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Understanding by Design:

Course design that facilitates the


Development of Critical Thinking

Dale Marshfield
1. Generate a list identifying the elements of an effective module:
i. _________________________________________________________ __________

ii. _________________________________________________________ __________

iii. _________________________________________________________ __________

iv. _________________________________________________________ __________

v. _________________________________________________________ __________

2. The Process of Formal Education:

Notes: What tends to characterize people at each stage of the process

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Creative Learning Strategies

Evidence of Student Attainment

Desired Results
“the knowledge, skills
and core transferable
competences they need
Teaching Designing
to succeed after
graduation”
EU Commission on Higher Education
and Training

“High quality and relevant higher education is able to equip students with the
knowledge, skills and core transferable competences they need to succeed after
graduation, within a high quality learning environment which recognises and
supports good teaching”
http://ec.europa.eu/education/policy/higher-education/quality-relevance_en

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3. The Objectives in Module Design

1. T- _____________________________________

2. U -______________________

Design
Objectives

A- ___________________________

McTighe’s two greatest lessons.

1. ____________________________________________

2. _____________________________________________

What do you think about these? Could you add a third?

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A Warning : The Design Process Assumes a Level of Subject Matter Expertise
Ministry demands limit the amount of time we have for module preparation. Often,
what time there is gets consumed in the mastery of the subject matter with little time
left for considering how best to structure the learning experience for students. Before
a teacher can embark on the process we will study in this workshop he or she must
have a pretty good understanding of their course subject matter – the content.

4. Transfer Goals – Describing real-world performance

The mission and or vision statements of most ministry training programs focus on real world performance.
They envision students who will be effective leaders, pastors, teachers, or missionaries. Mission
statements rarely say the institution exists to produce good students or people who know a lot of
information. Their mission is to develop people who can perform well in varied ministry contexts.

A program guided by a well thought-out competency based curriculum is made up of courses deemed
essential to the development of ministry specific abilities and the realization of the school’s mission /
vision. Teachers are entrusted with developing these abilities in their students, not just teaching course
content. For instance, the Old Testament is taught because, with Paul, modern educators believe there
are patterns, practices and teachings in the Old Testament that will enable a person to relate properly to
God, himself, others, and the environment (Rom. 15:4, 1 Cor. 10:11). These patterns, practices, and
teachings, when properly understood, serve as a source of information about living with and for God, and
helping others to do the same. So, at the end of the day, those who design ministry curriculum intend that
a person will be able to use the Old Testament in life and ministry not just know the information it contains.

To align teaching with mission, module developers must design their courses in light of the real world
performance implied or stated in the institutionally prescribed goals and objectives . When goals and
objectives are well written, the transfer goals are explicit. Even when this is not the case, the teacher
must clearly describe the real world performance the class should develop in students. Thinking about and
then writing out these transfer goals is an essential first step in the design process. It sets the ultimate
North Star that will guide the module design.

Wiggins and McTighe (UbD Course and Unit Drafting Template, 2001:1) describe transfer goals in this way:
• Transfer goals require the strategic use of a repertoire of knowledge, skill and understanding in new, varied,
and realistic contexts
• Transfer goals are long-term competencies, in which one must use prior learning to respond to novel and
varied challenges in realistic situations
• A skill is not a transfer goal; a transfer goal involves many skills as well as strategic thinking about which skill
to use when – Game sense.

Examples of transfer goals: Not specific tasks but big picture performance goals.
• The student will be able to independently and effectively use the material in the book of Philemon to counsel
and teach a modern audience with respect to forgiveness and reconciliation (Module on the Pauline Epistles
– Greek 3 – NT Biblical Theology).
• The student will be able to independently and effectively prepare homiletical outlines that are exegetically
sound and relevant to hearers in a modern USA city (Module on Sermon Preparation).
• The student will be able to independently and effectively develop strategies for leading churches through
significant change (Pastoral Theology – leadership).

