find no (let me repeat, “no”) empirical evidence that this method “works”. The method is extremely time-consuming (and expensive). I am quite skeptical of the whole operation. You would think that if the method really “works” (whatever that means), the company would provide the links to peer-reviewed journal articles that support its efficacy. Nope. Additionally, almost every “resource” they make available on their official website costs money! Someone is making a whole lot of money, (that is for certain) and many educators may be being taken advantage of. Bottom line, if this program really helps students, then I am all for it….I would just like to see some evidence before my school pays for another “conference”.

    Reply
  3. Flat Nose Pete

    If anyone can provide proof that UbD is worth my time, energy, and passion, by improving educational outcomes please do so. I have been waiting more than 3 years, since Grant Wiggins came to my school to give his unmotivational speech, for this evidence.

    Please don’t characterize me as a dark cloud because I do not find much value in UbD and can only see all of the work it has caused me with no gains for my students. Also, Grant Wiggins has already told every teacher in my school that we are lousy teachers even though he had never met us. Grant Wiggins made it clear that he was superior to myself and my colleagues and that one of the reasons for this is that he coached JV soccer.

    I do think UbD is a useful tool when writing curriculum. Placing essential questions in the curriculum is helpful (especially for new teachers). However, my administration has forced us to post essential questions on the walls even though we have no bulletin boards. My classroom is shared by 3 teachers who teach 5 different subjects so essential questions are everywhere rendering them useless. It is also quite time consuming especially considering that we all teach in two or three different classrooms.

    Reply
  4. Old Dog

    The joy I felt at returning to teaching has been dampened if not extinguished by my experience with UBD as it is presently being implemented. Far from producing greater understanding of the”big questions”, it is only producing mediocre rote memory. I am seeing even less understanding because the material is being presented in the same “give me the answer from the book” fashion. The important “assessment” being observed is that the student said something.

    I do not know if training was not conducted by competent people but it is very evident that many instructors have no real grasp of the concept. I see it producing the same pitfalls as “effective education MUST use technology to promote understanding”. The throwing of poor graphics and poorly worded captions into Power Point did not equate to “better understanding”, I am afraid this will be more of the same.

    Reply
  5. mond

    can u post other comments regarding the effect of ubd in teaching other subjects in HS like Filipino.

    Reply
  6. isco

    Ubd authors have expressed it in their book that what they are presenting is not something new. Ubd is actually an outcome of series of researches and studies on the best ways on how to design a curriculum. It doesn’t limit the teacher to use different teaching strategies and techniques as he teaches. Training the teacher on how to plan using Ubd approach forces him to go back and reflect on the different ways on how to teach effectively.

    Reply
  7. lope Baylon jr

    Ubd is a tool as learning standard for teacher , learners, materials interactions in a classroom wherein the teacher emphasizes on time of works such that the learners know the important of mathematics in a real life situations using GRASPS application and recognize the level of facet which not only to define thing around them but using the degree of skills or higher thinking skills like solve , apply and explain…etc or the six facet in stage 2. I realized at the end of seminar workshop I can say that it is learning standard wherein interactions evolve from teacher to learners, learners to learners, learners to materials, materials to learners, learners to teacher interaction process. Is it a big ideas? for me it is a challenge to make us teacher a well rounded in a classroom as well as how we do time on work for the sake of our students. Learn…learn ….learn….

    Reply
  8. ELAN M. ELPIDANG

    All things mentioned above are very informative and make good sense. I am a math teacher from the province of Surigao del Sur, Mindanao.

    UbD is very timely for us to talk this time, your experiences are also mine, thats why in my post graduate school at Surigao del Sur State University, I am in the process of making my research paper in my research methodology subject entitled “The effectiveness of UbD in teaching mathematics”. It is just a sort of evaluation about how UbD affects the teaching routine of the teachers. It is routine because, we cannot deny the fact that every teacher has a method or strategy that he/she mastered, which according to the saying that ” the best strategy of a teacher is the strategy that he mastered” then here comes the new curriculum/framework, I am pretty sure that some of the teachers especially the math teachers were not ready to apply it. The teachers here in our province undergone a three days seminar about UbD which for myself is not enough for us to master without a follow up. Before this month ends we will again undergo a UbD seminar for second year, let us see if changes will happen after the seminar and i hope so. God bless!

    Reply
  9. George D. Paguio

    Fellow Educators,

    What do you think will happen with UbD if K-12 is implemented?

