Understanding by Design: An action plan for implementation

Stephen B Young, University of Pennsylvania


Public education in America is said to be in crisis. Large numbers of students are graduating from high school without adequate literacy skills and are thereby placed at-risk of underemployment and limited life opportunities in an increasingly complex world. Recent approaches to the reform of American schools have been largely unsuccessful. Schools continue to be terrifically resistant to attempts at large-scale change. There is a growing recognition among educators that change efforts must be targeted at the classroom level, with specific reference to the connection between teacher, student and curriculum. Advances in the cognitive sciences and brain research support a constructivist view of learning in which the pursuit of meaning and understanding is foundational. Instructional methods that emphasize deep understanding as an organizing principle have been found to be effective in improving student performance on standard measures of achievement. This study explores the adoption of one such framework, Understanding by Design, by a small suburban high school in Pennsylvania. Faculty members' concerns about Understanding by Design and their level of use of the framework's principles are investigated through use of the Concern Based Adoption Model and the review of student work products. The findings are then used as a context for the development of a set of recommendations for district action. These recommendations are designed to advance the effective use of the Understanding by Design framework by faculty members throughout the building.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Young, Stephen B, "Understanding by Design: An action plan for implementation" (2005). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3168051.