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5. Identifying your Transfer Goals: this is the first step in module design

At the conclusion of this module, students will be able to independently and effectively use their
learning to…
________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________

6. Understanding: the gymnasium for developing critical thinking


A Modern Parable - (Peter Mitchell, http://www.thelearning.co.nz/)
A business owner once asked a wise man for help in improving an unprofitable business. The wise man
wrote a charm on a piece of paper and sealed it in a box which he gave to the business owner. "Take this
box to every worker in your business every day for a year," he told him.
The business owner did so. In the morning he carried it into the store and asked the Stores Supervisor
about the level of Quality Control on Inwards Goods. Later, when he carried it into the production area he
saw that the Production Manager was in his office reading the newspaper. They discussed the need to be
visible on the factory floor. During the afternoon he carried it into the Engineering Shop and found the
Engineering Supervisor trying to balance his budget. He helped him by showing an easier way. Every day,
as he took the box around his business, he found things to discuss with the staff and help them to improve
their performance.
At the end of the year he returned to the wise man. "Let me keep the magic charm for another year," he
begged. "My business has been a hundred times more profitable this year than ever before because my
people are happy."
The wise man smiled and he took the box. "I'll give you the charm itself," he said.
He broke the seal, lifted out the piece of paper and handed it to the business owner. On it was written…
Write out what you think was written on the piece of paper. On it was written _______________
_________________________________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________________________________
What are some of the “take-aways,” the principles, you see in the story?
1. _____________________________________________________________________________
2. _____________________________________________________________________________

Drawing inferences from a text is one of the essential critical thinking skills. These inferences are not
explicitly stated in the text. That does not mean they are arbitrary. They are drawn from the story and are
defendable. Teaching students to draw legitimate inferences takes time, but we dare not ignore it. There
are questions teachers must use to train their students to infer.

• asking ‘How do you know?’ whenever an inference is generated in discussion of a text


• asking questions about relationships between characters, goals and motivations
• asking questions that foster comprehension monitoring, such as Is there information that doesn’t agree
with what I already know?
• training pupils to ask themselves Why-questions while reading
• teaching the meaning of the question words ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘ why’ etc.
• asking pupils to generate their own questions from a text using these question
(questions taken from - Effective teaching of inference skills for reading - Literature review -
https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/EDR01/EDR01.pdf ) 6
If you understand (are competent), you are able to retrieve Biblical truth and other knowledge that is
appropriate to the problem or situation and use it to make sense of things and perform optimally. If
you understand (are competent), you are able to handle a novel and challenging task / problem that
many others cannot handle; you are able to create a solution, not just remember one.

7. Understanding Enduring Understanding s– Concept Attainment – Collaborative Self Study

Identify some characteristics of enduring understandings by comparing the examples and non-examples
below. As you think about the differences between understandings and statements that do not require
understanding, make a list of characteristics of understandings in the space provided at the bottom of the
page (adapted from Wiggins, 2005, 127).

Understandings Non-Understandings
• The student will understand that an • Audience and purpose
effective story engages the reader by
setting up tensions – through questions,
mysteries, dilemmas, uncertainties –
about what will happen next.

• The student will understand that when • Water covers three fourths of the earth’s
liquid water disappears, it turns into water surface
vapor and can reappear as liquid if the air
is cooled.

• The student will understand that • Things are always changing


correlation does not ensure causality.

• The student will understand that decoding • Sounding out, looking at pictures
is necessary, but not sufficient for reading
with meaning.

• The student will understand that creating • Don’t bunch up on offence


space away from the ball or puck spreads
the defense and sets up scoring
opportunities.

• The student will understand that the book • The book of Hebrews teaches the high
of Hebrews is a pastoral exhortation not a priesthood of Christ.
theological dissertation. To understand its
message it must be read in this light.

Understandings are…
1. 5.
2. 6.
3. 7.
4. 8.
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8. Understanding Understanding - Group Activity
• Group One is to read UbD pp 35-39. Once you have read the material discuss the question,
“What is the difference between understanding and knowledge?” Be prepared to explain this
difference to Group 2.

• Group Two is to read UbD pp 39-43. Once you have read the material discuss the question,
“What is the relationship between understanding and transferability?” Be prepared to explain
this difference to Group 1.
9. Notes on Understanding from the Presentation

10. Examples of enduring understandings


(Source: www.uwsp.edu/acadaff/NewFacultyResources/FOTL%2008%20Sample%20Enduring%20Understandings.pdf)
Students will understand that:
How we communicate changes depending on our audience.
Throughout history people have used music to communicate ideas/feelings that would have been
socially/politically unacceptable in other forms.
People in organizations behave in predictable ways based on their positions.
People’s preferences in interior design are influenced by their cultural backgrounds.
Listening is of equal importance to talking in interpersonal communication.
A connection to the environment can help people understand their place/role in the natural world.
Learning is an interactive process.
Technology offers many new platforms for sharing information with both positive and negative
results/consequences.
Scarcity of resources sparks both cooperation and conflict.

