We know that deliberate and intentional planning is the bedrock of being a strategic and effective practitioner. To quote Grant Wiggins, “Teaching is a means to an end, and planning precedes teaching. The most successful teaching begins, therefore, with clarity about desired learning outcomes and about the evidence that will show that learning has occurred” (Grant Wiggins et al, 2011).
So, what practices support the design of high quality units? Take 5 minutes to scroll through daily strategies:
Want to dig deeper? Read a MiniPD Coach article below:
How can we ensure our planning engages and challenges all students? By Christine Lang. Christine writes, “On-going formative assessment helps us to know each student’s starting points so we can focus on planning for and supporting the learning and engagement of each one of them.” Her article provides “practical support for designing high-quality units and lessons for all ability levels, including ideas for school-level and student-centered curriculum support, scaffolding and differentiation.” Christine, MiniPD Coach, is an original author of the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme (IB PYP) and her most recent school-based role was as the Primary School Principal at the Vienna International School.
Foundations for High Quality Units: Concepts, Care and Ownership by Erica Chiotti. Erica writes, “Designing high quality units can be a dynamic and challenging process. When the appropriate building blocks are in place, a foundation is created upon which student engagement, empathy and understanding can thrive! Some of these building blocks may include: identifying a concept driven focus, invoking a sense of urgency or care and inviting student agency within learning engagements.” Erica, MiniPD Coach, has served in education for over 20 years, including work as a classroom teacher, university professor and instructional mentor and coach.
Designing High Quality Units: Where to Start by Ali Ezzeddine. Ali comments that “we all struggle sometimes to design high quality units.” Ali shares 8 tips on how to design high quality units to support the design of engaging and authentic planning. Ali, MiniPD Coach, is an educational consultant and is a certified international trainer from Lynn Erickson Institute to lead concept based workshops.
Making your Unit Meaningful and Authentic by Jarrett Brown. Jarret invites us to consider, how to design units for engagement. His article “explores different ways to consider exciting project-based learning activities that are authentic and meaningful.” Jarret, MiniPD Coach, is Assistant Head of Secondary/MYP Coordinator at Leman International School in Chengdu, MYP Workshop Leader, and Building Quality Curriculum senior reviewer.
Plan with Concepts in Mind – A Math Focus by Nuriye Singh. Nuriye writes, “For Math teachers, it is not always easy to start with concepts.” She invites us to consider a concept-based approach when planning a unit. Rather than beginning with the question, “What is the list of topics I need to cover?” She invites us to ask, “what happens when we change our question to, what is the overarching understanding and concept(s) in this topic?” Nuriye teaches IBDP and MYP Mathematics. She is a member of the IBEN network with roles as workshop leader, PP2 and IA examiner, consultant, and content developer of both AA and AI Mathematics courses. She is also co-author of AA and AI textbooks and digital books.
Features of a Good MYP Unit – With Focus on Individuals and Societies by Nick Nwolisa. Nick’s article outlines a good unit “entails a good understanding of the global context, first to the teacher, ensures that both the key concepts and the related concepts are appropriate, then teaching these concepts first to students, making connections during the lessons, identifying other areas of learning, such as developing the approaches to learning skills, and assessing other skills through appropriate pedagogical assessment methods.” Nick, MiniPD Coach, currently works at The International School of Azerbaijan, and has experience in the NGO sector and as a journalist.
Designing high quality unit planning sits at the very heart of effective classroom instruction. “Long-term achievement gains are more likely when teachers teach for understanding of transferable concepts and processes while giving learners multiple opportunities to apply their learning in meaningful (i.e., authentic) contexts. The requisite knowledge and skills are learned and long recalled through the process of actively constructing meaning (i.e., coming to an understanding) and in transferring learning to new situations” (Wiggins et al., 2011).
Join the Conversation
We invited educators from around the world to join us in a Coaches-in-Conversation on our theme, Designing High Quality Units, in June 2022. The recording is shared below:
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Schedule one-to-one and small group coaching sessions with any of our inspirational MiniPD Coaches mentioned above. They can support you and your team to nudge your practices forward.
Want to learn more?
Designing High Quality Units
- Erickson, L., Lanning, L., & Frech, R., (2017) Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom. London. Corwin.
- MiniPD Coaches (May, 2022), Designing High Quality Units– Strategies from Educators
- Stern, J., et al, (2021) Learning That Transfers. London. Corwin.
Wiggins, G., & McTigue, J, The Understanding of Design Guide to Creating High-Quality Units. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.
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