AVG 2.4 Planning with the End in Mind


Think About

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Conceptual Outline Meaning Making

Linda Darling Hammond (Stanford University)

In the last ten years, the California prison system budget has grown 900%. The national prison population has grown 300% while public schools have grown 25%. The odds of a young black man 18–24 years old being inprison are greater than his being in any educational setting. More than 40% of adjudicated juvenile delinquents have learning disabilities not identified in their schools, and 50% or more of the young people in prison are functionally illiterate. Students that don’t get access to an adequate and appropriate education have few options for engaging pro-ductively insociety.Our ability to imagine and invent schools that work effectively for all students at this moment in time will determine what happens in our society. We’re being challenged to teach for understanding, to enable people to think critically and problem solve, to use knowledge as their own, and in a way that diverse students with different learning styles, backgrounds, and languages can get access to the curriculum.

Schools or prisons?

Annela Teemant (Brigham Young University)

All students need to be challenged cognitively. They need to explore concepts, not just memorize them, engage in interesting and meaningful activities, not just drill-and-kill exercises.

Cognitive challenge for all? 

We examine a classroom where a teacher values student thinking, not just right answers. We watch a segment of a math lesson where students are exploring the different ways that a student might divide a rectangle in half. She not only encourages different answers but also supports students in helping their classmates understand the answer and the thinking processes that led to that answer.

Valuing thinking?

Valuing right answers?

Heidi Andrade Goodrich (Ohio University)

You choose an assessment based on what your goals are. If you want students to be able to remember and recall information, multiple-choice tests are fine. Sometimes that’s exactly what you need. They’re simple to do, straightforward, and easy to score. They tell you if students have discrete knowledge and skills. If that’s what you need, they’re fine. Begin by thinking about what you want them to be able to do at the end of the unit and plan backwards from there.  If you want students to analyze, critique, create, wonder, solve problems, apply, make decisions, interpret—the list is endless—then your assessments have to involve those skills.

Goals and assessment? 

Annela Teemant (Brigham Young University)

As teachers, you should begin planning curriculum with the end in mind. That is, what you want students to be able to know and do as a result of your teaching. Decide what the big ideas are. These are your learning goals. Then determine what assessments would provide evidence that students are learning. And finally, design learning activities that teach content and prepare students to provide evidence of their learning.


Curriculum Design:

1.Identify Learning Goals

2.Determine Acceptable Evidence

3.Design Activities


Identify Learning Goals

Jay McTighe (Independent Consultant)

With the information explosion, one of the greatest challenges of teaching today is the problem of too much knowledge to cover and not enough time. When our goal is understanding, it complicates the problem because understanding requires more than just hearing it once or covering it on the surface. We can cover more content in class by talking faster, but that doesn’t yield meaningful learning or in-depth understanding. If our students are going to understand we have to slow down and uncover the curriculum. So, we can’t teach everything there is to teach. And some things are more important than others. For us the challenge is in prioritizing what we’re going to emphasize—what we’re going to uncover vs. cover—and finally, what we’re going to ignore.


My learning goals? 

Annela Teemant (Brigham Young University)

Teachers can turn to several sources to help them decide what to emphasize, uncover, or ignore:

  • knowledge of your discipline,
  • professional standards, and
  • knowledge of your students.

Lydia Stack (San Francisco Unified School District)

A curriculum that meets the needs of second language learners is focused on standards. They tell you what it is students need to know. We want teachers to go in depth into a few units of study and cover all the standards, rather than being worried about covering a huge breadth of curriculum, which is difficult when the students are limited in their English.

Focus on standards? 

Nancy Cloud (Rhode Island College)

Teachers need to answer questions about their students:

  • What is their proficiency in their two languages?
  • What is their background knowledge and experience?
  • What is their interest in the subject?
  • How motivated are they?
  • What is their starting place?

This is crucial for the success of these children. I think a teacher’s joy in teaching is tied to student success. You aren’t happy with your teaching unless you’re successful. To be successful, you have to know who your students are at a very deep level.

 Students and my curriculum? 