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Enduring Understandings
• “An Enduring Understanding makes a claim using facts.” 2005:132
• Enduring understandings are not immediately obvious.
• Enduring Understandings contain a general or transferrable idea.
• Enduring understandings are propositions about big ideas that beg to be proven.
• They are not simply a statement of fact.
• They can occur as:
Claims : A triangle with three equal sides has three equal angles.
Conclusions: Many people live in Manila, Manila is in Luzon so people living in Manila live in
Luzon.
Lessons (principles): I have learned in life, that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing
poorly if otherwise it would not be done at all.
Inferences: (from parable of the prodigal) God rejoices and receives those who turn back to him.
Models: Developing leaders involves modeling, mentoring, coaching, and releasing in that order.
Maxims: You cannot judge a book by its cover.
• Things to keep in mind as you write enduring understandings
They are drawn from and validated by content or data in a subject area
It is best for the student to formulate his/her own, not memorize the teachers. You write them
to guide your design, not so students can memorize them.
They are best formulated as a sentence using the phrase, “The student will understand that…”
• Examples from the theological curriculum
Theology proper: The student will understand that a doctrine arising from a valid and sound
deduction from scriptural evidence is as important as an explicit statement in Scripture
Hermeneutics: The student will understand that it is not possible to understand what God is saying to
me through a book of the Bible until I understand what it was saying to its original recipients.
Apologetics: The student will understand that we defend the Christian position by demonstrating the
non-viability of other positions.
New Testament Survey: The student will understand that the NT must be understood in light of the
OT, not vise versa.
Old Testament Survey: The student will understand that God orchestrates world history to achieve his
purposes, but only a prophet can interpret history.
Principles of Biblical Leadership: The student will understand that Christian leaders cast a vision for
the future and accept responsibility for achieving it.
The Gospels: The Student will understand that to interpret the Gospels adequately the student must
gain an understanding of the cultural and social context of the NT.
Homiletics: The student will understand that effectiveness in preaching emanates from the interplay
of the Word, the preacher’s life experience, the needs of the audience, and the hearer’s walk with God
Hebrews: The student will understand that unbelief is the most common and crippling sin for all
believers.
Critical Thinking: The student will understand that bad decision making and thought processes are
not justified by claiming, “God led me to do it”.

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11. Acquiring Knowledge: the building blocks of understanding
At this point in the design process we are dealing with what is commonly viewed as the course content.
The facts, information, and simple skills that make up the subject matter, and must be acquired by the
student if he or she is to grasp the understandings and use what is learned in real world contexts.
Under acquisition we also identify the learning dispositions that are essential to effective use of the
subject in life and ministry.

Once the module designer clearly articulates the understandings a student must grasp it is possible to
prioritize the content. As a rule of thumb, the only content necessary for the module is that which
students need to grasp the understandings. By limiting the amount of information, teachers can expect
students to develop automaticity of recall with respect to knowledge and skills. As a subject matter
expert you know where the understandings are buried. That is where you want your students to dig.

Knowledge Skills
What we want students to know: What we want students to be able to do:
• Vocabulary • Basic skills-decoding, arithmetic computation
• Terminology • Communication skills-listening, speaking,
• Definitions writing
• Key factual information • Thinking skills-compare, infer, analyze,
• Formulas • interpret
• Critical details • Research, inquiry, investigation skills
• Important events and people • Study skills-note taking
• Sequence and timelines • Interpersonal, group skills

Dispositions
We want students to possess these qualities:
• Character qualities: Only those deemed “mission critical” with respect to the specific performances
anticipated in your transfer goals should be identified at this point. It is a given that Christian leaders need
all the qualities of Christ, but at this point we are only identifying those qualities upon which successful
performance of stated transfer tasks are dependent.

• Learning Dispositions: While it is true that dispositions like, independence, creativity, self motivation, and
resilience are essential to all learning, it is equally true that every ministry competency depends upon certain
dispositions more than others. For instance, in a counseling module students must develop in the areas of
curiosity, reflection, openness, and resourcefulness, but a module in leadership might emphasis cooperation,
risk taking, and optimism.

