Monday, April 21, 2014

UbD - How Do You Know?

It's week three of Design for Understanding Meets the 21st Century School Librarian and time to complete Step Two.

Step One was to identify the Big Ideas that I wanted students to take away from the unit I am planning.  I chose to write a unit for Grade 2 based on the big idea "Libraries are organized based on the needs and wants of its patrons".

Next I needed to identify HOW I would assess that they understand this big ideas.  Not just know the big idea.  Not repeat it back to me.  But understand it.

What does it means to understand?  When student understands a concept, they are able to transfer their skills or knowledge, they know when and how to apply it in a new situation.

I realized this week that I teach this way to a great degree already.  I may not always formally plan it, but I am always looking for the transfer of learning.  I don't want students to memorize Dewey Decimal numbers, I want them to understand there is a system in place, that similar items are grouped together, that this system is found in many libraries and they can transfer their knowledge when visiting a different library.

I realized this week that this is also why I am so frustrated when a teacher proposes I teach a 15 minute lesson on in-text citations to a class that is not currently working on an essay or term paper.  Teaching out of context almost guarantees there will be no transfer!

How can one assess learning of information literacies?  Formative assessments can be in the form of exit tickets, checklists, or responses to writing prompts. These are great, quick ways of checking progress, but I admit I am guilty of not always assessing what students are learning in the library. I do a lot of informal assessments, such as watching to see if they apply what I just taught about using the OPAC or checking to see if students have logged into databases rather than reverting to Google, but I know I can do more.

For the unit for this course, I came up to with two possible performance tasks that would serve as summative assessments.  In the first one, students redesign our existing library (on paper), rearranging resources and explaining what they moved and why.  In the second, students serve as various members of a "library board" and decide how to spend a ficticious grant we just received.  Both are engaging.  Both require students to understand the resources and services a library can offer as well as the wants and needs of the users.  They both require higher level thinking, and - that most precious commodity - time.

After writing up these tasks, I decided they were not all that different from some of the work I did for my graduate classes.  And again I am struck by what an opportunity this is to teach children what I wish more administrators understood.  It gives me hope for the future of libraries.


  1. I just wanted to thank you for these posts. I'm trying to rework my lessons around the big ideas and it really helps to read these posts showing your approach. All of the content areas in our district have been going to workshops using this approach but the library has not been included yet, I'm not sure it will be ;p I'm trying to do my own personal PD and you are a big help! Thanks again.

  2. Donna,
    I'm so glad you are finding these posts useful. If you can do it, I highly recommend the AASL course. I feel like it has transformed my teaching. In the meantime, I'll keep posting as I have time.
    Thank you for the feedback.