Understanding By Design – Backwards Design Process

(Developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2002)

 For more information & examples, go to the Understanding By Design Exchange

Stage 1 – Desired Results

Content Standard(s):

  • [Comes from professional standards in your field]

Understanding (s)/goals
Students will understand that:

  • [this is a goal, not an objective.  List the big ideas or concepts that you want them to come away with, not facts that they must know]

Essential Question(s):

  • [What leading questions can you ask of students to get them to understand the Big Ideas?]
  • [Address the heart of the discipline, are framed to provoke and sustain students interest; unit questions usually have no one obvious “right” answer]

Student objectives (outcomes):
Students will be able to:

  • [These are observable, measurable outcomes that students should be able to demonstrate and that you can assess. Your assessment evidence in Stage 2 must show how you will assess these.]
  • [Your learning activities in Stage 3 must be designed and directly linked to having students be able to achieve the understandings, answer the essential questions, and demonstrate the desired outcomes]

Stage 2 – Assessment Evidence

Performance Task(s):

  • [Authentic, performance based tasks that have students apply what they have learned and demonstrate their understanding.]
  • [designed at least at the application level or higher on Bloom’s Taxonomy. ]
  • [Rubrics can be used to guide students in self-assessment of their performance]

Other Evidence:

  • [includes pre-assessment, formative assessment, and summative assessment evidence]
  • [Can be individual or group based]
  • [Can include informal methods (such as thumbs up, thumbs down, and formal assessments, such as quiz, answers to questions on a worksheet, written reflection, essay]

Stage 3 – Learning Plan

Learning Activities:
[This is the core of your lesson plan and includes a listing describing briefly (usually in bullet or numbered form so easy to follow) what:

  • the students will do during the class to prepare them for the outcomes you expect of them.]
  • the teacher will do to guide the learning]


  1. Understanding by design (UBD) framework (same as above) in Microsoft Word format (download file)
  2. UBD blank outline (in html)
  3. UBD blank outline (download MS Word File)