Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Class 7: 09/15/11-Backwards Design/ Wiggens & McTighe
Today, class began with a discussion of chapters 1 & 10 of Understanding Design by Wiggins & McTighe. Students were concerned that the Backwards Design framework would be hard to implement in public schools, in which teachers had to cover specific materials and had specific teaching roles. Teachers would have to choose activities on certain bases, such that he/she would have to think of what they wanted students to accomplish before making a decision on an activity, and teachers would have to identify with the way students solved problems.
According to the authors, the idea of Backward Design laid out a framework, not a specific project or a 1-day activity, and it was focused on a larger scale. Students discussed the “6 facets of understanding,” which included Empathy, an emotional word, not formally associated with teaching. The TA asked how empathy applied to teaching math and science and how we would interpret empathy. Students suggested that we would have to make an emotional investment in the students; others said that there was a buy-in, that students would see the value in a lesson and have an emotional response, like feel motivation. Empathy in science would help create connections between the material covered and the students, or that students would make the connections themselves. In the discussion of the 6 facets of understanding, the TA brought up the updated Bloom’s Taxonomy, and how it was useful in classrooms for teachers, especially when creating tests for students and to self-evaluate.
The authors of the reading specifically pointed out that Backward Design was not a prescriptive program, philosophy of educations, or intended for indirect lesson planning, and the TA went on to discuss how it included very general steps. In connection to our reading in the previous week (Barron, Krajcik), all authors brought up the importance of content-specific goals, motivating questions, and so forth, and the fact that many or most teachers do not do this in their classrooms.
The discussion then turned to textbooks and the TEKS. Textbook writers (experts) create books in a way that may match or don’t match up to the TEKS, and follow a very different or strange way of ordering subjects. Students asked, how are teachers supposed to organize their curricula in a way that makes sense for them and the students, and do we have to make a list of or prioritize TEKS? Activities and chapter orders have to be decided on by the teachers so that it makes logical sense for students as they go through the curriculum.
Teachers make the decisions to emphasize one thing over another (based on personal preferences). Teachers must make an emphasis on the large concepts that span their subjects, so that, when students are learning, they don’t get the impression that everything they are learning has the same weight in the real world. Furthermore, we have to respect the standards (TEKS) set for us so that students do come away with some understanding of specific content, and it really does give us a framework of what the students will be learning. Of course, creating priorities for students varies with the teacher, but overall, large concepts that students retain are similar from classroom to classroom.
The “Twin Sins of Design” were also discussed: coverage and “Hands-on without Minds on”. Hands-on without minds on is the idea of an activity in which the teacher is hopeful that, through the activity, the students will somehow learn something. The TA asked how many students had gone through courses like these, and most of the class raised their hands (chemistry & physics labs at the university level included). The idea of coverage was also discussed and relates back to prioritizing the TEKS and spending different amounts of time on specific parts of the curriculum designed by the teacher. TEKS should be rated and ranked based on several factors, taking into account that some show up more frequently on the TAKS and also based on students’ prior knowledge.
Finally, class ended with a wrap-up discussion of the 3 steps of creating a backward design and a template worksheet was passed out (from the reading). The template, unsurprisingly, uses many of the same factors included on the 5E lesson plan model used by UTeach, including “Students will be able to”, and the Explore, Evaluate, Elaborate, Explain, and implicitly, Engage.
The template will be used for our field lesson and we will be expected to note down questions that we plan on asking the students to help focus the lesson.
Each day in PBI a different student takes responsibility for blogging about what goes on in class. Today’s blog is brought to you by Sarah.