Enduring understanding is learning an idea or concept and internalizing it so completely that you never forget it. It’s more than simple knowledge of content, or the ability to regurgitate memorized facts. Instead, when you truly understand something, you can take what you’ve learned and apply to new, real-life situations (this process is called “transfer”). It includes the ability to self-assess, adjust, and adapt what you’ve learned, modifying it so that you can use it in different scenarios. Teachers can encourage true understanding (versus simple knowledge) by asking questions that stimulate critical thinking, such as: Why is that so? Why do you think that? What evidence do you have to back up that statement? How could this be improved?
Our lessons are designed to do more than just deliver content. Students are also involved in labs, projects, and activities designed to use critical thinking and problem-solving skills to ensure understanding. For instance, after learning about experimental design, students were given different experimental scenarios and had to identify the different variables, experimental group, and control group. Because each experimental scenario was different, students had to apply their new knowledge to many different situations, requiring them to truly understand the new information. Another activity they did was constructing posters on the experimental method. I taught them how to be resourceful as I circulated, showing them how to find the information using their notes, books, and each other. I didn’t, however, just answer their questions without making them dig for the answer themselves first.
Essential Questions are asked as part of each lesson plan and address what the key, overall questions are that drive the lesson. They help formulate the objective. For instance, this week, we’ve been teaching the scientific method. The questions from my lesson plan are:
· What are the steps of the scientific method and what do they mean?
· What are the independent variable, dependent variable, control group, and experimental group in different experiments?
· Based on an observation or problem, how can I develop a testable hypothesis?
· Based on this hypothesis, how can I design my own experiment, using appropriate variables and controls?
· How can I apply the scientific method to real-life problems and make educated inferences?
These tie directly into my objective:
· After being presented with content on experimental design, students will be able to identify the key components of an experiment and design a simple experiment with one variable and one control. Students will construct a poster in small groups on the scientific method. (Cognitive, Psychomoter, Language Development; Bio Stds 11d,l;ELD Stds, Parts I & II).
Evidence of learning is how teachers assess whether students understand what is being taught. They must demonstrate their knowledge and understanding in different ways. It’s especially important to ensure that students can apply their knowledge in new ways to avoid mistaking knowledge for understanding. Students should be able to do more than regurgitate facts or plug in formulas. Assessments are multi-faceted and should include more than a single, multiple-choice test, although such a test is often included as well. Other assessments we have used include quick writes and think-pair-share to see if students are “getting it” during presentations and lectures. These are best when delivering content to see how well students are picking up on the information. Projects, activities and labs are wonderful assessments because they test to see if students understand the new knowledge by asking students to demonstrate their understanding using problem-solving and critical thinking skills. We use a combination of all the above assessments in our lessons. Using a varied approach identifies areas that students need more help with and checks for understanding.
· Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding understanding. In Understanding by Design (2 ed.). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/103055/chapters/Understanding-Understanding.aspx.
· Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Backward Design. In Understanding by Design (2 ed.). Retrieved from http://www.ubdexchange.org/resources/backwards.html.