Big ideas are typically revealed via:
• Core concepts (migration, function)
• Focusing themes (good vs. evil)
• Ongoing debate/issues (nature vs. nurture)
• Illuminating paradox/problem (freedom vs. responsibility)
• Organizing theory/principle (less is more)
• Underlying assumption/perspectives (Occam’s Razor)
• Key questions
• Insightful inferences from facts
Explanation: Sophisticated and apt theories and illustrations, which provide knowledgeable and justified accounts of events, actions, and ideas.
Why is that so? What explains such events? What accounts for such action? How can we prove it? To what action is this connected? How does this work?
Interpretation: The act of finding meaning, significance, sense, or value in human experience, data, and texts; to tell a good story, prove a powerful metaphor, or sharpen ideas through an editorial.
The object of interpretation is meaning, not merely a plausible account. Interpretation traffics in powerful stories, not abstract theories, for its insights. Understanding of this kind occurs when someone sheds interesting and significant light on current or past experience.
What does it mean? Why does it matter? What of it? What does it illustrate or illuminate in human experience? How does it relate to me? What makes sense?
Application: The ability to use knowledge effectively in new situations and diverse, realistic contexts.
How and where can we apply this knowledge, skill, or process? How should my thinking and action be modified to meet the demands of this particular situation?
Perspective: Critical and insightful points of view.
In the critical-thinking sense of the term, students with perspective expose questionable and unexamined assumptions, conclusions, and implications. When students have or can gain perspective, they can gain a critical distance from the habitual or knee-jerk beliefs, feelings, theories, and appeals that characterize less careful and circumspect thinkers.
From whose point of view? From which vantage point? What is assumed or tacit that needs to be made explicit and considered? What is justified and warranted? Is there adequate evidence? Is it reasonable? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the idea? Is it plausible? What are its limits? What is a novel way to look at this?
Empathy: The ability to get inside another person’s feelings and worldview. (Empathy is warm, Perspective is detached.)
This kind of understanding implies an experiential prerequisite that some people find troublesome. If someone were to refer to experiences like poverty, abuse, racism, or highprofile competitive sports and say, “You cannot possibly understand without having been there,” the implication would be that insight from experience is necessary for empathic understanding. To ensure greater understanding of abstract ideas, students must have far more direct or simulated experiences of them than most current textbook-driven courses allow. Think of an intellectual Outward Bound: Learning needs to be more geared toward making students directly confront the effects—and the affect—of decisions, ideas, theories, and problems. The absence of such experiences in school may explain why many important ideas are so misunderstood and learnings so fragile, as the literature on misconception reveals. Assessment also must pay greater attention to whether students have overcome egocentrism, ethnocentrism, and present-centeredness in their answers and explanations.
How does it seem to you? What do they see that I don’t? What do I need to experience if I am to understand? What was the author, artist, performer, or speaker feeling, seeing, and trying to make me feel and see?
Self-Knowledge: The wisdom to know one’s ignorance and how one’s patterns of thought and action inform as well as prejudice understanding.
Self-knowledge is a key facet of understanding because it demands that we self-consciously question our ways of seeing the world if we are to become more understanding—better able to see beyond our selves. It asks us to have the discipline to seek and find the inevitable blind spots or oversights in our thinking and to have the courage to face the uncertainty and inconsistencies lurking underneath effective habits, naïve confidence, strong beliefs, and worldviews that only seem complete and final. When we talk of subject matter “disciplines,” note the root meaning: There is a “discipline” involved that requires courage and persistence because rational understanding makes us question and sometimes undo our strong beliefs.
How does who I am shape my views? What are the limits of my understanding? What are my blind spots? What am I prone to misunderstand because of prejudice, habit, and style? How do I learn best? What strategies work for me?
|The facts||The meaning of the facts|
|A body of coherent facts||The “theory” that provides coherence and meaning to those facts|
|Verifiable claims||Fallible, in-process theories|
|Rightor wrong||A matter of degree or sophistication|
|I know something to be true||I understand why it is, what makes it knowledge|
|I respond on cue with what I know||I judge when to and when not to use what I know|
What learning experiences and instruction will enable students to achieve the desired results? How will the design
W = Help the students know Where the unit is going and What is expected? Help the teacher know Where the students are coming from (prior knowledge, interests)?
H = Hook all students and Hold their interest?
E = Equip students, help them Experience the key ideas and Explore the issues?
R = Provide opportunities to Rethink and Revise their understandings and work?
E = Allow students to Evaluate their work and its implications?
T = Be Tailored (personalized) to the different needs, interests, and abilities of learners?
O = Be Organized to maximize initial and sustained engagement as well as effective learning?
To help educators start with the goal, rather than the learning activity, UbD employs a three-stage template.
• Stage 1—Identify desired results: In the first stage, you consider your big ideas and learning goals and prioritize them.
• Stage 2—Determine acceptable evidence: In the next stage, you “think like an assessor” (p. 18) to select the means for collecting and validating evidence students grasped your learning goals.
• Stage 3—Plan learning experiences and instruction: In the final stage, you design the instructional activities you will use to reach your desired results.
You probably know the saying, “If you don’t know exactly where you are headed, then any road will get you there.” Alas, the point is a serious one in education. We are quick to say what things we like to teach, what activities we will do, and what kinds of resources we will use; but without clarifying the desired results of our teaching, how will we ever know whether our designs are appropriate or arbitrary? How will we distinguish merely interesting learning from effective learning? More pointedly, how will we ever meet content standards or arrive at hard-won student understandings unless we think through what those goals imply for the learner’s activities and achievements?
