Woodcarving: Crafting Enduring Understandings

My course is starting to reveal its form. And while of course I imagine a lot of what I decide now in Stage 1 of planning will be revised as I progress to later stages, it seems that the course is going to have 5 main units:

  1. A unit that looks at Media Literacy and Identity
  2. A unit that looks at the function and workings of American democracy
  3. A unit where students will conduct a major research project on a current policy issue and take some action to change policy
  4. A macroeconomic unit, focusing on government economic policy
  5. A microeconomic unit, focusing on budgeting, investment, and personal economics

I’m still playing around with the idea of a brief “Unit 0” to introduce some of the big group problem solving strategies students will need, as well as to focus on thinking outside the box and imagining possibilities beyond what already exists, but I’m not sure what that would look like.

The units have emerged as I started crafting my Enduring Understandings – the big, transferable takeaways I want my students to leave my class with.  These understandings will also serve as the basis for the learning goals I will use in the Standards Based Grading system I’ll be using in my class this year.*  For those not familiar with the Understanding by Design framework, Enduring Understandings are some combination of:

  1. An important inference, drawn from the experience of experts, stated as a specific and useful generalization
  2. Transferable, big ideas having enduring value beyond a specific topic
  3. Abstract, counterintuitive, or easily misunderstood ideas
  4. Something best acquired by “uncovering” and “doing”
  5. A summary of important strategic principles in skill areas (UbD 2nd edition, p. 128-130)

This is a stage of planning I’ve always struggled with.  It seems just as often as not, the understandings I craft will not end up being the understandings I actually help students learn. I think this is because I forced myself to go through a linear progression of the three stages of planning, which is not actually how backwards planning is supposed to work.  I will try and be better about that this year.

With all that said, here are the 37 Enduring Understandings I’ve crafted for my class at this point.  Most of these will eventually have sub/topical understandings that go with them.  In order to create these, I started with the list of outcomes from my last post, and tried to write an understanding or two for each.  I then looked at the understandings systematically to see where things could be combined or eliminated, before putting through a checklist test of the above 5 qualities.

For anyone who has the time to give feedback, I’d greatly appreciate it.


Understandings Year Media Literacy Democracy Research Project Macroeconomics Microeconomics
To get what you want, you need to tailor your message to your audience.
It is important and valuable to stop and reflect on the past.
High-quality questions promote thinking about complex events that allow for inquiry into new ways of looking at something.
All opinions are not equal; better opinions are supported by more convincing claims based on the available evidence.
Not all valid arguments are persuasive, and not all persuasive arguments are valid.
Just because it’s done, doesn’t mean it’s done right; and when it comes to writing, there is no such thing as done.
In order to determine the reliability of one source, it is necessary to compare it with with other sources.
It is important to maintain a stance of reasoned skepticism, but it’s also necessary to accept truth based on evidence, even if it challenges our beliefs.
In order to fulfill the responsibilities of citizenship, it is necessary to seek multiple perspectives in order to grasp the complexity of issues and their consequences.
The information you encounter in the world must be approached from a critical perspective, taking into account its purpose, use of evidence, persuasive techniques, intended audience, reliability, biases, credibility, and blind spots.
Things could have happened differently.
Just because there is disagreement, does not mean there is right and wrong.
All decisions involve risk, reward, uncertainty, and opportunity costs.
A valid argument contains relevant claims and counterclaims, as well as evidence for both.
Something about internet search
Different people experience the same media message differently.
Identity and desire are both social constructions, and are intertwined.
Race matters tremendously despite having no basis in biological or scientific reality.
What it means to be a man or a woman is a social construction.
When your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, your beliefs get stronger.
All media is constructed using a creative language with its own rules; has embedded values and points of view; and is organized to gain profit and/or power.
Small, short-term decisions can have dramatic, long-term effects.
Government decisions have a huge range of consequences that are: foreseen & unforeseeable; short-term & long-term; macro & micro; economic, social, & political; and that effect different groups differently.
A valid argument acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of all claims.
More (good) sources is always better.
People have the ability to take a wide variety of intentional actions to influence both personal and communal economic and political realities.
Change often begins with imagining what others think will never happen.
Often getting what you want involves giving up or modifying part of what you want in order to compromise.
Democratic power in the US is divided and shared both between and within local, state, and national governments.
Something about criminal justice system
The power of the United States governments is limited.
Plagiarism is taking ideas from another without giving them credit
Analyzing incentives can accurately predict the behaviors of large number of individuals, but only tells you the probability of any individual’s action.
Different macrocosmic measurements measure and value very different things and therefore disguise and reveal different economic conditions.
Resources are limited and therefore, people cannot have all the goods and services they want; as a result, they must choose some things and give up others.
You can’t always get what you want, but if you’re intentional in your decisions, you can get what you need (and some of what you want).
Responsible financial planning involves an analysis of: risk, reward, uncertainty & opportunity costs; and short-term & long-term goals.
*My new school is piloting SBG this year in a handful of classes, and I was all too happy to jump in.  Finally, my students will be free from arbitrary number and letter grades.  I’ll write more on this later in the planning process.

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4 thoughts on “Woodcarving: Crafting Enduring Understandings

  1. These are some really powerful understandings for students to come away with. How do you know if the understandings are sinking in (or, how will you assess for these understandings)?


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