Understanding by Design

Reflection, Six Facets of Understanding, ISTE-2 Digital Citizen

In my deep memory, I had 12 years of learning experiences from elementary to
high school anchored on thousands of tests. The aim of learning is for the
expectation of a high score in the final university entry examination but not
for understanding. Coverage-focused teaching is the universal instructional
design in the Chinese schools where teachers have to follow a set of fixed
teaching standard for every lesson; thousands of students must meet the same
standard by a set of continuous assessments. School is more like a factory keep
manufacturing billions of artifacts (students) within the same characters.
Something different will treated as bad or odd in which opinion the precious
stuff is getting lost: curiosity, creativity. If you ask me “What did you learn
from the 12 years?” My answer is “I am a good student on the test but not a
good learner.”

As an educator now, I need to ask myself a vital question “What is the purpose of instruction?” In my heart, the purpose is understanding. We need to turn our view back on how much content students understand, did they have a deep understanding rather than I know it, or I got it, did the instruction has any intellectual impacts. As the educator, we must seek a way to develop students’ understanding, and explore evidence of understanding. From the book “Understanding by Design,” I learned the backward design providing a habit of mind focused on students’ understanding through every element of design as content-delivery, learning activities, and assessment. The template of UbD is like a map with a designed route pointed to the achievement of understanding. After learning the UbD, I started to pilot the backward design for a secondary photography class on the panorama unit. (Figure 1.1-1.3)  The book presents that when the six facets of understanding are all completely developed, mature and deep understanding happens. So the six facets need to be considered in each stage of design. Let us make the whole instructional design (Panorama unit) into small pieces to see how powerful the UbD is.

Knock the door

With the essential questions, students will get motivated on the panorama and move to deep-dive learning with curiosity and explicit purpose. The first activity of taking a non-panorama photo of the whole classroom will cause failure which can provoke students’ questions and think. Have them splice the pieces of printed photos to make one completed big panorama photo aimed to improve them in the understanding of how the panorama works. The students will discuss by the group and post a reflection on this activity to explain what panorama is in their mind and what caused the failure-Explanation. With this self-assessment, students understand more about panorama with tangible puzzle activity and teacher can provide support on any misunderstanding of panorama concept from students’ post. Students also need to aware of digital citizenship from considering if their reflection is understandable, credible to others.

Cross the threshold

Master Skills

After knocking the door of panorama’s world, students need to master the basic skills of taking panorama photos from a smartphone. With teacher’s coach, students will have different experiences through the practice. They will choose one of their works no matter the one that is successful or failed to share with the class to exchange the ideas of the tips-Explanation. Each group will create an illustrated chart collaboratively based on the sharing and summarized them to prepare for teaching younger students (The performance task). In the Let’s Panorama task, students will leap understanding by teaching younger students how to take successful panorama photos-Interpretation and Application. Based on the teacher’s discussion questions, each group needs to think over if their illustration includes empathy and post the revised vision on the group blog. Students will engage in a positive peer-assessment to give comments depending on the facets of empathic, understandable, and practical. Students will cultivate and manage their digital identity and reputation which is essential to create a healthy climate in the digital world by the awareness of their digital actions. Also, students will foster digital etiquette and show respects on others’ work during social interaction online.

-Master Key Knowledge

The teacher needs to deliver the knowledge on panorama’s composition such as “C,” “Triangle”,and “Curve.” Students need to understand how the composition helps the photographer to express his big idea.  Moreover, students need to have a deeper understanding that the successful panorama photo has to include empathy between the photographer and audiences, appropriate composition, and creative elements. In the A Photo Critic performance task, each group will find a good panorama photo from online and articulate the reason why they choose it to demonstrate their understanding of the key factors of a successful panorama photo and reveal their own critical and insightful points of view-Perspective. Students will share their perspectives and provide feedbacks using the blog to present digital citizenship. They will cultivate a respectful attitude and give credit to others when they are using and sharing online resources.

Deep-dive Understanding

With the understanding of the factors of a successful panorama photo, students will create a panorama photo permeating the four factors to express their big idea. The photos will be posted in the hallway and students can choose the favorite one to narrate the reason anchored by the four factors to dive into a deep understanding of the soul of  panorama photos-Application, Empathy

Innovation- Mature Understanding

The big idea of this unit is to design innovative panorama photos through effective collaboration and communication. The teacher will show some supernatural photos and have students discuss and try to imitate them. In this part of learning (imitation, reproducing), the teacher needs to introduce the knowledge of the copyright to promote students’ understanding of the respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property in the digital world to reinforce their awareness of digital citizenship and demonstrate it when they work on the innovative task (Brainstorm).  Each group will post their design script of the scene and share with others through blogs, revise after getting feedbacks and create the final artifacts based on the design. Students will have a divisional role in this collaborative learning and demonstrate the full understandings of the panorama from different dimensions to make up each other’s blind spots to leap to the mature understanding.-Self-knowledge

An additional task on online interaction

Digital citizenship is not an isolated curriculum and also needs ongoing
practices. It can be embedded into different curriculums, different lessons.
Digital citizenship will be fostered and developed as a habit of mindset when
students understand how important it is in the digital world.

In this panorama class, students will use the blog to present learning achievements and reflections and interact with others.  In the digital world, students need to understand the indispensable of building digital identities and reputation by ethical and positive behavior which is paralleled with the real world. They need to present respect and credit of using, sharing, and commenting on others’ online works to demonstrate digital citizenship. The teacher can implement a continual task to help students understand digital citizenship when they interact online. The task is “Chart It.”  This paper provides a lesson plan. “https://d1e2bohyu2u2w9.cloudfront.net/education/sites/default/files/uploads/classroom-curriculum/6-8-library-chartit.pdf”(Common Sense Media, 2012)

I suggest teachers re-create different Chart It Scenarios and student-assessment which are relevant to the specific lessons including unintentional hurtful scenarios, intentional helpful scenarios, and intentional hurtful scenarios…Each group needs to stand on the class-sized grid (Figure 2)which is combined with X Axis = “Hurtful” (left) and “Helpful” (right); Y Axis = “Intentional” (top) and “Unintentional” (bottom) in the same spot that they marked on their grid of each scenario. Students need to explain their positions and rethink their online communication if they are intentional helpful, positive and benefit others, feeling of others to lead a deeper understanding of digital citizenship-Explanation, Empathy.Teachers can reproduce the scenarios as a form of an ongoing task to cultivate the awareness and mindset of digital citizenship. I create a Chart it Scenarios for the panorama class (Figure 3)

Figure 2 Contributed from www.commonsense.org
Figure 3

Using the UbD to design pilot instruction for the photography class, I can
find the power of the UbD in both teaching and learning. It scaffolds teacher
permeates any six facets of understanding into different forms of learning
activities and assessments and move forward to the completed understanding as
the outcome. Students will transfer their understanding to abilities and build
interconnection to benefit their future learning. With the emerging digital
tools coming out, I choose the blog as the platform for interaction and
demonstration which will engage students to build a healthy digital community
to become good digital citizens within digital etiquettes and ethics in mind. A
good instructional design will evolve into a great design over time. It will
come through from iterative revises. We need to change some elements of the
design depended on the students’ reflections and outcomes. UbD will always
provide the right direction of the design with an explicit purpose of

Figure 1.1
Figure 1.2
Figure 1.3


Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design, expanded 2nd edition. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.spu.edu

Common Sence Media. (2012). Chart It. Retrieved from https://d1e2bohyu2u2w9.cloudfront.net/education/sites/default/files/uploads/classroom-curriculum/6-8-library-chartit.pdf

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