    Reply
  10. Diane

    My school (which I love) is now on the UbD bandwagon. Each time we have a meeting, I feel like I am being inducted into a cult! Anyone (or anything) that purports to be “the” answer to any problem (including education) and wants everyone to THINK in the same way gives me the heeby-geebys! Gee, I hope I spelled that correctly.

    Reply
  11. Ronald Sarabia of Kalibo Aklan

    I’m a math teacher from a province and I’ve heard about this ubd-mania in manila. It’s nice to see this blog and thanks for the author. It serves as the venue for intellectual debate to the issue. I would like to comment that here in our province, the ubd thing is far way from realization. How can a teacher earning low can be motivated to such bulk of works. I am still new in this field but my 8 years of teaching math is still unsound. I am longing for more trainings and seminars which my school, sadly, had deprived me of. In the general point of view, let us not waste the efforts of the early curriculum maker. I think the general problem still is the educational system and not the old curriculum itself. DepEd should focus on the main problems such as classrooms, materials, salaries and etc. As a whole, we should address our problems in education step by step starting from the above mention concerns. Afterwards, then let us see…As of the moment, I think students will just be confuse by the sudden change. What had work in another countries will also work here. There are some factors to consider such as culture, language, and the monetary capabilities of a country. It will take time for our country to adjust to this new curriculum but what at stake is the present. What if this doesn’t work? I hate to be pessimistic but we just need to accept the reality that this is somewhat like an experiment in a science laboratory. But the big difference are the children, our pupils, now engage in this circus.

    Reply
  12. lahiniabraham

    Yes, UBD is a framework, not a curriculum! But it is very tasky for the teachers. Ang hirap. di ko magawa… nakakatulala! As we design, let us consider the END. Pag-isip ng Big idea, ang hirap. 2nd quarter, topic natin ay Inverse Functions- Exponential and Logarithmic Functions. Ang Big Idea ko, ” All things in Life have their Opposites (Negatives/Counterpart/Reverses/Inverses). Bago simulan ang klase, kelangan ipaliwanag ito sa kanila. Kailangan ma visualize.ma-imagine.marealize nila ito. Kailangan lagi meron activities na hindi pen and paper kasi pen and paper activities are considered OTHER PERFORMANCE OUTPUT lang. lahat ng activities dapat may name (personal design talaga!). D B SA MATH, karamihan ng ginagawa natin ay pen and paper activities dahil gusto natin ma develop ang skills nila. ang hirap mag isip ng activities sa math na hindi pen and paper na masasabi mo talaga na merong “understanding” don. nagpapa drawing na ako sa mga bata (di ko ito ginagawa dati) asking them to apply what they learned in our topic through drawing. Parang mali e. nahihirapan ako mag isip talaga ng activities on the daily basis na hindi pen and paper.
    huwag daw damihan ang PO’s, para sure na mami meet ang mga objectives kasi, sabi less is more. ok lang daw na hindi matapos yung outline na ginawa, basta siguruhin na naintindihan(understand) yung PO’s.
    4th year ang hawak ko, after ako sa matapos yung outline ko kasi inihahanda sila for the college entrance exam.
    Mas mahirap pa magdesign kesa sa talagang pagtuturo. Teachers are being motivated , sinasabihan na , d na daw planners (gumagawa ng lesson plan) ang tawag sa amin, kundi designers (gumagawa ng UBD).
    Promise, ang hirap po talaga! implemeted agad without proper training and enough time to absorb it.
    pwede po ba magpaturo kung paano ako makakagawa ng study tungkol sa effectiveness ng bagong framework na ito? Long term kc ang pag determine ng effectiveness nito e.
    ang periodical test ay ginagamit lang daw to determine what the students achieve, not what the students understand. May ganun…..

    Reply
  13. horseRider

    A neighbor discovers a new way to roast chicken, and everybody wants to replicate it in their homes. We have got to stop UNSCRUTINIZED adaptations of teaching methods or ways. The first relevant question may have even been lost in the issues related to it. IS THERE A NEED TO REVISE CURRICULUM FOR PHILIPPINE SCHOOLS AT THIS POINT IN TIME? (sounds like a research title). The DepEd, of all bodies, should look into this before joining the bandwagon. Or we may also get there, i.e., eventually.

    Reply
  14. Hercille Mae B. MAybuena

    We don’t have to argue all of this thing. All we need is additional budget for this area. We need additional classrooms, additional assistance for the students especially for the teachers to be motivated in teaching because when a teacher’s stomach is not in mood, his/her teaching is not in mood also. It may affect his/her performance in teaching resulting to “unideal” students.

