George Lucas Educational Foundation

How is PBL like/unlike UbD (Understanding by Design)

How is PBL like/unlike UbD (Understanding by Design)

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two years ago i was introduced to UbD - an approach to curriculum and instruction that challenges teachers to 'think backwards' (beginning with desired results, moving through essential questions and, lastly, ending the planning process with the final daily, hourly, minute-by-minute plans for how and when to teach/present certain aspects of the topic. one central concept to UbD is that students will be evaluated according to a 'Performance Assessment' tha is essentially a project that allows students to demonstrate their knowledge (in Bloom's sense of the w0rd) in several ways. that is a very simplified/brief coment on UbD for anyone unfamiliar with that concept. now, based on what you know about one r both of these approaches to curriculum/instruction/teaching/learning, what similarities and/or differences do you see between the two approaches? please comment on here at length or in brief. thanks, Zane

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Tristan de Frondeville's picture
Tristan de Frondeville
Project Learning Consultant for PBL Associates

PBL owes much to the work by Grant Wiggins in Understanding by Design. For example, we always "Begin with the End in Mind" as does UbD. Although I can't point out all the differences in this post, perhaps these ideas will clarify.
When UbD speaks of a Performance Assessment, PBL is precisely that Performance Assessment. And the Project (the P in PBL) Design is where we teach teachers to desgin high quality Performance Assessments.
Also, we do not do minute by minute planning (is that really possible?). We train teachers to slowly but surely shift more accountability and responsibility for learning to the students. Students are trained in research and problem solving and high performance teamwork so that they can practice the art of independent learning through the project.
Please do not think this means the teacher lets go completely, however, the best PBL teachers become guides on the side rather than sages on the stage.
I believe the best thing to do is to perhaps write a post about the essential elements of PBL so that we can have a common framework from which to work.

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