Six Facets of Understanding
What is the enduring idea? What will they remember
about the topic in five year?
Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTighe:
In "Understanding by Design," Wiggins and McTighe
(1998) lay out a conceptual framework for instructional designers. Unlike
many instructional design models that come from a training background,
the Wiggins and McTighe model is well suited for the academic community.
Two of their biggest contributions are:
- The "backwards design" instructional design model
- The "Six Facets of Understanding"
Six Facets of Understanding
Tell meaningful stories, offer apt translations, provide a revealing
historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make subjects
personal or accessible through images, anecdotes, analogies, and models.
Effectively use and adapt what they know in diverse contexts.
- have perspective:
See and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see
the big picture.
Find value in what others might find odd, alien, or implausible;
perceive sensitively on the basis of prior indirect experience.
Perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections, and habits
of mind that both shape and impede our own understanding; they are
aware of what they do not understand and why understanding is so
The backwards design model centers on the idea that the
design process should begin with identifying the desired results and
then "work backwards" to develop instruction rather than the
traditional approach which is to define what topics need to be covered.
Their framework identifies three main stages:
Stage 1: Identify desired outcomes
Stage 2: Determine what constitutes
acceptable evidence of competency in the outcomes and results (assessment).
Stage 3: Plan instructional
strategies and learning experiences that bring students to these competency
In other instructional design models this is known as defining goals and
objectives. Wiggins and McTighe ask instructors to consider not only the
course goals and objectives, but the learning that should endure over
the long term. This is referred to as the enduring understanding.
Wiggins and McTighe suggest that the enduring understanding
is not just material worth covering," but includes the following
Stage 1. Identify Desired Results
Enduring value beyond the classroom
Resides at the heart of the discipline
Required uncoverage of abstract or
often misunderstood ideas
Offer potential for engaging students
Backward design uses a question format rather than measurable
objectives. By answering key questions, students deepen their learning
about content and experience an enduring understanding. The instructor
sets the evidence that will be used to determine that the students have
understood the content.
These questions focus on the following:
To what extent does the idea, topic,
or process reside at the heart of the discipline?
- What questions point toward the big ideas and understandings?
- What arguable questions deepen inquiry and discussion?
- What questions provide a broader intellectual focus, hence purpose,
to the work?
Once the key concepts-questions
are identified, develop a few questions that apply the line of inquiry
to a specific topic.
Examples from Wiggins and McTight (1998):
Specific topic question:
Asking inquiry-based questions facilitates
the students "uncovering" the answer.
Stage 2. Determine what constitutes acceptable evidence of competency
in the outcomes and results (assessment).
The second stage in the design
process is to define what forms of assessment will demonstrate that
the student acquired the knowledge, understanding, and skill to answer
Wiggins and McTighe define
three types of assessment:
- Performance Task The performance task is at the heart of the
A performance task is meant to be a real-world challenge in the thoughtful
and effective use of knowledge and skill an authentic test of
understanding, in context.
- Criteria Referenced Assessment (quizzes, test, prompts)
These provide instructor and student
with feedback on how well the facts and concepts are being understood.
Unprompted Assessment and Self-Assessment
(observations, dialogues, etc.).
Stage 3. Plan Learning Experience and Instruction
In this stage it is determined what sequence of teaching
and learning experiences will equip students to develop and demonstrate
the desired understanding.