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Understanding by Design Paperback – December 28, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0130930583 ISBN-10: 013093058X

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Product Details

  • Series: Merrill Education/Ascd College Textbook Series
  • Paperback: 201 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall (December 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 013093058X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0130930583
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 7.8 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,210,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Grant Wiggins, EdD, is the President of Authentic Education in Hopewell, New Jersey. He earned his Ed.D. from Harvard University and his B. A. from St. John's College in Annapolis. Grant consults with schools, districts, state and national education departments on a variety of reform matters; organizes conferences and workshops; and
develops print materials and Web resources on curricular change.

Grant is perhaps best known for being the co-author, with Jay McTighe, of Understanding By Design, the award-winning and highly successful program and set of materials on curriculum design; and Schooling by Design. He is also currently a co-author to Pearson Publishing on more than a dozen textbook programs in which UbD is being infused. His work has been supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

Over the past twenty five years, Grant has worked on some of the most influential reform initiatives in the world, including Ted Sizer's Coalition of Essential Schools, the International Baccalaureate Program, the Advanced Placement Program; and national school reform efforts in China and Thailand.

Grant is also widely known for his work in assessment reform. He is the author of Educative Assessment and Assessing Student Performance, both published by Jossey-Bass. And he was a lead consultant on many state assessment reform initiatives, such as the portfolio project in Vermont and the performance assessment consortia in New jersey and North Carolina.

His many articles have appeared in such journals as Educational Leadership and Phi Delta Kappan. His work is grounded in 14 years of secondary school teaching and coaching. Grant taught English and electives in philosophy, coached Varsity soccer, Cross Country, JV Baseball, and Track & Field. He also plays in the Hazbins, a rock band. He can be reached at

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 73 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
I first learned of this excellent book at a professional development workshop that was offered by my school. I was immediately driven to buy it and learn all that I could about the backwards design process. One year later I find myself planning ALL of my units around enduring understandings and essential questions. It really makes sense that students can demonstrate understanding in various ways, and that it is our duty as teachers to allow them to do that with as many opportunities as possible. This year I finally feel that my students are really connecting with what I want them to learn, and they are seeing the "big picture." I will never design a unit the "traditional" way again!
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Judi Franz on April 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Understanding by Design introduces teachers to the three-stage "Backward Design Process," which advocates starting with the end - the desired results (goals or standards) - and then deriving the curriculum from the evidence of learning (performance) called for by the standard and finally, the teaching needed to equip students to perform.
The authors spend a good portion of the book attempting to define the concept of understanding. They present a "multifaceted view of what makes up mature understanding" which consists of six facets. They emphasize that the important point is to realize that "understanding is a family of related abilities." The six facets they use are: Explanation, Interpretation, Application, Perspective, Empathy, and Self-Knowledge. They go on to give examples of the range of understanding, from naive to mature, and how rubrics can assess for these different levels. They also emphasize that understanding is an iterative process, and that the same questions can be asked to students of all ages, with different expectations based on stages of maturity.
These facets play an important role in curricular design, and are woven into all stages of the design process.
I don't feel I'm capable of doing the book justice in this review - there is so much valuable information presented. The points and concepts are all illustrated with concrete examples. The book presents a comprehensive, cohesive plan and template for curricular design, based on solid theory. I am sure I will revisit this book often. It is well-written and easy to follow.
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83 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Brandi S. Martin on July 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
"The student ...(believes).. that there is neat and clean knowledge out there and it is my job to learn (i.e., memorize) and use it as directed. A key challenge in teaching for understanding is to make the student's view of knowledge ... more sophisticated by revealing the problems, controversies, and assumptions that lie behind much given and seemingly unproblematic knowledge."
I found this book on the way to another book, and I couldn't have been more delighted. Professional educators often feel the dichotomy between meeting national, state, and local goals and standards, and the real teaching that seems to have nothing to do with district benchmarks or standardized tests.
These authors propose a "backwards design process" that begins with the standards or outcomes desired, but then using these as guidelines to developing essential questions & understandings that actually matter beyond the classroom, then structuring the curriculum around these posed questions. They discuss the difference between covering the material, and using questions to `uncover' the material. They using first hand examples of practice and texts to clearly exemplify what they mean. I found it exciting, inspiring, and extremely helpful.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
Wiggins and McTighe provide an outstanding framework for curriculum design and assessment in this book. As they explain, understanding is so much greater than simply knowing. Their six "facets" of understanding will enable students to really understand as the curriculum is "uncovered," rather than being "covered." Advocating that you "begin with the end in mind," the authors explain a design process that is backward to what most people do. You begin with the desired end result, followed by the development of assessment activities, asking "What would count as evidence of successful teaching?" Only after you do this do you begin to consider the design of units, activities, and actual plans. Helpful design tools that can be used throughout the process are also included. One of my favorites is the chart that contrasts the questions that would be asked if you were "thinking like an assessor" to those that would be asked if you were "thinking like an activity designer." I believe this book should be read by any educator concerned about students' understanding and interest in what is taught in school today.
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By "studio_armada" on November 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
McTighe and Williams successfully expound on a subject often mired in philosophical debate: how to assess understanding and evaluate true learning. It is an outstanding framework for developing curriculum intent on extending beyond traditional methods of teaching and preaching to students. The authors contend that true understanding can be assessed by measuring performance against six facets of understanding: explanation, interpretation, application, perspective, empathy, and self-knowledge. These facets are vital to developing curriculum and the authors do an outstanding job of presenting the material in charts, and exercises, making a difficult topic easier to understand. Comparing and contrasting covering material and uncovering knowledge serves to help teachers think like assessors, rather than activity planners. Helpful design tools are included throughout the book and teachers are instructed to evaluate the effectiveness of their teaching with thoughtful and probing questions.
Understanding by Design will serve as my guide for evaluating my own effectiveness as a teacher. I expect to rely on it to gauge my own competency in developing and executing lessons. Examples throughout the book illuminating the practical applications of each of the six facets are well organized and easy to follow. I found the use of keywords and charts especially helpful in furthering my own understanding of how to uncover knowledge. I am confident that if I remain faithful to the tenets of this book, I will be able to put into practice what I believe constitutes effective strategies for learning: student-centered activities which call upon students to question assumptions, draw upon past knowledge, and advance understanding through incremental learning
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