Tag Archives: Grant Wiggins

Content mastery is a means, not a goal

Grant Wiggins says:

There are really only 3 non-negotiables in UbD [Understanding by Design]:

  1. There has to be a clear, constant, and prioritized focus on ‘understanding’ as an educational goal. Content mastery is NOT a sufficient goal in an understanding-based system; content mastery is a means, in the same way that decoding fluency is a means toward the real goal of reading – meaning, based on comprehension, from texts. This logic requires teacher-designers to be clear, therefore, about which uses of content have course priority since understanding is about transfer and meaning-making via content.
  2. The assessments must align with the goals via ‘backward design’; and the goals, as mentioned, should highlight understanding. So, there can be quizzes of content mastery and questions on the exam re: content, but the bulk of assessment questions and tasks cannot possibly be mere recall of content kinds in an understanding-based system. The issue is therefore not whether or not there are final exams but what kinds of questions/tasks make up any exams given; and whether the kinds of questions are in balance with the prioritized goals.
  3. The instructional practices must align with the goals. Again, that doesn’t mean content cannot be taught via lectures or that content-learning cannot be what lessons are sometimes about. But a course composed mainly of lectures cannot logically yield content use – any more than a series of lectures on history or literacy can yield high-performing historians or teachers of reading. The instructional methods must, as a suite, support performance with understanding.

via http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2014/01/01/final-exams-vs-projects-nope-false-dichotomy-a-practical-start-to-the-blog-year

There are so many good things in this 3-item list. I love the emphasis on student performance; the reminder that content mastery is a means, not a goal; and the emphatic distinction between ‘recall’ and ‘understanding.’ Thanks, Grant.

Complex performance does not imply deep understanding and transfer

just because students are asked to do a complex performance does not mean that any real transfer is demanded. If the task is completely scripted by a teacher – say, memorizing a poem, performing a Chopin Prelude that one has practiced many times, with coaching, or writing a formulaic 5-paragraph essay – then there is no transfer of learning taking place. Transfer only is demanded and elicited when there is some element of novelty in the task and thus strategic thought and judgment is required by the performer.

If you only can recall and state something you don’t really understand it. You have to be able to explain and justify its meaning and applicability – a Meaning goal – and you also have to be able to apply it into settings where it is needed, without being prompted to do so or shown exactly how to do so – Transfer.

Grant Wiggins via http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/a-clarification-of-the-goal-of-transfer-and-how-it-relates-to-testing

The point of learning is not just to know things but to be a different person

Though we often lose sight of this basic fact, the point of learning is not just to know things but to be a different person – more mature, more wise, more self-disciplined, more effective, and more productive in the broadest sense. Knowledge is an indicator of educational success, not the aim.

  • If curriculum is a tour through what is known, how is knowledge ever advanced?
  • If a primary goal of education is high-level performance in the world going forward, how can marching through old knowledge out of context optimally prepare us to perform?

Grant Wiggins via http://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/learning-on-the-edge