The scope of Integrated Course Design combined with the Nitty Gritty of UbD

Both the Integrated Course Design and the Understanding by Design model use a backwards design that starts by identifying the end result and working back through the materials and activities used to achieve the end result. Each model provides the opportunity for educators to identify where they desire their students to be at the conclusion of a course/unit and a framework for how that conclusion will be reached. Like anything in life, it becomes clear through the use of these models, efficiency is accomplished by knowing where you want to end up before you start walking.

The difference I see in the Understanding by Design model and Dan Pink’s Integrated Course Design lies in the purpose of the model. Dan Pink’s model provides a larger scope that can be used to design an entire course. On the other hand, the Understanding by Design model provides a template that can be used to map out the details of one unit within the course. Instead of treating these two models as separate entities to choose from when designing, why not use both in an effort to provide students and parents the clearest outline for what will be accomplished within the school year. By using the Integrated Course Design model, teachers can introduce students to the “big picture” or BHAG that will be achieved throughout the entire year. Students are then guided through various units that are developed through the use of UbD. If done correctly, students will move through significant learning environments that are brought about through the necessity of nitty gritty detail in the UbD model. If the units are designed within the overlying goals of the Integrated Course Design, students will then connect daily and weekly achievements to their long term goals brought about through the larger scope of Integrated Course Design. The goal of using both models together is to demonstrate to students that short and long term goals must be set in an effort to progress through life. Students will build meaningful connections between tedious and detailed daily assignments and how those assignments come together to create comprehension of larger issues and concepts.

Go Big and Take it Home

Most people have probably heard the cliché, “Go big or go home.” I would like to put a new spin on this audacious exclamation of courageous intentions. The idea of “Go big or go home” carries a connotation that society will separate itself into those who can and those who can’t, and furthermore, those who can’t provide no worth to those who can. Instead of separating ourselves, why not make a plan to include each effort to create a society that works for each member? So when you develop your course make sure you encourage your students to, “Go big and take it home.”

“Going big” might best be understood as setting a goal that might be achievable through the use of dedication and grit. If the standard is to be met, the learner must visualize the finished product, evaluate all possible approaches, determine a game-plan, and lastly, place the plan into motion.  This can be best demonstrated through the use of Understanding by Design. The most essential part of the design lies in the visualization of the finished product. My BHAG for my 9th grade English 1 course follows as, “Learners  will use digital tools to assess a problem in their community, develop a solution to that problem, and communicate that solution throughout their network.” The final item in the previous list portrays how learners will “take it home.” Significant learning occurs only if students see correlation between what is being presented to them and their preconceived notions of the world. According to How People Learn, “Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp new concepts and information presented in the classroom, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom”(Bransford, 1999). My students must push themselves outside their comfort zones to learn how new digital tools operate and use those tools combined with their honed thinkings skills to solve problems within their life.

Learners enter my classroom prepared to be forced to into reading and writing activities that they view as having zero correlation to problems in their life. They assume that grammar will be drilled and vocabulary will be memorized. A passing “C” becomes the apple of my students’ eye as they coast through a school day attempting to do as little as possible. After experiencing a station rotation model of blended learning used to ensure each student the resources and opportunities to hone their higher order thinking skills, learners will leave my classroom prepared to analyze multiple sources when making a decision that directly effects them and the community around them. The students preconception of being lectured at for 30 minutes and the completion of a worksheet and multiple choice test as “class” will evolve to understand the “class” as a collaborative power that uses peers and experts to facilitate their personal education.

The achievement of my BHAG will depend on proactive planning that includes the six major facets of significant learning: foundational knowledge, application goals, integration goals, human dimension goals, caring goals, and “learning-how-to-learn” goals. Learners in my classroom will engage in activities that introduce them to both non-fiction and fictional texts that develop common themes throughout the year. They will analyze those texts with the help of small groups through critical and creative thinking based tasks. Using a blog, meaningful connections will be drawn between the texts and personal lives of the learners. New interests and prioritized values will take the form of various projects aimed at combining analysis of multiple texts to solve problems, and ultimately, the learners will develop a deeper understanding of how they can use digital tools to continue their learning for life.

For a more organized view of the breakdown of my learning goals, learning activities, and assessment activities view my 3 Column Table.


Bransford, J. D., & Donovan, S. M., & Pellegrino, J. W. (1999). How People Learn.
          Retrieved from