Unit Planning Framework

The Unit Plan Framework, modified from the work of Wiggins and McTighe (1998) and Erickson (2002), addresses the curricular needs of Albemarle County. At this level of the Framework, curriculum directly impacts students. For this reason, the Unit Planning Framework is designed to help unit developers ensure that instruction and assessment are aligned with enduring understandings and essential questions - a backward design process.

The first component of the Unit Plan Framework includes basic identifying information including grade level, discipline/topic area(s), and unit designer(s) (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Identifying information

A unit summary exists so unit developers may provide readers with a brief abstract of the unit, to be written at the end of development (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Unit summary

The Unit Plan Framework includes a concept map to provide teachers and students with an advance organizer of the concept and enduring understandings of the unit. Unit developers should also identify the Lifelong-Learner Standards and habits of mind that will be addressed in the unit (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Discipline-level framework

According to Wiggins and McTighe (1998), curriculum that strives for student understanding requires uncoverage. Through identifying the content standards, essential understandings, essential questions, and essential knowledge, skills, and vocabulary of the unit, unit developers uncover the material to be learned. Essential understandings sharpen the focus of the enduring understanding relevant to the topic.

Teachers should articulate the essential understandings and questions of the unit, the glue that holds the content together, before designing assessments and teaching and learning strategies, which must support these bigger ideas. In addition, rather than attempting to create fully integrated units, developers identify natural connections to other disciplines at the beginning of planning so classroom teachers may help students make these connections during the teaching and learning process (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Grade-level framework
Sources: Adapted from Erickson, 2002; Wiggins & McTighe, 1998; McMilln, 2001.

As teachers use a backwards design approach to planning, they begin by articulating what it is all students will know, understand, and be able to do as a result of learning in the context of the lesson or unit. Once "the end" becomes more clear, teachers begin thinking about what constitutes evidence of student learning. Thinking about assessment inevitably causes teachers to re-think curriculum, thus beginning a recursive cycle in planning for student learning.