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Understanding by Design (UbD) for Proficiency-Based Learning

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Appropriate for grade K-12 educators

Course Description:
Vermont’s current transition to proficiency-based learning has raised a number of important questions about structures and strategies for unit design, assessment, and grading. This course will use the Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe) framework to help teachers create purposeful units driven by authentic assessment and inquiry. The underlying assumption of the course is that proficiency-based learning will improve student outcomes thanks to greater precision, transparency, and relevance through intentionally structured learning activities and assessment. Finally, the course will examine the importance of habits of learning, growth mindset, and how feedback practices can either help or hinder future growth. Participants will have time to learn through professional dialogue, examine their own assessment strategies, and apply UbD principles to their own work during the course meeting time.

Course Learning Objectives:

  • How can clarity of purpose improve our assessment strategies?
  • What is the difference between formative & summative assessment?
  • What should we keep in mind when providing feedback?
  • What is the difference between knowing and understanding? (cf. Wiggins & McTighe)
  • How can essential questions foster inquiry-driven units of study?
  • How can we use transferable skills, content-area proficiencies, and learning targets together in a way that makes sense?

Participant must purchase textbook:

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Ed. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.  [ISBN-10: 1416600353]

About the Instructors:
Michael Martin is the Director of Curriculum & Technology for Montpelier Public Schools. He is a doctoral candidate in the University of Vermont’s Ed Leadership & Policy Studies program and has written over 90 commentaries for Vermont Public Radio on culture and education. He received a Rowland Fellowship in 2009 and now works for the Foundation as a Senior Associate. His work focuses on learner identity, technology, and school transformation.

Michael McRaith is the principal of Montpelier High School. He is a 2013 Rowland Fellow with a research interest and expertise dedicated to increasing student achievement through social emotional learning. He offers online continuing educational courses to teachers around the state and routinely presents on related themes for schools’ professional learning sessions.