    Reply
  15. Greten - Physics Lessons

    UbD can be compare to Web 2.0 in the website industry. Basically, it just gathered all nice concepts that has been in use for quite a while and gave it a collective name and hype.

    Reply
  16. jefferson itulid

    this blog is a great arena of debate as well as a great place to really understand “UBD”

    i’m a student of Philippine Normal University-Manila where UBD is rampant, and many of our professors are using it.

    in my personal point of view….
    i think we must look first on what is lacking on our current system ( instructional materials and other miscellaneous) before we jump to another agenda. second, there are reforms that needs transformation but there are also reforms that needs retention. we must first evaluate our current curriculum, after a series of evaluation lets identify its flaws and then resolve it, much better if we improve it before we adopt a new curriculum so that our learners will not be shocked. because they are studying a curriculum which is alien to them. third, when do we stop blindly imitating western culture?
    Reformation is good, especially when the time calls for it, but we must know what is applicable and what is not. thanks.

    Reply
  17. kirasatsuki

    i’m sorry but i’m against the curriculum.. those performance tasks are the reasons why i am sick right now.. because of stress.. i know i’m a little overacting but that’s the truth..

    Reply
  18. KiRa_ Satsuki

    hi! i’m a 6th grader from san beda college alabang.. i just wanna voice out my feelings about Ubd.. Before (when i was a 5th grader just about last year) the grading system before represents letters like E for excellent VS for very satisfactory. The problem is we got surprised when our teacher told us that our grading system is now different and also the curriculum is different.. It is hard for us to adjust to the new curriculum.. And another problem.. our books got heavier because those books are imported.. I think they came from Boston, Massachusetts.. The books are way too expensive when we damage or lose those books we need to pay between 3000-5000 pesos (when you damage one page it also costs between 3000- 5000 pesos!! and the fee is added to your student account) and another fact: those books are RENTED.. its not ours.. and we’re the first ones to use it.. UBD IN THE CLASSROOM: Another problem.. Those stupid performance tasks.. they make every student’s life miserable.. ok.. magtatagalog na ako… pinapahirapan ng performance tasks ang mga buhay ng estudyante.. at isa na ako dun… ayoko ‘tong curriculum!!! para sa akin mas gusto ko yung dati… hindi naman kailangan palitan ang curriculum… hindi ito ang solusyon… may iba pang paraan… imagine… minsan sabay-sabay ang mga performance tasks na ibinibigay sa amin.. nahihirapan kami.. minsan sinasabay ang quiz.. sabay sabay halos lahat ng mga subject.. yung isa kong kaklase sabi niya: Di ba ang mga project binibigay at the end of the Quarter?? hindi sinasabay sa mga quiz, test etc. .. nahihirapan kaming mag study… Yun Lang Po.. I HOPE MANY PEOPLE WILL READ THIS.. I WANNA TELL THE WORLD THAT I HATE THAT STUPID CURRICULUM!!! reminder: this is only my thoughts.. it came from my mind… it’s ok if you agree or disagree… the important thing is that i get to express what I think of Ubd influencing bedans…

    Reply
    1. kirasatsuki

      i mean.. almost everyone in our school is against it… why did they have to change the curriculum that fast??

      Reply
  19. Pingback: Understanding by Design and Pedagogical Content Knowledge « keeping mathematics simple

  20. phoem guzman

    i teach math for 22 years, i think ubd approach is not as easy as implementing new school rules and regulations,but for a public school with 70 -75 students i think it is too difficult to implement.we were trained for 4 days only which i think not enough to absorbed everything about ubd and the trainors don’t even give an specific example on how to use ubd in the classroom.

    Reply
  21. Ms. Einstein

    I agree with you ma’am that teachers must be equipped with adequate CK and PCK instead of jumping into a new curriculum anchored on UbD. I’ve just attended a training of trainers in preparation for the roll-out of training for first year teachers but I am not convinced that implementing the UbD based Curriculum will solve DepEd’s problems. In fact,my former teacher on curricukum design required us to buy the book “Understanding by Design” but he never discussed the essentials of the book in our class.

    Reply
  22. tikang

    We just need additional classrooms and facilities with only 50 students. Imagine 92 students? what a UBD?

    Reply
    1. tikang

      WE DON’T NEED CURRICULUM CHANGE! WE JUST NEED ADDITIONAL CLASSROOMS WITH ONLY 50-60 STUDENTS. IT’S VERY UNLIKELY, UNPROPORTIONATE THAT STUDENTS WILL LEARN EVERYTHING IF THEY ARE 90+ INSIDE THE ROOM. SO WHAT’S THE USE OF ubd WAKE UP??!!!!!!!!