“Essentially, knowledge refers to having command of the facts, definitions, and basic concepts
(declarative knowledge), and skills refer to the ability to perform some action or process competently
(procedural knowledge). … both of these are about acquisition. They differ from one another in
obvious ways: you may know the facts about the difference between a drill and a hammer but not
have skill or know-how in using either ; on the other hand, you may know who to use a ball-peen
hammer but forget the tern when asked what that type of hammer is called. …although knowledge
and skill are necessary for making connections and application, they are insufficient, by themselves, to
cause the ultimate understanding or transfer needed for achieving the long –term goal of
independent” (performance).
From Wiggins and McTighe, Creating High Quality Units, 2011:58-59
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12. The Question: How do students learn? How does teaching transform?
In the world of teaching theory there are two opposite positions on how people learn. Read the material
below and do the exercise on the next page.

Objectivists say…
An objectivist educator believes that there is one true and correct reality, which we can come to know
following the objective methods of science. By studying the world we can identify its structure and entities
with their properties and relations, which we can then represent, using theoretical models and abstract
symbols. These models and abstract symbols we can then map on the learner's mind. The learner's thought
processes will manipulate those abstract symbols and she will come to know the world, only when her mind
mirrors reality. In Lakoff's (1987) words "knowledge consists in correctly conceptualizing and categorizing
things in the world and grasping the objective connections among those things and those categories" (p.
163). Knowledge and learning are achieved when the abstract symbols that the learner came to know
correspond to the one and only real world. There is one correct understanding of any topic. Learning is
simply defined as change in behavior and/or change in the learner’s cognitive structures. Therefore,
instruction should be designed to effectively transfer the objective knowledge in the learner's head,
(Vrasidas 2000, 343)

Objectivism- Students are not encouraged to make their own interpretation of what they perceive; it is the
role of the teacher or the instruction to interpret events for them. Learners are told about the world and
are expected to replicate its content and structure in their thinking, (Jonassen 1991, 10)

Constructivists say…
Since all sensory input is organized by the person receiving the stimuli, it cannot always be directly
transferred from the teacher to the student. This means that a teacher cannot "pour" information into a
student's brain and always expect them to process it and apply it correctly later. For example, think of a
time when you were taught something in a lecture-type class. Then contrast that against a time when you
had to prepare to teach someone else something. You will probably agree that you learned the material
better when you were preparing to teach the material. This is because you constructed the knowledge for
yourself, (NDT Recourse Center n.d.)

Constructivism does not reject the idea that a real world exists. But, what it argues is that the world can
never become known in one single way. The physical world sets certain boundaries within which multiple
perspectives can be negotiated and constructed. For constructivists, learning is meaning-making. People
create meaningful interpretations of their environment by taking action and reinterpreting the world.
Human choices and actions are a result of interpretation of the world, (Vrasidas 2000, 350)

Yet constructivism holds important lessons for how to interpret the results of learning and for how to design
environments to support learning. Those environments must engage learners in negotiating meaning and in
socially constructing reality. Educators have always been the agents of control… If we, as educators or
designers, relinquish that control, then learners must assume it. The objectivistic research on learner
control suggests that learners are often unable or unwilling to assume greater personal responsibility for
learning, so learning should be externally mediated by instructional interventions. Constructivists argue
that the type of control that is invested in learners in such studies precludes "meaning making." … Since
learning obviously entails constructivist and objectivistic activities, the most realistic model of learning lies
somewhere on the continuum between these positions. (Jonassen 1991, 13)

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Elements of an effective learning experience gleaned from objectivists and constructivists.
1. _________________________________________________________________________________
2. _________________________________________________________________________________
3. _________________________________________________________________________________
4. _________________________________________________________________________________
5. _________________________________________________________________________________

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In Summary – Transfer, Understanding, and Acquisition
The Understanding by Design framework uses the word “understanding” in a way that is close to the
biblical idea of wisdom. Biblical wisdom is informed or enlightened performance that is effective.
This emphasis on performance is seen in Proverbs 24:3, By wisdom a house is built, and by
understanding it is established. Life and work force us into action. The question is whether or not
our actions are informed by our best approximation of the truth. In other words, are our actions
guided by relevant knowledge, or are they arbitrary, emotive, unthinking. In UbD, understandings
are the principles, theories, models and other such generalized guides developed from knowledge,
facts and information in a subject. They are the lines that connect the dots into meaningful and
useful patterns. These understandings are the key to a students ability to use the knowledge they
gain in your class in real world contexts.
“When transfer of learning occurs it is in the form of meanings, expectations, generalizations,
concepts, or insights that are developed in one learning situation being employed in others.”
(Bigge & Shermis, 1991, 13).

