Sunday, April 26, 2009

Understanding by Design- 2 Day Workshop

A 2 day workshop which was led by Elizabeth Rossani and supported by NCLB Title funding organized by Ms. Jennifer Lopez and Dr. Petrosino took place on Friday, April 24th at the Brandt Professional Development Center and Saturday, April 25th at the Hoboken High School school library. The workshop was coordinated with ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). 

What is Understanding by Design? It is the foundation of the revised curriculum that the Curriculum Committee has been working with for the past 18 months. As the curriculum is now being refined in it's final iteration, it was felt some additional formal professional development would be worthwhile in making sure the new curriculum is as consistent as possible with Understanding by Design. 

Indicators of Teaching for Understanding


-         Reflects a coherent design -- big ideas and essential questions clearly guide the design of, and are aligned with, assessments and teaching and learning activities.

-         Makes clear distinctions between big ideas and essential questions, and the knowledge and skills necessary for learning the ideas and answering the questions.

-         Uses multiple forms of assessment to let students demonstrate their understanding in various ways.

-         Incorporates instruction and assessment that reflects the six facets of understanding -- the design provides opportunities for students to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self-assess.

-         Anchors assessment of understanding with authentic performance tasks calling for students to demonstrate their understanding and apply knowledge and skills.

-         Uses clear criteria and performance standards for teacher, peer, and self-evaluations of student products and performances.

-         Enables students to revisit and rethink important ideas to deepen their understanding.

-         Incorporates a variety of resources. The textbook is only one resource among many (rather than serving as the syllabus).


-         Informs students of the big ideas and essential questions, performance requirements, and evaluative criteria at the beginning of the unit or course.

-         Hooks and holds students' interest while they examine and explore big ideas and essential questions.

-         Uses a variety of strategies to promote deeper understanding of subject matter.

-         Facilitates students' active construction of meaning (rather than simply telling).

-         Promotes opportunities for students to "unpack their thinking" -- to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, or self-assess (incorporates the six facets of understanding).

-         Uses questioning, probing, and feedback to stimulate student reflection and rethinking.

-         Teaches basic knowledge and skills in the context of big ideas and explores essential questions.

-         Uses information from ongoing assessments as feedback to adjust instruction.

-         Uses information from ongoing assessments to check for student understanding and misconceptions along the way.

-          Uses a variety of resources (beyond the textbook) to promote understanding.


-         Can describe the goals (big ideas and essential questions) and performance requirements of the unit or course.

-         Can explain what they are doing and why (i.e., how today's work relates to the larger unit or course goals).

-         Are hooked at the beginning and remain engaged throughout the unit or course.

-         Can describe the criteria by which their work will be evaluated.

-         Are engaged in activities that help them to learn the big ideas and answer the essential questions.

-         Are engaged in activities that promote explanation, interpretation, application, perspective taking, empathy, and self-assessment (the six facets).

-         Demonstrate that they are learning the background knowledge and skills that support the big ideas and essential questions.

-         Have opportunities to generate relevant questions.

-         Are able to explain and justify their work and their answers.

-         Are involved in self- or peer-assessment based on established criteria and performance standards.

-         Use the criteria or rubrics to guide and revise their work.

-         Set relevant goals based on feedback.

Participants in the 2 day workshop included:

April 24, 2009
Ed Barfield, Bess Mitsakos, Kathleen Kelly, Geidy Dela Rosa, Tania Trinidad-Payamps, Tasha Leggard, Fran Cohen, Tara Donnelly, Kevin Metcalfe, Beth Tomlinson.
April 25, 2009
Ed Barfield, Bess Mitsakos, Kathleen Kelly, Tania Trinidad-Payamps, Isabel Bruno, Fran Cohen, Tara Donnelly, Kevin Metcalfe, Beth Tomlinson