Testing Understanding by Design

  • Giorgio Ostinelli UniTreEdu Milan
Keywords: Understanding by Design - Coaching - Teaching innovation


Understanding by Design (UbD) is a well-known curricular methodology aiming at leading students to develop deep understanding of the arguments proposed by teachers. Through a path including stimulating questions, student motivation, deepening of the argument, reflection, design and assessment of authentic performances, the students develop a broad understanding of the learned argument. While there is plenty of articles describing various experiences in classrooms and schools showing the benefits of UbD, rarely this methodology has been the object of experimental or quasi-experimental studies. A research conforming to quasi-experimental criteria has been performed in a Swiss vocational school, where three groups of students have been submitted to teaching based on UbD principles (the first two) and to a more traditional teaching approach (the remaining one). The argument was the study of mathematical Relations and Functions. The results, collected during one school year, showed that the first two groups outperformed the third one and that the effect lasted at least for one school year. Since the teacher remained the same, it is likely that the outcome can be attributed to the use of the methodology.   


Download data is not yet available.


Bada, S., Olusegun, S. (2015). Constructivism learning theory: A paradigm for teaching and learning. Journal of Research & Method in Education, 5(6), 66-70.

Balkis, M. (2018). Academic amotivation and intention to school dropout: the mediation role of academic achievement and absenteeism. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 38(2), 257-270.

Bruner, J. S. (1960). The process of education: a searching discussion of school education opening new paths to learning and teaching. Vintage Books.

Castronova, J. (2002). Discovery learning for the 21st century: What is it and how does it compare to traditional learning in effectiveness in the 21st century. Action Research Exchange, 1(1), 1-12.

Cline, G. & Rinaldi, K. (2023). A compelling case for the use of backward design to advance competency-based nursing education. Nurse Educator, 48(5), 168-169

Dari, W., Hidayat, S., & Wulandari, E. (2024). The Understanding by Design strategy in 21st-century education. Biosfer: Jurnal Tadris Biologi, 14(2), 169-179.

Darling-Hammond, L., Snyder, J. (2015). Meaningful learning in a new paradigm for educational accountability: an introduction. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23, 7-7.

Dean, C. (2019). Backward design plus: taking the learning context into consideration. In S. Carliner (Ed.), Proceedings of E-Learn: world conference on e-learning in corporate, government, healthcare, and higher education. (pp. 1345-1348). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Diviva, R. (2017). Effectiveness of Understanding by Design and computer-aided instruction in learning mathematics II. JPAIR Multidisciplinary Research, 28(1), 110-128.

Dixon, F., Yssel, N., McConnell, M., Hardin, T. (2014). Differentiated instruction, professional development, and teacher efficacy. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 37(2), 111-127.

Gardner, H. (2011). The unschooled mind: how children think and how schools should teach. Basic Books.

Joyce, B. & Swanberg, S. (2017). Using backward design for competency-based undergraduate medical education. In Stefaniak, J. (Ed.) Advancing medical education through strategic instructional design. (pp. 53-76). IGI Global.

Li, C., Wen, F. (2023). Promoting deep learning in mathematics education—based on Understanding by Design theory. Academic Journal of Mathematical Sciences, 4(4), 57-61.

Lan, W. & Lanthier, R. (2003). Changes in students' academic performance and perceptions of school and self before dropping out of schools. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 8(3), 309-332.

Lerman, S. (2020). Encyclopedia of mathematics education. Springer International Publishing.

Luckin, R., Holmes, W., Griffiths, M. & Forcier, L. (2016). Intelligence unleashed: an argument for AI in education. Pearson.

McTighe, J. & Seif, E. (2003). A summary of underlying theory and research base for Understanding by Design. Unpublished manuscript.

McTighe, J. & Wiggins, G. (2014). Improve curriculum, assessment, and instruction using the Understanding by Design® framework. ASCD.

McTighe, J. & Willis, J. (2019). Upgrade your teaching: Understanding by Design meets neuroscience. ASCD.

Morris, T. (2021). Backward design for a United States Bachelor of Science in Nursing curriculum. In I. Darmann-Finck, & K. Reiber. (Eds.) Development, Implementation and Evaluation of Curricula in Nursing and Midwifery Education. (pp. 93-107). Springer International Publishing.

Newell, A., Foldes, C., Haddock, A., Ismail, N. & Moreno, N. (2024). Twelve tips for using the Understanding by Design® curriculum planning framework. Medical Teacher, 46(1), 34-39

Newmann, F. M. (1996). Authentic achievement: Restructuring schools for intellectual quality. Jossey-Bass.

Ostinelli. (2019). Between university and school: the school improvement advisor/researcher (SIA). International Journal of Leadership in Education, 22(2), 189-205.

Ozyurt, M., Kan, H., Kiyikci, A. (2021). The effectiveness of Understanding by Design model in science teaching: a quasi-experimental study. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 94, 1-24

Perkins, D. (1998). What is understanding? In Stone Wiske, M. (Ed.) Teaching for understanding: linking research with practice. (pp. 39-57). Jossey-Bass

Pramesti, N., Dewi, L. (2023). The implementation of Understanding by Design approach in mathematics learning on elementary school. Journal of Innovative Mathematics Learning, 6(2), 124-131.

Redecker, C. (2017) Digital competence of educators. Policy report by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s science and knowledge service.

Saxe, G. (2015). Culture and cognitive development: studies in mathematical understanding. Psychology Press.

Stamp, N. & Armstrong, M. (2005). Using “the power of story” to overcome ecological misconceptions and build sophisticated understanding. The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America, 86(3), 177-183

Tshering, S. (2022). The impact of Using Understanding by Design (UbD) model on class 10 student’s achievement in chemistry. International Journal of Chemistry Education Research, 6(1), 29-33.

Wilkerson, L. (2022) Constructivist curriculum for Christian education. Christian Education Journal, 19(1), 32–46

Wiggins, G. & Mc Tighe, J. (2005). Understanding by Design. ASCD.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2011). The Understanding by Design guide to creating high-quality units. ASCD.

Yurtseven, N., & Altun, S. (2017). Understanding by Design (UbD) in EFL teaching: teachers' professional development and students' achievement. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice, 17(2), 437-461.

How to Cite
Ostinelli, G. (2024). Testing Understanding by Design. Teachers’ Work, 21(1), 104-119. https://doi.org/10.24135/teacherswork.v21i1.600