This week in class, we spent a generous amount of time planning our slowly approaching unit bundle. The assignment entails preparing a minimum of a six-lesson unit to teach in our second placements. In previous weeks we began our initial planning process by exploring our topics, finding the corresponding standards (the current New York State Common Core Standards, the preliminary, new 2017-2018 New York State Standards, as well as the national standards captured in NGSS, the Next Generation Science Standards). During these earlier weeks we also followed the Understanding by Design (UbD) template developed by Wiggins and McTighe (2011) to guide the development of our desired learning results. Through UbD, educators use “backward design” to plan their units. Such planning technique requires working backwards, starting not “with the content” but rather with “what students are expected to be able to do with content” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2011, p.7). Educators start with the expected learning results, which are organized into the following three discrete areas: the knowledge and skills acquired (acquisition), the meaning that is made, and the culminating knowledge, essential ideas, and skills that are transferred. Unlike other unit planning templates, the one offered by Wiggins and McTighe (2011) places significant evidence on the key ideas, knowledge, and skill sets that students should walk away with, having made meaning of them, and having the capability to apply or transfer them to new contexts and situations (p.3). Such backward design enables educators to determine the crux of the lesson, the most integral component, before designing the “evidence” of assessment and specific learning activities (p.18-20).
In addition to following backward design, we, as a collective, relied on concept mapping to write down and organize our unit. The unit topics were written on index cards or post-it notes and then arranged by the main “key idea(s)” and the supplemental ideas and pieces of knowledge. Further organization was conducted when a second categorization layer was added. Such organization entailed deciphering which ideas could incorporate the three branches of the NGSS standards: core content ideas, scientific practices, and crosscutting concepts. Collectively, the implementation of backwards design planning alongside concept mapping enabled us to tailor and streamline our essential unit question and establish our key idea. Moreover, such planning process laid the foundation for cultivating reformed-based, innovative science units.
Michael’s concept mapping.