Coaches in Cecil County have been asking teachers when they co-plan with them what is it that they want every student to know, understand, and be able to do. The most difficult part for them seems to be articulating what they want students to understand about what they want them to know and to do. Lynn Erickson in Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction for the Thinking Classroom on p.7 refers it as: what we want students to know (factually), to understand (conceptually) , and to do (skillfully). She sees the understanding part to be the factual wedded to the conceptual. For example, identify economic differences among different regions of the United States is what you want students to know and to do. She takes this objective or performance indicator to the next level, the understanding level, when she adds to the objective in order to understand that... . It then reads: Identify economic differences among different regions of the United States in order to understand that the geography and natural resources of a region shape the economy. Another example, p. 58: Students will know the life cycles of a butterfly. Students will understand that life cycles ensure the continuation of a species. Students will be able to create a model or diagram that represents natural objects or events. Also something to think about if anyone wants to discuss this with me is Anderson and Krathwohl's revision of Bloom's Taxonomy, on pages 174- 177 of the Erickson text. I think there are implications for the HLQ manual.
I'm going to get these texts and give this some thought. I'm still having a hard time pinning these things down precisely, and this will sound awful, but I'm even wondering how important that precision is, probably very important, but I need to be thinking less foggy about this.
Okay, I am foggy here as well, and clarity is key. I think one misunderstanding on my part may be that I may be confusing understanding with application. I am looking at version 2.0 of the manual, page 4, Identify the Level of Question, where the understanding level has students demonstrating and constructing their understanding, whereas application involves transferring to a new situation. This makes sense to me now particularly as I am connecting it to the revised Bloom's Taxonomy. The old taxonomy for some reason I could never quite get my head around. The revised taxonomy works for me: where Remember is retrieval of knowledge; Understand represents students constructing meaning that includes interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing, and explaining ; and then the next four Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create also have subcategories and alternate names that generally are open-ended where students are applying what they know to novel situations. Generally. In any event this revised chart is much more accessible and may be helpful if paired to the last 2 pages of the 2.0 manual, instead of listing Bloom's taxonomy at the bottom of those 2 pages. I am going to keep thinking about this though in order to be very clear because I need to try and explain it to coaches soon.
Now I am wondering if asking coaches to have teachers state what they want every student to know, understand, and be able to do is a different use of understand. This may be my second area of misunderstanding. Asking teachers why they want students to understand and do something in a lesson or unit when designing a learning map or unit organizer may be very different from asking students questions and formulating those questions to get at what students can retrieve (or recognize and recall), understand (or construct meaning from oral, written or graphic communication), and then can apply to novel situations, settings, or content.
This is how my colleagues and I explain the difference between know, understand, and do when helping teachers unpack curriculum during the first stage of Understanding By Design.
Know: the vocabulary, the names, the places, the dates, - in other words, the things that are easy to forget if they aren't linked to skills and/or understandings.
Do: The skills of the professional in the field, adapted for the developmental level of the students. For example, architects calculate rise/run when designing stairs. Students should also demonstrate the skill of calculating rise/run. Another example is that real authors revise their work. So, we have students practice revising their work. We have our students "DO" the skills of a professional, at a level that is appropriate for their developmental level.
Understand: The basic foundational beliefs of a discipline. For example, a foundational belief of physics is that an object at rest stays at rest. A foundational belief of geography is that humans shape the landscape through their interaction with the land. A foundational belief of genetics is that the expression of traits can be predicted.
The word "understand" is the crux of this problem. We use it to mean so many different things. Students demonstrate understanding in many ways. They explain, interpret, analyze, etc. - but they do those things to demonstrate the usefulness of the foundational beliefs of a discipline in a new setting or in a unique way.
In designing units - teachers identify the critical vocabulary that is required for a meaningful dialogue within a subject ("KNOW"). They identify the skills that professionals in the discipline use ("DO"). They identify the foundational beliefs of the discipline ("UNDERSTAND"). Then they design lessons which will lead the students to understand the foundational beliefs of a discipline, and to communicate their understanding by the demonstration of skills and the ability to communicate using appropriate vocabulary.