This week we began crafting our Stage 1 main understandings and essential questions elements of our UbD curriculum projects. Chapters 5 and 6 in Wiggins & McTighe’s Understanding by Design (2005) were most helpful to me as I considered the relevance of main understandings and essential questions to curriculum design.
When creating essential questions, Wiggins & McTighe (2005, p. 113) state that they should be framed around four “big idea” categories: Key concepts, purpose and value, strategy and tactics, and context of use. One particular piece of information that stuck with me on this subject is that essential questions are not looking for a definitive answer. Effective essential questions require thought and deep understanding of the content.
Wiggins & McTighe (2005, p. 132) make clear distinctions between what is a “fact” and what is an “understanding”. Someone’s understandings are based on the facts they have learned. Known facts are analyzed, connected, and applied in various situations in order to come up with relevant understandings. It was interesting to me to realize that someone’s understandings can be known as facts to someone else, depending on where on the continuum of knowledge a learner is. Similarly, many accepted facts today started out as understandings at some point in the past. This was helpful to me in that my curriculum design is geared towards kindergarteners. Many of their understandings would likely be referred to as facts by older students and adults.
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.