Facts, information, and content are not transferable, but the principles, maxims, and generalizations
developed from them are transferable. However, as an effective teacher it is more important for
you to help your students learn how to develop these understandings than it is for you to give them
the understandings you have developed.

13. The relationship between transfer and understanding


“The challenge is not to “plug-in” what was learned from memory, but modify, adjust and
adapt an (inherently general) idea to the particulars of a situation.” Wiggins 2005:41

“To grasp the meaning of a thing, an


Individual Task event, or a situation is to see it in its
Using what you have learned and the quotes relations to other things: to see how it
on this page, explain how understandings operates or functions, what
facilitate the transfer of learning from one consequences follow from it, what
situation to a totally different situation. causes it, what uses it can be put to. In
Write your explanation below and be contrast, what we have called the brute
prepared to share it with someone else. thing, the thing without meaning to us,
____________________________________ is something whose relations are not
grasped. ... The relation of means-
____________________________________ consequence is the center of all
____________________________________ understanding. “
____________________________________ John Dewey, How We Think, 1933:137, 146
– quoted in 2005:38

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14. Designing learning activities that promote critical thinking and transfer

Effective
Modules

Learning activities should be designed/selected because of their ability to lead


the student into Transfer, Meaning Making, or Acquisition

Transfer Meaning-making Acquisition


Small Group Task Activities Activities Activities
Place the activity
under the T, M,or A
category it
encourages. Only
place an activity
under acquisition if
that is the only
learning experience
it encourages. After
debriefing, write
the results to the
right

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14.1 Designing Acquisition Activities
White (1992:3) observes that, “To understand a concept you must have in your memory some information
about it.” If students are to be equipped to move into real world situations and figure out the best
courses of action, they must move into their long-term memory some vital information in each subject
they study. With this end in view, teachers must design a complex of activities that help the student
master and remember this need-to-know information. In order to facilitate such acquisition teachers,
need to develop a complex of activities (one is not enough) that will involve the following types of
activities.

All of this is done to prepare the student to make meaning with the facts they have learned. If knowledge
is not used in meaning making activities, it will be lost. This is true in and out of the classroom. Knowledge
that is superfluous to performance is quickly forgotten.

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Design a set of acquisition activities for your Transfer Goal.

14.2 Designing Meaning-Making Activities: helping student form principles – draw inferences
Meaning-making activities lead students into encounters with the course content that encourage them to
figure things out for themselves. In the book part of the lesson they acquire the information they will now
use to assemble life-related principles. Wiggins and McTighee (G. a. Wiggins 2005, 252) point out that “the
logic of learning how to do things with the content (look) is different from the logic of transmitting the
content (book) – with implication for the kinds of teaching we do and the sequence in which we do it.” We
want students to use the content or facts of the course make better choices and act intelligently and
biblically in their daily living. It is the teacher’s responsibility to plan meaning-making activities that help
the students develop these abilities.

To effectively design meaning-making activities teachers need to see their students as information
processors. As Joyce et al (Joyce 2008, 81) say, “When the creators of these models (i.e. meaning –making
activities) look at a human being, they "see" information being processed, decisions being made,
intellectual capacity being developed, and creativity being expressed, and enhanced. These model
builders cannot just watch - they simply have to seek ways of helping us process information better in
ways that we can carry around with us as we try to understand the world and solve problems and teach
our students.”

Meaning making activities encourage students to use and thus develop their cognitive abilities by giving
them tasks that require a set of cognitive operators not used in acquisition activities. These cognitive
operators are identified by Paloutzian and Park (Paloutzian 2005, 200) in part as, “abstraction of generals
from particulars, the perception of causality in external reality, the perception of spatial or temporal
sequences in external reality, and the ordering of elements of reality into causal chains.”

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One of the best ways to facilitate meaning-making is through essential questions. Essential questions
drive students into the course content and provide the opportunity for them to figure things out and
develop understanding. They are catalysts to the discussions that must occur if students are to
develop life-related principles.