      Reply
      1. archie

        if b4 only books were being shared by students, my goodness! now it includes
        chairs.

  23. Joepril Espartero

    tnx a lot for the blog, im trying surf d web to find possible additional info on UbD..& hir i clck ur blog..now i understnd thngs bhind UbD..tnx a lot ma’am..im also a math teachr 4 jst 5 yrs pa lng..

    Reply
      1. archie

        i heard this ubd just recently and had been called to have a seminar for 4 days a week before opening of the class. i don’t think i am geared enough to teach first year students if i myself don’t clearly understand what ubd really is. but i have to teach since this is what our principal require us to do.

  24. Glenys

    You make a good agrument. We keep reinventing what good education looks like. The elements have always been a part of what has been effective in the field of education. UbD is one model to follow in developing an educational program. It is a good model for new teachers, but with experience teachers will find that subjects, and different groups of students require multiple strategies.

    Reply
  25. Mark

    Good day, I just attended a seminar and all our speakers were promoting the UDB… But as mentioned, this is just a theory and not proven yet…

    Being new to this career I dont know whether this is a good idea or not for the DEPED to implement… I think this is a matter of TEACHING STYLE! If you are a creative and motivational teacher, it will come out naturally as you teach.

    Reply
  26. Jayvee Salayo

    I agree with you about the need for training teachers on CONTENT KNOWLEDGE of the material they teach. I have been facilitating workshops on UbD with Science teachers. Teachers seem to be getting it… the backward design process. However, due to their poor grasp of their science, they cannot really make good and deep instructional designs.

    One thing I want to see is for the better students in math and science to seriously consider teaching as a career. If this happens, then future teachers can really design better instruction for students.

    Maybe some help from Congress will make this happen. If Math and Science teachers will get starting salaries of 25,000 pesos, and that current teachers in these subjects will have to pass stringent tests to qualify for this salary scale, then we can expect our stock of teachers to be greatly improved in just a few years.

    Reply
    1. erlines

      I say Php30,000.00 starting salary if we really want the best minds. They should be able to facilitate learning both in face-to-face and online mode.

      Reply
      1. jvsalayo

        How do you think can we bring this to Congress? Do you have contacts there? Is the political climate ripe for radical reforms like this?

        Teachers have always been looked up and praised during ceremonies. But in the daily grind bottomlines, society has looked down on teachers for allowing them to have a low income levels as compared to other careers. I really hope this changes soon.

  27. Pingback: Understanding by Design, one more go « assessing and teaching K-12 mathematics

  28. Pingback: Curriculum change, Understanding by Design, will they solve the problem? « assessing and teaching K-12 mathematics

  29. Guillermo Bautista

    I am not an education graduate, so I am more particular with the content knowledge rather than theories, although, I strongly believe that strategies play a great role in teaching.

    From a mathematical point of view, I think the essence of UbD is “knowing” what you teach — and when I say knowing, I really mean deep knowledge and a holistic view of the subject matter. Of course, this is necessary in mathematics teaching and teaching other fields.

    For instance, if you know your mathematics well, then you would be able to strengthen the connection between and among mathematical concepts; you would be able to connect your lessons to real life and other subjects as well. If you do not know your mathematics well, then there is a tendency of letting your students sing in a math class and proudly saying that you have integrated mathematics with music.

    The enduring understanding, essential questions, and all those fancy words that we are so fond about should be “a given” in teaching mathematics and other subjects. How can you teach effectively if your understanding of a subject is shallow? So I think, UBD is synonymous to deep understanding of the subject matter that you are teaching and if we know our subject matter well, we will not need UbD.

    Now, the question is, are we that deep in our content knowledge (especially in mathematics)?

    If the answer to the question above is yes, then we are capable of adapting UBD or we are already doing UbD.

    Guillermo Bautista
    Author of Mathematics and Multimedia
    http://math4allages.wordpress.com/

    Reply
    1. Uhm

      Two examples of big ideas in science and mathematics:
      “Correlation does not imply Causality.”
      “Sometimes the correct mathematical solution is not the best solution to a real world problem.”

      Big ideas are sometimes counter-intuitive and needs unraveling. That’s the beauty of UbD, you are forced to think about such and they don’t remain in your “subconscious.”

      The performance tasks are a way to force students to provide evidence that they understand.