Annela Teemant (Brigham Young University)

Decisions about the focus and content of the curriculum belong to the teacher. It is one of the weightiest moral decisions you make. Because in making it, you decide the educational opportunity and intellectual future of your students. This is why some teachers try to “cover” every-thing, but good teachers know that students will forget 80% of the curriculum covered. Developing a deep under-standing of important content—content that can be applied both in and beyond the classroom—is a more appropriate approach.

My students’ intellectual future?

Linda Darling Hammond (Stanford University)

The international math and science studies showed that the US performs worse than other countries that teach only a half or third as much as we do. In a math classroom in the US, the typical expectation is that the teacher covers the 32 chapters in the book. In Japan, in the seventh grade, the teacher teaches only four big ideas. In the US, we go through things superficially and don’t have time to go deep.


4 or 32?

Yvonne Freeman (Fresno Pacific University)

Focusing on questions can make a difference. A big question is something that matters. Something that connects to your students and something that will really involve and validate what students already know. For all learners, but especially for our second language learners, big questions pull them in and engage them. When students aren’t interested, they disengage. When you organize around big questions, you’re coming back to the same vocabulary and you are connecting to the same vocabulary.


Jay McTighe (Independent Consultant)

Provides an example from his friend, a high school English teacher. David teaches Catcher in the Rye through a central question: “What’s wrong with Holden?” It’s an interesting question that demands to be uncovered. Early on he tells students that at the end of their reading and discussion they will write a letter to Holden’s parents and to the hospital staff where he is housed. Many students read this book thinking of it as Holden’s excellent adventure. So the question, “What’s wrong with Holden?” is not only an assessment question, it’s a way to guide thinking and interpretation of the text as you go along. The question helps students get beyond the surface features of the novel to really interpret what’s going on here. Is this a deeply disturbed young man or is this kind of a normal adolescent guy feeling his oats?


Annela Teemant (Brigham Young University)

When teachers begin with the end in mind and focus on the most worthy questions and ideas, it becomes easy to connect students’ learning to things that have personal significance for them. Teachers have time to do what Jay McTighe calls “uncovering the curriculum.”

The end? 

Jay McTighe (Independent Consultant)

Often in these days of books of content standards and long state tests, when teachers talk about curriculum we hear the word “cover.” The dictionary provides two connotations for “cover.”

  • One is to obscure, as in to “coverup.“
  • The other is to cover the surface, like a bed spread.

If you think about that with respect to content knowledge, neither connotation supports learning as a goal. We don’t want to obscure and skimming the surface may do a dis-service to students. Our contention is we want to uncover the curriculum and go deeper. We can take a big idea or a core process and use it in a variety of ways.

He gives the example of the Magna Carta. He suggests studying the Magna Carta not to fixate on the date but to get to the larger idea—democratic governments need to balance the rights of individuals with a common good. A written constitution helps us to define the rights of individuals and helps us avoid abusive government power.

We can use this idea to consider emerging democracies in other parts of the world and ask the question, “How are they safeguarding the rights of individuals with a common good?” How does their written constitution help to avoid abusive government power? These are enduring ideas—at the heart of government—that transfer.


Uncover? Cover?

Facets of understanding? 

Marvin Smith (Brigham Young University)

When teachers begin with the end in mind, they first decide what is most worthy of classroom time and attention. Next they determine what would count as evidence that students’ understanding of these concepts will endure. Thomas Romberg provides teachers with helpful guidance in doing that.


  1. Determine Acceptable Evidence

Thomas Romberg (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

When we wrote the assessment standards for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, we said: “Look, you want to gather evidence about what students can do. What you want to do is think about what are the sources of evidence that are available for different purposes? You want to judge how a lesson worked so that you can plan tomorrow’s lesson. You want to observe and listen to students. Then you know how to adjust your lesson for the next day. Teachers often make these decisions on the run, but they ought to be aware that seeing what they do, hearing their questions, hearing and understanding their questions are a starting point for kind of making instructional decisions. If teachers want to judge progress, they need to know not only what the intent of this lesson or this unit or this chapter is, but also how it fits in a broader picture over several years—maybe five. This is a part of student growth and development. It isn’t simply about giving them a grade. It’s saying, “Where are they with respect to this?”

My instruction and evidence? 