Compare the following examples and non-examples of essential questions. See what you can discover
about what makes a question “essential.” List your observations below (adapted from McTighe, 2004,
88).

Essential Questions Nonessential Questions


• How are form and function related in • How many legs does a spider have? How
biology? does an elephant use its trunk?

• How do effective writers hook and hold • What is foreshadowing? Can you find an
their readers? example of foreshadowing in the story?

• Who wins and who loses when • What is the original meaning of the term,
technologies change? “technology” (from the GK root techne)?

• Should it be an axiom if it is not obvious? • By what axioms are we able to prove the
Pythagorean theorem?

• What distinguishes fluent foreigners from • What are some French colloquialisms?
native speakers?

• How would life be different if we couldn’t • How many minutes are in an hour? How
measure time? many hour are in a day?

• What is the relationship between human • Does God promise to sanctify the
will and divine grace in the sanctification believer?
of a believer?

Essential Questions are…


1. ___________________________________ 4. _________________________________
2. ___________________________________ 5. _________________________________
3. ___________________________________ 6. _________________________________

What do you learn about effective questions from the two videos? Write your answers below.

________________________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________________________
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From :UbD Professional Development Workbook, 2004:91
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From Wiggins, 2005, 120
Rewrite and improve the Understandings (principles) you wrote out on page 4. Then write at least two
essential questions that will promote student inquire and help them formulate understanding in this area.

The student will understand that _______________________________________________


__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
Essential Questions:
1. _____________________________________________________________________
2. _____________________________________________________________________

The student will understand that _______________________________________________


__________________________________________________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________
Essential Questions:
1. _____________________________________________________________________
2. _____________________________________________________________________

Small Group Activity: Design a learning activity that forces students to do two or more of the things on the
list below.

Meaning-Making Activities lead students to do this type of behavior

compare, induce, define, generalize, collaborate, support others, teach, listen, question,
consider, explain, hypothesize, gather data, analyze, visualize, connect, map relationship,
question, research, conclude, support, pose or define problems, solve, evaluate, answer and
explain, reflect, rethink, clarify, question. predict, teach, examine, consider, challenge, debate,
consider, explain, challenge, justify, brainstorm, organize, draft, revise.

A description of the meaning making activity designed by our group:


________________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________________
________________________________________________________________________________________

The Principle to be discovered:_______________________________________________________________


__________________________________________________________________

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14.3 Designing Transfer Activities – helping students apply the principles to their real-world situations
Transfer activities are best thought of as flight simulators for your students. Every time you put them in
the “simulator” you help prepare them for the type of thing they will face as they try to follow Christ in the
world. However, the quality of the “simulator” really matters. Watch this video and make a list of all the
things you observe that makes this flight simulator a valuable tool for training pilots. Share your
observations around your table then discuss what might happen if an airline did not require flight
simulator training.

1) My observations about a good flight simulator:


• ________________________________________________________________________
• ________________________________________________________________________
• ________________________________________________________________________
• ________________________________________________________________________
• ________________________________________________________________________
• ________________________________________________________________________

2) Characteristics of a good in classroom “simulator.”


• ________________________________________________________________________
• ________________________________________________________________________
• ________________________________________________________________________
• ________________________________________________________________________
• ________________________________________________________________________
• __________________________________________________________________

3) Tips for designing took/transfer activities


Wiggins and McTighe (Unit Design Tips and Guidelines, 2003:1) make the following observations about
good took or transfer activities:

• Requires transfer – i.e. a repertoire of knowledge and skill to be used wisely and effectively in a
new situation - i.e. used with understanding
• Asks students to “do” the subject, not just recall and plug in discrete learning, out of context
• Is set in a novel situation, with little or no scaffolding or cues provided: the student has to think
through what the task demands as part of the assessment (the “game” vs. the scaffolded and
simplified “drills”)
• Should be as realistic as possible, in which students confront the same kinds of challenges,
constraints, and options found in the real world.

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4) Using a GRASPs to design a real-life simulation
Grasps are like flight simulators for the classroom. They allow you to assess the student’s ability to
handle real world situations using the knowledge, skills, and understandings developed in the unit.
Grasps is an acronym standing for Goal, Role, Audience, Situation, Product (performance), and
Standards. Wiggins and McTighe have put together this set of prompts for designing a GRASPS.

