Understanding by Design

Understanding by Design (UbD) vs. 3 Column Table

As we work to try and evolve classrooms from information repositories to creative learning environments, it can be difficult to design coursework for these ideas. Fortunately, instructors can redesign the learning environment with choice, ownership and voice to improve authentic student learning outcomes. Both UbD and 3-column table provide templates to help instructors prepare an effective course.

Differences Between the Models

The 3-column table model has a comprehensive authentic learning goal (BHAG) as the overall final result. There are six categories for learning goals with associated learning activities and assessment activities. Each category is a smaller set of goals that lead to achieving the BHAG.

With UbD, each goal can be directed towards a specific objective. There is no larger overarching goal within this model. In UbD activities are created by asking thought provoking questions. The questions help the course creator determine the effect and assessment of each goal. Ubd provides for greater detail of activities associated with the goal.

Choosing Goals for the UbD Model

Course creators can choose any of the six categorical goals from the 3 column model for a single goal in the UbD. The UbD model provides for more specific activities and traditional non-constructionist assessments. It also allows for a higher level of required detail or standards.

Though most college courses are not required to align to state or departmental standards, If the course experience connects to specific subject areas (History, Science, Language, Arts, etc.) driven by standards and external assessments, Ubd provides the ability to align the essential questions and activities with the applicable standards.”

UbD One Page Template

Stage 1 Desired Results
Learners will become better digital storytellers while understanding unique aspects of their local community.

Learners will evaluate digital applications to facilitate recording and creating story content

Learners will understand how images, video and audio can be used to tell stories.
Students will be able to independently use their learning to…
Create similar content and storytelling methods for authentic and diverse subjects and projects.

Students will understand that…
the story they create addresses a social, historical or political impact of their subject on community. H
– Why is this important to me? H
– Where does this concept intersect with my world? T
Students will know…
How to successfully schedule and manage the collection of data relating to their digital story. O

Students will be skilled at…
– Assembling data and media objects into an effective story. R
– managing the content developed during the project. O
Stage 2 Evidence
Evaluative CriteriaAssessment Evidence
– Learners develop a schedule, timeline and plan for collecting data on their story subject and post it online. O
– Create a digital story of an aspect of their local community. H E
– Reflect on the efficiency of adherence to schedule and timeline for data collection. R
– Learners will self-assess their digital story and it’s relation to the community. R
– Prompt – Learners will describe the why leading to selection of their story subject T
– Skill Check – Learners will demonstrate ability to select applications for compiling data E
– Discuss the impact of the story subject. E
– Produce an index of applications used in their story and why they were chosen. W
Stage 3 Learning Plan
Where are we going and What is expected
Hook and Hold interest
Equip – Experience – Explore
Rethink and Revise
Learning Activities: 
Where are we going and What is expected 
listen and read instructions in syllabus and project information provided in the class
Hook and Hold interest
Create a digital story based on personal interests and personal experiences
Equip – Experience – Explore
Use data found through resources provided and those discovered
Experiment with techniques through trial and error, listening and reviewing
Respond to others through prompts online and in writing
Rethink and Revise
Continuously edit story outline and collected recordings and data
Adapt original goal to remain achievable or to expand it
Rely on the collection of information on shared repositories and web pages as reference
Discover Applications that will be used to organize, record and create story content
Review the work of others to use as models for conveying knowledge in a digital story
Re–record audio and video after correcting and refining
Work on topic of interest that relates to the learners own essential questions about the community.
Present competence with the skill and understanding of learner selected creation apps
Review prior instructions and course goals to maintain learning timeline
Make use of shared docs for gathering data if learner is working as a group

Comparing the UbD and 3 Column Table Models

Both models are examples of Backwards design where an ultimate goal is the start of the planning. The UbD model is much more specific, not only in goals, but also in activities and assessments. The UbD model allows the instructor to cover more requirements and standards. It is less interested in conception understanding than with demonstrable results.

In the 3-column table the structure is more broad. Every categorical goal works towards the overall BHAG. This model allows for more authentic learning environments through more choice by the learner than UbD. The assessment activities provide for broader interpretation with ongoing changes and adjustments to the created content. UbD is suited for smaller goals that may build on each other from one course to another.

As an advisor to College instructors, I would express that both models used together would create a very complete foundation for most courses. The idea of starting for the end goal is the key idea. Both models provide the opportunity to incorporate the provided iPad abilities into course planning.

After reading this page, please continue to the Power of a Growth Mindset page.


Cornelious, J. (2016) Planning tools for course design. Retrieved from https://reallearning4kids.com/2016/06/25/1770/

Fink, L. D. (2003) A self directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Retrieved from https://www.deefinkandassociates.com/GuidetoCourseDesignAug05.pdf.

Nichols, M., Cator, K., and Torres, M. (2016). Challenge based learner user guide. Redwood City, CA: Digital Promise. p.6-8 Retrieved from https://books.apple.com/us/book/challenge-based-learning-guide/id1145036840

Wiggins, G., McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by design: expanded 2nd edition.[Kindle eBook] Retrieved from Amazon.com.

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Aligning Outcomes, Assessment and Activities

Understanding by Design

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