      May I drop my site as well?

      http://www.sirgain.com/

      Reply
  30. Pingback: Understanding by Design from WikiPilipinas – more issues « assessing and teaching math thru problem solving

  31. erlines

    I suggest you start with schools who said they are “benefiting” on this UbD. You can ask what are the improvements and the method of implementation. The best of course is to get hold of the DepEd study about UbD first before embarking on a research of your own. That way you can properly delineate your study. I hope you will update the readers of this blog regarding your progress. Please keep us posted. For the meantime you can share your own research ideas and calling others, too to do the same. I promise to think of one myself.

    Reply
    1. kass

      i am actually doing my research paper about UbD. hope to share it with you guys:)

      Reply
      1. janice

        please share coz I am also doing the same thing. I am really interested how did you go over in your study. lets share.

        thanks

  32. researcher

    educators out there! UbD is the talk of the City not of the barrios! I wonder how those teachers living in the far flung barangays could come to manila hotel and pay 8+k to participate in the convention! (thanks be to God, Phoenix Publisher payed everything for me!)I am formulating right now a title for a research regarding UbD! Some of you questioned the effectiveness of this UbD as related to the students’ achievement!Some said “nothing is really new,” yet there are schools as you mentioned that seems to be benefiting from this UbD! Let us work together and share our ideas to a learning world like us! Please suggest some topics, or questions for research purposes!

    Reply
    1. aldz1975

      Work together and share our ideas…? I think this is not the attitude of the deped secretaries then and now. Because every time there is a new deped secretary a new framework is introduced. There is no “working togetherness” among this deped secretaries. Instead of strengthening the older framework a new one is introduced and saying that the older framework failed our educational system.

      Reply
    2. janice

      I am in the course of finishing my research on UbD regarding classroom evaluation,preparation,student feedback and application but I am not certain with what I AM DOING BECAUSE i WAS NOT ABLE TO USE IT IN THE CLASSROOM .IF YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WITH REGARDS TO THE FOLLOWING CITED ABOVE PLEASE SHARE.Thank you

      Reply
  33. Erlina Ronda

    I cannot agree more to you Ms. Honey. I wonder if DepEd will ever release the findings of their UbD research complete with the instruments used to gather the data.

    Do you have any idea why the DepEd jumped on the UbD ship? I know the the now “old” curriculum is problematic so does the one before it. The reason for the previous change (in Math Curr) was because of the change in the Department secretary but what about this time?

    I pray one day we will try to improve on what we already have rather than simply changing it all every time we fancy changing it.

    Reply
  34. Uhm

    That we should prepare students to grow as person had always been the goal of education and that we should teach with understanding goes back to the time of Dewey (?) or earlier.

    …and it failed miserably to do that, the world is changing and we should change too. The learning styles of our students have changed too. Who’s to say how students learn key ideas? See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMcfrLYDm2U

    Everett Kline of ASCD said that he was asked by the government of Singapore to help them with UbD. He asked them “Why do you want my help, isn’t it that Singapore has a high passing rate?” to which they responded: “We are a nation of test passers but our students lack understanding. We want our students to have understanding.”

    There maybe a problem with the DepEd curriculum but it is not the fault of UbD. Just because they hurried it up? (I heard they started with it in 2005?) is not the fault of UbD. You may be interested to know that UbD by itself is not complete – it has a partner in Differentiated Instructions. UbD covers only the content, but the how, where and when is covered by DI and am not talking about MI or multiple intelligences.

    Reply
    1. Erlina Ronda

      Students should always have the say how they learn that is why we should focus our attention on studying how they learn so we can facilitate their learning better.

      This is not the first time I heard about Singapore’s “We are a nation of test passers but our students lack understanding. We want our students to have understanding.” not only on relation to UbD. I think that attitude is their secret why they keep on improving.

      Reply
    2. aldz1975

      It is impossible that this nation is just a nation of test passers without understanding. In the first place if the test is well-designed incorporating the different levels of bloom’s taxonomy, then it follows that they have understanding coz it is one of the cognitive learning skill.

      Reply
  35. Honey

    Hi! I understand your concerns about UbD. But I think we need to clarify a few things first.

    1) As a framework, UbD cannot be one-size-fits-all, in the sense that all teachers must teach the same things in the same way. It espouses the backward design, which asks the teacher/instructional designer/curriculum planner to think about the enduring understandings first before deciding on how to present and sequence activities. That’s about all it prescribes. What the enduring understandings are is really up to the curriculum planner, as with the assessment tasks and the sequence of activities. This is also why there are books and research, albeit foreign, of the integration of differentiated instruction and UbD in promoting achievement.

