Understanding by Design

"To begin with the end in the mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.  It means to know where you're going so that you better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction."
-Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1989. p. 98

What is Udb?

UbD is a framework used for designing and organizing instruction, curriculum units, and performance assessments that lead students to a deep understanding of the topic being covered.  This framework can be viewed as one with the main goal of improving student achievement.  UbD highlights the educator's role as a designer of student learning, and works within a standards-based curriculum.  Essentially, UbD is used to help teachers to clarify learning goals, devise telling assessments that indicate student understanding, and craft effective and valuable learning activities.

Who Came Up With UbD

UbD is based on the following ideas...


  • A primary aim of education should be the maturity and deepening of student understanding.
  • Students reveal their understanding most effective when they are provided with complex, genuine opportunities to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self-assess.  When applied to complex tasks, these "six facets" provide a conceptual lens through which teachers can better assess student understanding.
  • Effective curriculum development reflects a three-stage design process called "backward design."  This delays the planning of classroom activities until after goals have been clarified and assessments planned.  This precess helps to avoid the pair of problems "textbook coverage" and "activity-oriented" teaching, in which no clear priorities and purposes are evident.
  • Student and school performance gains are achieved through habitual reviews of results instruction.  Teachers become most effective when they seek feedback from students and peers, and use that feedback to adjust approaches to designing curricula and teaching.
  • Teachers, schools, and districts profit by "working smarter" through the collaborative design, sharing, and peer review of units of study.

Learn More About UbD:

About UdB
The Three Stages

UbD Theory
-6 Facets of Understanding

Proffessional Development and UbD Literature

Resources and Links

UbD Blog
-Share your UbD experiences with other teachers!

*Information for this page was primarily found at the Authentic Education website.  For more information, please visit our Resources and Links page.