Understanding By Design Lesson

Retrieved from http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/insights/546-free-online-tools-to-make-lesson-planning-easier

This post is a designed unit of instruction for an Arts Audio/Visual Career and Technical Education class in which students will create 360-degree, immersive virtual work sites for other CTE students to “visit.” I am using Wiggins and McTighe’s framework for planning called Understanding by Design to implement my Innovation Plan. This design model guides the instructor to identify learning outcomes first and work backward to identify learning activities that will elicit the desired outcomes.


Unit Title: Virtual Work Sites in the CTE Classroom

Established Goals

Learners will be able to coordinate and create a 360-degree virtual work site environment for CTE students to explore.

Essential Questions to be Considered:

  • What is 360-degree photography?
  • What equipment is necessary to create 360-degree virtual environments?
  • What is the difference between 360-degree photography and virtual reality?

Desired Understandings:

  • Technical skills associated with taking 360-degree photographs, e.g. lighting, tripod
  • Elements of project management
  • Concept of backward planning to ensure project success
  • How creating 360-degree virtual work site environments can be beneficial to CTE students

Students will know:

  • Technology equipment necessary for producing 360-degree photographs
  • Best practices for shooting in 360 degrees.

Students will be able to:

  • Communicate and Collaborate effectively with project stakeholders
  • Capture quality 360-degree images
  • Write a description of each photograph that details
    • Date and location of the photo shoot
    • Process for setting up the shoot with company representatives (special considerations regarding safety, protecting privacy, etc.
  • Create a portfolio of photographs and descriptions.



Performance Tasks

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”–Students will develop a step-by-step plan for the shoot. The process should detail how initial contact was made with the company to receive permission to shoot on site through the posting of the 360-degree photos with explanations on an ePortfolio.

Lights, camera, action–Students will create and share effective 360-degree photographs of real-world job sites that end users can explore.

Additional Evidence

  • Written samples of letters to companies asking permission to photograph job site.
  • Quiz
  • Check list of technology and equipment necessary to complete task
  • rubric-aided evaluation of other teams’ portfolios

Self Assessment

  • Self-assess individual 360-degree photographs
  • self-assess ePortfolio
  • Reflect on the most challenging aspect of the project and how you would approach it differently in the future.



The learning experiences listed below follow Wiggins and McTighe’s “WHERETO” model for implementing instructional planning.

  • Begin with the question: How might CTE students “visit” real-world work sites without physically traveling to them?     H
  • Introduce the Essential Questions and preview the performance tasks learners will be instructed to complete.     W
  • Provide examples of 360-degree photography of real-world job sites.     W, H
  • Introduce specific equipment needed to complete learning activities.    E-1
  • Present example template of letter to company, which will be used to introduce the project and ask permission to shoot on site.     E-1
  • Review and discuss with other students your and their letters to company representatives.     E-2
  • Revise letters.     R
  • Each student designs a portfolio (using Google Sites) on which they will post their 360-degree photographs.     E, T
  • Conduct a class discussion in which students have the opportunity to suggest criteria that should be included in the portfolio rubric.     T
  • Students apply the class-created rubric to their own portfolio for self assessment.     E-2
  • Students exchange links to their portfolio with three other students to assess using the class-created rubric.     E-2
  • Students compose a written reflection on the process of the entire project. Include what they will do differently in the future.     R


Understanding by Design vs. the 3-Column Table

My two most recent assignments in the Digital Learning and Leading masters program at Lamar University provided me the opportunity to work with two different frameworks for designing instructional units: Fink’s 3-Column Table and Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design. Both models utilize the backward design process in which the process starts at the end–learning goals (Fink)/desired results (Wiggins, McThighe) and works “back” toward assessments and learning activities. Each model has its unique strengths. I particularly like the 3-column table’s focus on the situational factors to consider when designing a lesson. Often, the context plays an important role for how successful the unit of study will be. Factors such as meeting time, class size, resources, characteristics of the learners and teachers are vitally important to bear in mind when planning.

Understanding by Design guides the lesson planner more deliberately than the 3-Column Table does. Specifically, in Stage 3, the Learning Plan, the designer is tasked with thinking through each learning activity and identifying how each will benefit the learner. To me this is a crucial step in examining one’s lesson planning. Using this WHERETO checklist of learning activities ensures that the design will:

  • W let the learners know where the unit is headed and why
  • H hook students into the learning and hold their attention
  • E equip learners with the tools and know-how to meet the performance goals
  • R provide for numerous opportunities to reflect and revise
  • E allow students to have chances to evaluate their progress and self-assess
  • T reflect individual talents, interests, styles and needs
  • O be organized to optimize deep understanding

I appreciate this step-by-step process that the UbD model provides and I think it is better suited for helping me to carry out my innovation plan. With it’s emphasis on giving students the opportunity to demonstrate their individual talents, interests and styles, it reminds me a lot of COVA–giving students Choice, Ownership and Voice through Authentic learning opportunities (Harapnuik).


Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (expanded second ed.). Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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