Consider the following set of stem statements as you construct a scenario for a performance task.
Refer to the previous idea sheets to help you brainstorm possible scenarios. (Note: These are idea
starters. Resist the urge to fill in all of the blanks.)

Goal :
• Your task is ____________________________________________________________________
• The goal is to ______________________________________________________________________
• The problem/challenge is_____________________________________________________________
• The obstacle(s) to overcome is (are) ____________________________________________________

Role:
• You are ___________________________________________________________________________
• You have been asked to ______________________________________________________________
• Your job is ________________________________________________________________________

Audience:
• Your client(s) is (are) ________________________________________________________________
• The target audience is _ _____________________________________________________________
• You need to convince ______________________________________________________________

Situation:
• The context you find yourself in is ______________________________________________________
• The challenge involves dealing with _ ___________________________________________________

Product/Performance and Purpose:


• You will create a ____________________________________________________________________
in order to ________________________________________________________________________
• You need to develop ________________________________________________________________
so that ____________________________________________________________________________

Standards & Criteria for Success:


• Your performance needs to ___________________________________________________________
• Your work will be judged by __________________________________________________________
• Your product must meet the following standards __________________________________________
• A successful result will ____________________________________________________
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23. Designing Performance Tasks

Observations about Performance Task Descriptions


Using the following three Performance Task Descriptions, make a list of observations about the
characteristics of these authentic performance tasks.

________________________ ________________________
________________________ ________________________
________________________ ________________________
________________________ ________________________
________________________ ________________________

Performance Task Description — Visitors’ Tour


Goal The goal is to help a group of foreign visitors understand the key historic, geographic,
and economic features of your region.

Role You are an intern at the Regional Office of Tourism.

Audience The audience is a group of nine foreign visitors (who speak English).

Situation You have been asked to develop a plan, including a budget, for a four-day tour of the
region. Plan your tour so that the visitors are shown the sites that best illustrate the
key historic, geographic, and economic features of your region.

Product / You need to prepare a written tour itinerary and a budget for the trip. You should
Performance include an explanation of why each site was selected and how it will help the visitors
understand the key historic, geographic, and economic features of your region.
Include a map tracing the route for the tour and a budget for the trip.

Standards Your proposed tour plan (including itinerary, budget, and route map) needs to
include:
• The key historic, geographic, and economic features of the region.
• A clear rationale for the selected sites.
• Accurate and complete budget figures.

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Performance Task Description — Shipping M&M’s
Goal The goal is to minimize costs for shipping bulk quantities of M&M’s.

Role You are an engineer in the packaging department of the M&M’s candy company.

Audience The target audience is non-engineer company executives.

Situation You need to convince penny-pinching company officers that your container design
will provide cost-effective use of the given materials, maximize shipping volume of
bulk quantities of M&M’s, and be safe to transport.

Product / You need to design a shipping container from given materials for the safe and cost-
Performance effective shipping of the M&M’s. Then you will prepare a written proposal in which
you include a diagram and show mathematically how your container design provides
effective use of the given materials and maximizes the shipping volume of M&M’s.

Standards Your container proposal should:


• Provide cost-effective use of the given materials.
• Maximize the shipping volume of bulk quantities of M&M’s.
• Be safe to transport.
Your models must make the mathematical case.

Performance Task Description — Dry walling a House


Goal The goal is to provide advice to a homeowner about a dry walling estimate.

Role You are a general contractor.

Audience The target audience is the homeowner.

Situation When a contractor gives an estimate on home renovations, how can a homeowner
know if the cost is reasonable? A homeowner has asked you to review a dry walling
contractor’s proposal to determine if the homeowner is being overcharged. You will
be provided with room dimensions and cost figures for materials, labour, and a 20
percent profit.
Product / After examining the proposal, write a letter to the homeowner providing your advice
Performance and evaluation of the proposal.

Standards Your letter should include a recommendation and show your calculations so that the
homeowner will understand how you arrived at your conclusion.