    2) You are right–the principles of UbD are not new. In fact, Wiggins and McTighe’s book often quotes Dewey and his philosophy of education. Also, in the National Education Conference held just this Feb at Manila Hotel and in Cebu City, I took note of the quotes and references the ASCD speakers used in their presentations on UbD. Most of them are from classic books on education by Bloom, Dewey, and a few others. For as long as we can remember, good educators and educational experts have always espoused teaching for understanding, and not just content coverage. However, the fact that the idea of teaching for understanding has been around a long time does not mean that the educational system here or elsewhere has been successful in achieving that objective.

    3) The marketing of UbD here in the Philippines as a cure-all is, admittedly, a bit bloated. For unless we address teachers’ mastery of subject matter and updating on 21st century skills, then UbD will fail. Not because of the framework itself, but because the implementers of the curriculum were not sufficiently prepared to implement it. (e.g., teachers following the teaching guide distributed by the DepEd to the letter, without thinking how this will be applicable to their students or whether the teaching guide itself is even instructionally sound. In this case, even the best frameworks are reduced to a one-size-fits-all.)

    4) After seeing the Curriculum Guide and the Teaching Guides for English given by DepEd during the National Education Conference, my opinion as a teacher, trainer, instructional designer, and materials developer is that there is something flawed in the DepEd interpretation of UbD. The rationale is beautiful. The implementation is questionable. From the standards, to the essential understanding, to the performance task, to the lesson guide that is completely against what Wiggins and McTighe outlined in the first 3 pages of their book (i.e., the DepEd guide gives a ton of activities without clear connection from one activity to another and little checks for understanding. In the book, this is one of the twin sins of design.). Now, I am not sure how the curriculum guide for the other subjects looks like, but I do know that, for English, there is much to be refined. Hence, my issue is not necessarily with the UbD framework itself, but with our Department of Education’s implementation of that framework.

    5) With regard to your question about local research–when the DepEd piloted UbD in certain schools, they claim that it increased the level of achievement in those schools. However, I do not know if they released the results of this study to people outside the Department.

    6) Aside from Xavier, Southridge School in Alabang has also been practicing UbD for five years now. One of the administrators said there was much resistance at first (common to any kind of curriculum change), but supposedly, they have good experiences with it now. Perhaps you can ask teachers from both these schools regarding their experiences.

    For the record, I would like to say that I believe in the UbD framework. All of my education and experience as a teacher has been about the backward design, though we didn’t call it that back then. We called it Task-based language teaching. Begin with the end in mind–an authentic task. Structure your lesson such that what you teach is relevant in helping students accomplish this authentic task. UbD is another way of presenting what we already knew as problem-based teaching, project-based instruction, and, for English, TBLT.

    However, I do not fully believe in the curriculum DepEd has come out with. But I am hoping that they take the comments given them in the National Education Conference into account and revise what needs to be revised. If not, it will be a waste of a good framework and they will not do justice to UbD.

    Reply
    1. Erlina Ronda

      Understanding in math is different from understanding English or Social Studies. The way understanding is described in UbD does not fully describe what understanding means in mathematics. Those who started UbD have English education as area of expertise. That is why they can capture clearly what understanding should be in teaching English. This means that other subject areas should articulate what “understanding” should be in their area and not simply adopt. This is in fact encourage by the proponents of UbD. I hope DepEd will hear their call.

      Thank you for saying that all the while we have been doing the backward design because indeed we have been. That is what I’m trying to say to the readers of this post. But let me add also that the backward design cannot be said to be better than “forward” design and by forward I mean thinking about first what activities to use in the lesson and how you will facilitate the learning then think about how you will assess students learning next (I think this is what was called traditional way of preparing the lesson at the Manila Hotel seminar. Correct me if I’m wrong). In both cases, it’s still how you facilitated the lesson that will make or unmake the lesson.

      As I stated in my post, my concern is about not finding out first whether the UbD wagon will run in our roads. The US situation is very different from us. Compare for example the curriculum frameworks. Theirs is probably ripe for UbD way of planning the lesson. What about us? Some private schools adopted the UbD. What happened? If it worked, shouldn’t that also be part of the discussion at Manila Hotel? What worked and what didn’t? What were the problems met? How did they adapt? And how do we know it will work for public schools that have a different set of problems? Anyway we would know soon. It will be implemented to the entire first year population in all subject areas this June! Some Math I teachers I work with have not even heard of it as of this writing.

      Reply
      1. Honey

        Hi! True, Math teachers often have the most difficulty in coming up with statements of enduring understanding. Strangely, though, the DepEd presenters stated that, for all subjects, the general standards, content standards, and statements of enduring understandings were crafted in consultation with various sectors. I did not see the Math teaching guides, but my co-trainers in Math said that the guides were also problematic.