Our lessons, units, and courses should be logically inferred from the results sought, not derived from the methods, books, and activities with which we are most comfortable. Curriculum should lay out the most effective ways of achieving specific results. It is analogous to travel planning. Our frameworks should provide a set of itineraries deliberately designed to meet cultural goals rather than a purposeless tour of all the major sites in a foreign country. In short, the best designs derive backward from the learnings sought.
...meaningful, transferable, and purposeful understanding:
• Meaningful: The understanding is relevant to the students’ lives and needs. Students connect with the learning.
• Transferable: The understanding fosters creative problem-solving and application. Students can apply their understanding to unique and out-of context situations.
• Purposeful: The understanding is focused. Students know that the understanding has value and a function.
As usual. It implies that the views of 'average Americans' are abrogated by the economic elite. As the PDF clearly states on page 14 "It turns out, in fact, that the preferences of average citizens are positively and fairly highly correlated, across issues, with the preferences of the economic elites." It also turns out that the paper defines 'average American' as someone at the 50% income level, and 'economic elite' as someone at the 90% income level or above, which works out to $146,000. The paper than argues that this 'elite' population fairly represents the truly elite (the top 2%) based on 13 policy preference questions--which aren't listed in the paper--with a correlation of r=0.91 vs a correlation of r=0.69 for the 'average' population.
Sorry. There ain't nothing in this paper about the Koch brothers, Soros, Oprah, Bill Gates, or any of your other favorite elites. This is all about Joe the Plumber vs your mid-level Google executive.
So how does the paper define the views of the 'average American'? Well, on page 15, there's this "Some particular U.S. membership organizations--especially the AARP and labor unions--do tend to favor the same policies as average citizens. But other membership groups take stands that are unrelated (pro-life and pro-choice groups) or negatively related (gun owners) to what the average American wants." A footnote 40 then directs you to another paper by one of the same authors, presumably for the corroborating data.
Finally, on page 18, we encounter this: "Because of the impediments to majority rule that were deliberately built into the U.S. political system--federalism, separation of powers, bicameralism--together with further impediments due to anti-majoritarian congressional rules and procedures, the system has a substantial status quo bias. Thus when popular majorities favor the status quo, opposing a given policy change, they are likely to get their way; but when a majority--even a very large majority--of the public favors change, it is not likely to get what it wants."
In other words, here's the real summary: "Elite academic researchers at elite universities have conducted a study in which they find that the constitutional system put in place by the founders of the republic to prevent mob rule is thwarting their elite progressive agenda by working as intended. Oh, and throwing a lot of money around and making noise tends to draw attention to your cause, particularly when it aligns with the majority view, which it does most of the time."
Each of our four theoretical traditions (Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, Majoritarian Interest Group Pluralism, and Biased Pluralism) emphasizes different sets of actors as critical in determining U.S. policy outcomes, and each tradition has engendered a large empirical literature that seems to show a particular set of actors to be highly influential. Yet nearly all the empirical evidence has been essentially bivariate. Until very recently it has not been possible to test these theories against each other in a systematic, quantitative fashion.
By directly pitting the predictions of ideal-type theories against each other within a single statistical model (using a unique data set that includes imperfect but useful measures of the key independent variables for nearly two thousand policy issues), we have been able to produce some striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of “median voter” and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.
What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.
The researchers randomly assigned the children to receive different types of praise. For some of the children, they praised the action: “It was good that you gave some of your marbles to those poor children. Yes, that was a nice and helpful thing to do.” For others, they praised the character behind the action: “I guess you’re the kind of person who likes to help others whenever you can. Yes, you are a very nice and helpful person.”
A couple of weeks later, when faced with more opportunities to give and share, the children were much more generous after their character had been praised than after their actions had been. Praising their character helped them internalize it as part of their identities. The children learned who they were from observing their own actions: I am a helpful person. This dovetails with new research led by the psychologist Christopher J. Bryan, who finds that for moral behaviors, nouns work better than verbs. To get 3- to 6-year-olds to help with a task, rather than inviting them “to help,” it was 22 to 29 percent more effective to encourage them to “be a helper.” Cheating was cut in half when instead of, “Please don’t cheat,” participants were told, “Please don’t be a cheater.” When our actions become a reflection of our character, we lean more heavily toward the moral and generous choices. Over time it can become part of us.
Praise appears to be particularly influential in the critical periods when children develop a stronger sense of identity. When the researchers Joan E. Grusec and Erica Redler praised the character of 5-year-olds, any benefits that may have emerged didn’t have a lasting impact: They may have been too young to internalize moral character as part of a stable sense of self. And by the time children turned 10, the differences between praising character and praising actions vanished: Both were effective. Tying generosity to character appears to matter most around age 8, when children may be starting to crystallize notions of identity.
Before you judge the analogy with theology as being too harsh, conduct the followingexperiment. Randomly select one of your own publications from a year or two ago and think about what would be involved in reproducingthe results. How longwould it take, assumingyou would be able to do it? If you can’t reproduce those results, why do you believe them? Why should your readers?
Our inability to reproduce results leads to a debilitatingparadox, where we as reviewers and readers accept highly empirical results on faith. We do this routinely, to the point where we seem to have given up on the idea of being able to reproduce results. This is the natural consequence of faith-based empiricism, and the only way to fight that movement is with a little bit of heresy. Let’s not accept large tables of empirical results on faith, let’s insist that we be able to reproduce them exactly and conveniently. Let’s insist that we are scientists first and foremost, and agree that this means that we must be able to reproduce each other’s results.