UbD stands for “Units by Design” which is a method of designing instruction so that it is focus on the desired learning. In my humble opinion it really is nothing more than a remix of the “Outcome based education” design of the 1980′s. Don’t misunderstand my opinion; I am not against this type of designing instruction at all. I do think there are some cautions however, especially when instructing in the arts.
If you have read any of my other posts, you would know that I often use analogies to get my point across and I can think of no better way this time either.
Let’s say we want to take a trip to Disneyland in L.A. (our targeted learning). The most efficient and fastest way to get there is by jet plane. We could go there , experience Disneyland and fly back fairly quickly and could have taken in the whole experience quite nicely. In contrast, we could also take a car trip to California and still get the same experience at Disneyland once we got there. The difference would be the rich experiences along the way. How fun and exciting – and yes, educational – to see the deserts and forests and national parks along the way.
One administrator likened this UbD and targeted learning, to giving students the GPS to their learning so they aren’t wandering around wasting time being lost before they actually get where they are going. I do believe that it a good and valid analogy. If I am walking “wandering Willie” to school each day and he is eternally wanting to take a different route and stop and explore every single bug along the journey, we would be late every single day to school. That just isn’t efficient nor practical. In contrast, if I drive “laser-focused Laura” to school each day along the same route, she will certainly get there on time but what would she have missed along the way by not experiencing at least different routes once in a while. What else would she learn and experience if we at least rode our bikes once in a while. Sure, it wouldn’t be the fastest and most efficient way to get to school but think what else she might enjoy and learn. Do you suppose she might notice a garden as we pass or how the clouds are forming? Maybe the people we pass by might be familiar and wave and smile.
All I am really saying it this: The teacher DOES need to have a target and know where they want to end up. Sometimes the teacher even has to spell it out so that “wandering Willie” will actually get there on time, BUT….take time to “smell the roses”. There is beauty all around and fun in learning. Some of those activities may not be the most efficient routes to learning a concept but the learning will most certainly be broader and more enjoyable if you take time to design instruction to include discovery and fun. In may not always be best to tell the student up front where they are going to end up. There is excitement and fun in surprise. There is a time and place for laser-learning and there is also a time and place for experience and discovery and beauty and joy. A good teacher should provide both.
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