        Actually, backward or forward, you are right in saying that facilitation is important. I have seen a well-designed lesson fall flat, because the teacher really only wanted students to give an answer without examining how they reached the answer. In my field, however, given the demands of industry and 21st century skills, the backward design seems the more logical to employ in Basic Ed.

        Lastly, DepEd has already piloted UbD for the past two years in a 22 public schools. There’s a list of these schools here: http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Understanding_by_Design. I’ve met a few of the teachers from some of those schools. As to be expected, they had difficulty initially. The formal result of the pilot study, however, seems not to have been released to the general public. I gather they were released only to the consultants. But, they say based on the results, they feel confident enough to launch it this 2010.

        Unfortunately, however, it is true that majority of the public and private school teachers are hearing about it only now. It was mostly supervisors and administrators that received training last year. But it did not seem to trickle down to the faculty, based on the feedback from some public school teachers I met last summer. Which is, I think, a deficiency in planning. If a curriculum is to be rolled out in June 2010, massive trainings should have been conducted since summer last year among administrators AND faculty to prepare them. The private schools are lucky, because they have a two-year grace period to fully implement it for first year. The public schools, however, are required to do it this year already.

    2. Erlina Ronda

      May I add that only English has a complete Curriculum and Teaching Guide. But one good thing that Mathematics do not have a complete guide yet is that it’s like a fill in the blank form. The Math teachers got the chance to fill it up. This might turn up to be a good development, after all.

      For the record, I’m not totally against UbD (I like the focus on enduring understanding but again an understanding enduring to one might not be to another teacher hence the need for a really good curriculum framework) but I hope it will not be marketed to teachers as cure all. It has not proven its worth. It is very good in principle albeit not new but it has provided us with a vocabulary for talking about important aspects in educational planning.

      DepEd promised to release a guide for other subject areas this March. I hope the one in Math will be in line with that of the UbD book not unlike as you say the one in English. (But why in the first place should we aim at aligning our curriculum with the principles outlined in a single book? Shouldn’t it be a product of our accumulated knowledge about our own experience with our curriculum which we keep on changing?) I’m sure though our general objective will be as beautiful as yours as they have always been. Will “the devil is in the details” be applicable here?

      Thanks for your informative comments. Please keep sharing light about UbD.

      Reply
      1. Honey

        Hello again! Actually, curriculum and teaching guides were given in all subject areas, including Math. Except that all of them are only limited to first year, first quarter. Maybe one of your colleagues attended the conference. If so, he/she should have a copy. The DepEd facilitators also said that they will give the complete teaching guides soon, hopefully before the beginning of the school year.

        Also, what the DepEd did is exactly to apply what they read in Wiggins and McTighe’s book and try to apply it to our own context. However, if you look at the teaching guide for English at least, it does not abide by the principles of UbD or any framework that focuses on understanding, for that matter. So, it’s not a matter of aligning it to one book, but making it abide by what numerous educators from the 1920s onward have said about relevant education and teaching for understanding. So, yes, the devil is in the details.

        Unfortunately, I think there’s a large disconnect between the idea and its implementation. I really hope these things will be addressed or it will be tantamount to misleading teachers who will begin to believe that what they are applying targets understanding, but actually does not.

  36. Erlina Ronda

    Thank you for your comments in this post. I hope we can continue exchanges so we can clear the issues surrounding UbD. The government is spending millions for this. It’s for implementation this school year, this June 2010 for First year HS. If we adhere to UbD principle, the DepEd should have spelt the “general” enduring understanding they expect by the end of the four year high school first in order to guide what would be expected for first year. This is odd. I heard though, something is coming out this March.

    Reply
  37. Uhm

    UbD is not a theory it is a framework. It is neither a pedagogy.

    It is based on constructivism – which is a THEORY.

    Out of which several pedagogy came out for example constructionism.

    Our current system is based on Instructionism which is of Prussian origin.

    UbD is a solution to a common problem on how students learn which is based on a common problem on how teachers teach. And the problem is even when a student has mastered all the materials that is given him/her. Still he doesn’t see the broader picture the big fundamental ideas that underlies what he is studying.

    In other words he doesn’t have UNDERSTANDING and so what he learns does not endure outside the classroom.

    UbD operates in a philosophy of teaching that we should prepare students to grow as a person and we can only do that if we give him understanding. Understanding that endures outside the limited boundary of the discipline he is studying. If you don’t get this principle then UbD becomes merely another mechanical process that won’t work for you.