Marvin Smith (Brigham Young University)

In order to determine where students are in relationship to particular goals or standards, we can ask them to per-form in ways that provide us with the evidence we need. Jay McTighe refers to these ways of demonstrating under-standing as “facets.” He provides examples of explaining, interpreting, and applying but he also includes as facets self-assessment, empathy, and taking a perspective.


Jay McTighe (Independent Consultant)

What are indicators that someone understands? Under-standing is not a single thing. There are different aspects or facets of understanding. It is revealed through these indicators or facets. Let me give you some examples:

Explain: One way in which we would know that someone really understands is that they can explain what they mean, not just give back information or recall facts, but explain.

Interpret: We can infer that someone understands something—a phenomenon, a situation, a set of data—if they can interpret it. Interpret refers to making meaning from. So, can you make meaning from text? From data? From experience? Can you see patterns and see connections? And can you explain what you see when linking interpretation with explanation?

Apply: We can infer that you understand when you can take facts, concepts, and skills learned here and apply them appropriately in a new situation. That’s really the measure of understanding.


Explain and understand?

Interpret and understand?

Apply and understand? 

Marvin Smith (Brigham Young University)

Teachers can collect evidence of student understanding by asking them to explain, interpret, apply, analyze, self-assess, take on multiple perspectives, or empathize.


Annela Teemant (Brigham Young University)

Once you identify the most important content and deter-mine what would count as evidence, you focus on designing learning activities that link instruction and assessment so that as you teach you can also assess and as you assess you still have an opportunity to teach.


3. Design Activities

Linda Darling Hammond (Stanford University)

Good teachers use a language-rich environment with lots of literacy opportunities. They teach basic skills when they are needed to students who need them in ways that are useful. They make decisions about when and how to do that based on their understanding of learning and learners, the curriculum, and what they’re trying to accomplish.

Good teachers teach students to inquire into a subject area, whether it’s mathematics or science. They allow them to construct understandings, but they also teach facts in ways that are useful because the student can plant them on a foundation of understanding.


Language-rich environment?

Lorraine Valdez Pierce (George Mason University)

Many times teachers think that assessment needs to be different from instruction. They will decide not to assess more regularly because it takes time away from instruction. They say, “I can’t afford that time for assessment.” These teachers do not realize that the ideal approach would be to merge assessment and instruction in a mutually beneficial partnership.

Time and assessment? 

Peggy Estrada (University of California, Santa Cruz)

The teacher as the instructional leader needs to know what the academic goal is and how we are moving toward it. Knowing that you may not be able to get all the way there today. Knowing how to get there and what to do to assist the child to move in that direction, and how it might manifest itself.

But the other thing is that the teacher holds the subject matter knowledge, the critical concepts that the child needs to learn. If you don’t take that instructional leader role really seriously and you don’t make sure that the child connects the idea, for example, that light going through the water is a refraction of light and it creates a beautiful rainbow. The spraying the water through the hose is our concrete experience, but it actually has a scientific term. The child will never learn that, and if they don’t, you haven’t done your job.

An instructional leader?

Annela Teemant (Brigham Young University)

By linking instruction and assessment, you are able to use a range of assessment techniques from casual and conversational to formal, recorded, and planned. Through these assessments, you are able to provide educative feedback to students that helps them adjust their performances and move closer to learning goals. It helps you adjust your lesson plans and better scaffold instruction so that students develop the understandings you are guiding them toward. One key to this lies in student-centered activity, such as hands-on activities and open discussion.


Link instruction with assessment?

Trish Stoddart (Universityof California, Santa Cruz)

The key, we find, to developing both academic language and conceptual understanding is a classroom where there is both coherence and a great deal of student-centered activity taking place. Because the students are working in groups, they’re doing a lot of hands-on activities with a lot of talking, a lot of discourse, going on between the students and between the students and the teachers. The coherence and student-centeredness tends to develop a lot of the things we’re looking for, both the understanding of the content and the learning of language.

Coherence and collaboration and student learning?


Beginning with the end in mind, determining what would be evidence of student understanding, and interweaving instruction and assessment are three simple ideas that can result in powerful student learning, especially for second language learners.

Begin with the end?


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Access it online or download it at https://open.byu.edu/diverse_assessment/AVG_2.4.