Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fall 2010 UTeach PBI Class 15- Thursday October 21:Backwards Design

Today class centered on the principles of Backward Design. Students are going to apply these principles to planning their unit at Manor New Tech in order to achieve more sophistication in their unit planning.

Dr. Petrosino urged students to worry less about how their lesson looks or the format and think more about putting it into practice. Teaching is not just a cerebral activity; if it was, the smartest people would be the best teachers. While there may be a correlation, this is not the case. Of course there is a need to plan, to know activities, big ideas, etc, but there are also ephemeral things. Leadership, how you command attention, tone, confidence, those things are all in display when teaching and UTeach students need to be planning for that aspect of the classroom experience. The best lesson plans can go awry when teachers do not take all of these factors into account. Lesson plans go awry anyway sometimes for countless other reasons. Some you can control. Some you cannot. Students were encouraged to draw upon the things they have seen and done in class, either literally or as an analogy.

The Backward Design framework from Wiggins and McTighe is a framework for designing curricular units for performance assessments and instruction that leads students to a deeper understanding of the content. As we have said all semester, three things must be changed in order to do PBI: Pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment.

The framework uses 6 facets of understanding: explain, interpret, apply, have perspective, empathize, have self- knowledge about a given topic. Though these are not exactly the same as the 5E model that students have used in the past, many of the principles align.

When using backward design, teachers should start by identifying classroom learning goals and working backwards toward the activities and materials that foster learning and determine student ability. Teachers should be teaching for understanding; there should be coherent curriculum design and clear distinction between big ideas and essential/driving questions. Teachers should be transparent with students about big ideas, essential questions, and performance requirements at the beginning of a unit. In college we have a notion of a syllabus as a contract between professor and students- why not in high school? Being transparent with students is an issue of respect and accountability. Students should be able to describe the performance goals and point of the course. Backward Design/Understanding by Design is NOT: prescriptive program, not a philosophy of education, not focused on individual lesson plans, not always feasible, something that works if you don’t wish to build deeper understanding.

During class today, some students brought up concerns about their inexperience with “long term” planning that goes beyond isolated lessons, and how this would impact them during student teaching. Dr. Petrosino told them that feelings of doubt and inadequacy are part of the transition between novice and expertise; though this provides very little comfort when entering student teaching, it is part of the transformation. All of the field experiences add up to very little in comparison to the classroom time in student teaching, and UTeach students should be aware that they are still growing and changing during this semester and are not expected to begin as fully-realized professional teachers. At this point, students lack the experience to full contextualize instruction on how to “be a teacher” and they should expect significant growth and change during their student teaching semester.

Meter Stick curriculum is due next class.

Overview- Understanding by Design

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