Written by Epi Fabonan III

It's the best thing that happened in education.

But why are teachers in the Philippines so frustrated and frantic about UBD (Understanding By Design)?

UBD has been around since 2003 and yet its only beginning to appeal to both public and private schools just now. What is this UBD anyway?

Understanding By Design is a new approach to lesson planning formulated in 2003 by the American teaching duo of Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins, who are members of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), a non-profit, educational think tank in the US.

UBD is a new approach to lesson plan in a way that it focuses teachers on the outcomes of instruction instead of activities and textbooks to be used in teaching.  What are the outcomes of instruction it emphasizes on? UBD emphasizes on "Teaching for Understanding", that is teaching not just for the students to know ideas, concepts or ways to do things that do not matter in their lives, but teaching to enable students to understand how such things are relevant in various aspects of their lives.

To give you an idea of what McTighe and Wiggins meant by "Teaching for Understanding", they've come up with so called "Six Facets" which are indicators that would determine whether a learner is indeed learning what to understand about a topic/lesson. These six facets of understanding include:

1) Explaining
Students don't just need to know about ideas, concepts or processes involved in a given topic. They must be able to explain in their own words and ways what it means or how it works. And students must be able to explain them in ways that are effective and/or easily understood by other students.

2) Interpreting
Given a new idea, event or issue in class, students don't just need to hear out what it means for the teacher or the speaker, or even for his/her classmates, students must also make their own interpretations, what these ideas/events/issues mean for them.

3) Applying
It's not enough for students to know how a processes or a concept in a given topic works, one must also show how these work in real life situations. It's not enough for children to know how long division works or how gender-fair language could change the communication, they must also show it through simulations, problem solving, and the likes.

4) Having perspective
This is related to Number 2. In UBD, teachers don't just focus on helping students make their own interpretations, they also help students see other people's perspective or point-of-view in a given topic in a subject. Few of the ways to do this is through conducting of surveys, panel discussions, buzz sessions, etc. In that way, students don't just see their own side of the box, but also that of there's and paves the way for Number 5.

5) Empathizing
Getting to know other people's perspectives about a given topic makes it easy for students to put themselves in their shoes, thus deconstructing stereotypes and biases they have against one's opinion or position about a given topic. This is can be done thru experiential learning, role playing, and other similar strategies.

6) Having Self-Knowledge
In this facet of understanding, students are given the opportunity to look back on how what they know has affected or changed them in anyway. For example, if a student gets to explain her position about the RH Bill, and gets to listen to what other people think about the issue, it is now time to look into how the experience has changed his/her knowledge or opinion about the issue. It also give students the opportunity to assess they still need to understand, given the level of understanding they have now reached.

By focusing instruction into producing these six outcomes, teachers will not just teach what students need to know. They get their students to understand why they need to it and why it is relevant in their lives right now.

It's an offset in the traditional way of lesson planning wherein we identify the objectives of today's lesson, like: "To enable students to know what is the RH Bill". With this kind of objective, your students might indeed get to know what is the RH Bill, but they won't be able to understand why it affects them and why it matters to them.

UBD is a backward approach to the traditional way of lesson planning. It's even dubbed by McTighe and Wiggins as "Understanding Backward Design". Instead of focusing instruction in "Enabling Students to know the RH Bill", UBD asks teachers the question, "what should students know about the RH Bill and why they need to know it?" In this case, the answer is "students need to know that family planning matters, and people should be given a choice on how to do it."

Thus, in a UBD lesson plan, the so called "Enduring Understanding" of a lesson is NOT to know what the RH Bill is, but to understand how important family planning is and how people should be free to choose how to do it.

But teachers in this country are having a hard time constructing a UBD lesson plan. One prestigious school in South is even having tensions between the faculty and the administration officials over this issue. Another school, however, is making waves in its use since their UBD program began in 2003. Public schools in the Philippines are painstakingly slow in adopting due to the overwhelming opposition by teachers.

I'd like to know what my fellow Social Studies teachers think about this new approach as well as their experiences in formulating LPs using this method. Maybe in that way, we'll get a spectrum of perspectives about why this is frustrating teachers in the country.

Comments are welcome via this website or thru pnusoksay@gmail.com

About the author

EPI FABONAN III is the temporary secretary for the PNU Social Science Alumni Association. He is a passionate teacher and prolific writer, with a degree of Bachelor in Secondary Education, Major in Social Science from the Philippine Normal University-Manila. He is a member of PNU Soksay Batch 2007.

Rocelle I. Magpayo

Congrats Soc-Sci Alumni!!!! Padayon!!!!

Edcelyn M. Bacila

Goodluck for those who are about to take the exam on September 26, 2010. :-) Galingan natin !!!

jennifer evangelista

ubd became so frustrating because teachers were not given enough training...it became a big surprise and needs to be implemented leaving teachers puzzled on how are they going to implement it..the textbook and resources are not even enough to help teachers...

joseph gayares

i've heard from my coordinator that a particular school in singapore adopted UBD after 5 years of study, but in our country it was implemented in just a matter of months,,,that's where it becomes frustrating ...
in fact, this ubd thing has been around for ages. it was just given a name, but common sense will tell you that if you're a kind of teacher who wants students to understand the "whys" and "how" of learning more than the "what", you'll be doing it until you hit the mark.
this article is a big help for a capsulized understanding of UBD,,,keep it up.


good post


Nice one info, thanks

cherille v.siquete

is this the same as the OBE(outcomes based education)


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