    Reply
    1. Erlina Ronda

      “Everything in UbD is still theory” doesn’t mean that it is a theory. It means that its claims have not been proven yet, thus all theory. Actually UbD doesn’t claim it. It’s the people trying to market UbD to us who claims it. It’s right, it is just a framework for thinking about how teachers will prepare their lesson. It doesn’t even touch on “how students learn key ideas” but on identifying “what key ideas students should learn”. The former I believe teachers should focus more their time and energy on. The latter should be what the curriculum framework should contain. Sadly, the current framework is no help to teachers, even in the area of providing direction and focus. I believe the DepEd adoption of UbD was hurriedly done. The current curriculum framework is not yet in the form that could guide teachers in preparing a good lesson which focus on the essential. At the moment it’s a list of topics!

      Th UbD claim that it’s based on constructivism is still as clear as mud to me. Is it as a teaching principle? In what way? Is it in adapting UbD? Maybe. It’s one size fits all for all subject area and you can do anything you want with it. The proponents even claim you need not go through from Stages 1, 2, etc in that order. You can start anywhere. If so, how does it differ with the way we prepare our plans before? Oh, yeah, this time you will actually write in your plans the enduring understanding and not just in your subconscious. By the way, this is something I like about UbD – the focus on “enduring understanding” idea for each subject area.

      That we should prepare students to grow as person had always been the goal of education and that we should teach with understanding goes back to the time of Dewey (?) or earlier. UbD is a framework, one of the frameworks. Its description of what understanding is is just one of the the many descriptions. Check this out.
      http://turongsipnayan.wordpress.com/2010/02/15/understanding-in-understanding-by-design/

      Reply
  38. Xavierian

    You want proof?

    Go to Xavier High School. They have about 6 years experience with UbD.

    Reply
    1. erlines

      Good and congratulations. Were there improvements? Could you share with us your result and the process? Thanks.

      Reply
  39. Pingback: Understanding in “Understanding by Design” « Ang Pagtuturo ng Sipnayan

  40. corrine realica

    i believe UbD is the answer to our lost education track, we seem to have tried so many paths in the past. I believe in UbD because of its transfer ability principle – students should be able to put into real life , whatever we teach them , if not then we probably have not taught them well.

    Reply
    1. erlines

      there is no research yet which proves that “transfer ability” claim of UbD proponents. Everything in UbD is still “theory”. Also, almost all reforms in education advocate teaching and learning for real-life, not just UbD. You are right that if students did not learn how to apply their knowledge in real-life, it’s probably because we have not taught them well. It is not because we did not plan the lesson according to UbD. UbD is about how to plan the lesson, not how to teach it. My point: we should invest our time more in the latter.

      Reply
      1. aldz1975

        UbD is the answer to the lost education track? How many times have we heard that phrase every time a new framework is being introduced? The ability principle has always been a part of other frameworks. So I don’t see why UbD is the answer to our lost educational system.

        I agree with erlines, teachers nowadays focus too much on the design of the lesson rather than the delivery of the lesson. And that is where teachers fail. This is also the case in the college level. Members of the faculty have a hard time designing the syllabus because of a lot of requirement to be incorporated in the syllabus.

    2. Wesker

      You learned from the previous lesson plan, have you not? This thing called UbD is just such nothing but making more work for teachers and students. Truly, it complicates the situation of learning. Yes, it may be effective in some other country but here, I do not think so. It is the delivery of the lesson and not by just any design. I may be a student myself but I doubt these principles of yours. We should consider the dates as well on your UbD.

      Reply
  41. Deped Teacher

    Sorry to say that I do not believed in the DepED new curriculum for the reason that it is not the solution of the problem. It will not bring any quality education for the barangay schools.

    Reply
      1. Wesker

        I got your point, but you are way too far from the subject, mister. You have been taught using the previous lesson plan, or so the design that you are pertaining, but would there be any difference in you are all going to use that UbD? It is the delivery that matters, not the design. Not all the things that can be learn inside the classroom can be applied outside the school. Check on it.

  42. Pingback: Assessment for learning – its genealogy « keeping math simple and challenging

  43. Amy Punzalan

    Thanks, Lines, for sharing some UbD concerns. I identify with the way we sometimes
    subscribe with the ‘fashion’ in education such as this one without ascertaining our
    contexts. We did a 5-day workshop with some teachers last year. I wonder if we may perhaps use the outcome/output/evaluation of the workshop to see if UbD is ‘wearable’.

    Reply

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