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Final Performance Task – Thief in the Church
Goal To lead your church into a godly and edifying response to this difficult situation.
Role You are the pastor.
Audience The Elders with whom you serve and a church member involved in situation.
Situation A faithful, wealthy and very influential businessman in your church had an
employee that stole from him a significant amount of money. The thief was
eventually apprehended while on the run, brought back to your town, tired and
sent to prison for ten years. The business man was happy with the verdict, and
felt the employee got what he deserved. While in prison, you started visiting the
young man, and he came to know Christ as his savior. He helped you establish a
ministry in the prison, and as a result of his efforts many other prisoners can to
know the Lord. When you would share this good news with the businessman he
looked disgusted and said “it’s just jail bird religion,” “a load of rubbish.” After
one year the young man’s transformed life lead the prison officials to
recommend him for early parole. He is about to be released and intends to come
to your church. You have heard that the businessman feels the early release is a
miscarriage of justice. In one of the elders overhears he say “This scoundrel
better never show his face in our church.” Some church members and even a
few elders seem to agree with him. In your discussions with the businessman
and a few sympathetic elders they say, they are not sure it is biblical to allow for
forgiveness without justice. They agree to meet with you to study this idea and
come to some conclusions as to what the proper response would be to this thief.
Product/ Using the book of Philemon as your base, develop a series of presentations for
Performance your elders and this businessman that will help them make the right decision
regarding this thief.
Standards Your presentations must be exegetically defended from the theology and
practice of Philemon. You must design three presentations with full manuscripts.
Each presentation must be 30 minutes long. You can use all resources available
to you.

Performance Task Analysis


Using the Performance Task above, infer an
understandings that is being assessed:
How likely is it that a student could do well on this
________________________ assessment by making clever guesses based on
limited understanding?
________________________
Very likely Somewhat likely Very unlikely
________________________ How likely is it that a student could do poorly on the
assessment by failing to meet the performance goal
________________________ despite having a deep understanding of the big
ideas?
________________________ Very likely Somewhat likely Very unlikely

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Scaffolded Performance Task – Drifting Deacon – formative
Goal To help a drifting deacon recommit his life to the Lord and begin serving God
again.
Role You are a pastor with a good relationship to the deacon in question.
Audience The deacon having doubts in a meeting with you at his home.
Situation The deacon has served in the church for ten years. He has sacrificially given of
his time and money to empower the work of the church. He has always
demonstrated a genuine love for God. In the past he has taken church people
into his home for extended periods when they have been in crisis. He gave (no
one knows this) large sums to enable the church to build their current facilities.
In addition to this he personally supports three missionaries above his regular
giving to the church. For years he faithfully taught a growth group and often
went to the people in his care group to help them in times of trouble. He has his
own business, and has always run the business by Christian principles. In the past
he has had great financial success, but over the last year his commitment to
Christian ethics has cost him dearly. The competition is paying bribes in order to
secure contracts. The practice is so widespread that he can barely get business.
It looks like he may have to close up and find employment. For the last month he
has not been in church. When you called he seemed disinterested in spiritual
things and said that he was rethinking his entire relationship to the Lord. You
have asked him to meet with you and he has agreed. Your paper will reflect what
you will say to him at this meeting.
Product/ Produce a narrative dialogue in which you script both what you would say and
Performance how the deacon might respond in a 30 minute conversation. Successful
performance will require that you not only use the material in Hebrews 1 - 4 to
encourage this brother, but that you follow the pastoral methodology illustrated
in this section.
Standards Write a minimum of two pages describing how you will use Hebrews 1-4 to
encourage this deacon not to drift away from the confidence he has always had
in his relationship to Christ. Your description must be a detailed dialogue written
like a script. Only material drawn from Hebrews 1-4 or passages quoted therein
will be given credit. Write your paper as though you were talking to this brother.

Performance Task Analysis


Using the Performance Task above, infer an
understandings that is being assessed:
How likely is it that a student could do well on this
________________________ assessment by making clever guesses based on
limited understanding?
________________________
Very likely Somewhat likely Very unlikely
________________________ How likely is it that a student could do poorly on the
assessment by failing to meet the performance goal
________________________ despite having a deep understanding of the big
ideas?
________________________ Very likely Somewhat likely Very unlikely

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Metadata
Module Number:
Module Title:
Designer(s):
Reviewer(s):
GRASPS
Goal:

Role:

Audience:

Situation:

Product or
Performance:

Standards for
Success:

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Reflecting on Understanding by Design

What big ideas have I gained? What new questions were raised?

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

What feelings have I experienced? What actions do I plan to take?

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

______________________________ ______________________________

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