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Inevitably, learners ask, “Why am I learning this?” Acting with purpose is a natural human desire. In order to help your learners find their purpose, you need to answer this question for yourself.

  • Why is your content valuable?

  • How will your learners use this knowledge?

  • What is absolutely essential for your learners to understand at the end of your instruction?

If you start with purpose, you’ll create the buy-in necessary to make your content stick.

According to Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, authors of “Understanding by Design”, every curriculum designer should big planning by focusing on the end goal of the course and determining these “Enduring Understandings.” You can think of Enduring Understandings as the stuff you really want your learners to remember ten years from now.

Here is a video about how to determine enduring understandings for your course:

The ASCD published an Understanding by Design Framework based on the following 7 tenets below:

  1. Learning is enhanced when teachers think purposefully about curricular planning.
  2. The curriculum should be focused on learners effectively using content knowledge and skill development to deepen student understanding and transfer of learning.
  3. Understanding is revealed when students autonomously make sense of and transfer their learning through authentic performance.
  4.  Effective curriculum is planned backward from long-term, desired results through a three-stage design process (Desired Results, Evidence, and Learning Plan).
  5.  Teachers are coaches of understanding, not mere purveyors of content knowledge, skill, or activity.
  6.  Regularly reviewing units and curriculum against design standards enhances curricular quality and effectiveness, and provides engaging and professional discussions.
  7. By employing a continuous improvement approach, the results of our designs—student performance—inform needed adjustments in curriculum as well as instruction so that student learning is maximized.

These tenets, and resulting framework can help guide you as you create meaningful lessons for your learners that answer the question, 'why?'