Episode 63 How to set desired learning results

In this episode, Dan interview’s Jay McTighe, author of Understanding by Design, and education consultant. This is the first episode of a 3 part series looking at the Understanding by Design Framework. In this episode, Jay provides an overview of the framework and then focuses in on “Desired Results”.

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Episode 63 How to set desired learning goals (Part 1 of the Understanding by Design Series with Jay McTighe) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Unit design can be difficult and time consuming for many teachers. In this series, Dan interview’s Jay MCTighe and walks you through the 3 step framework from Understanding by Design. In this episode, you can discover how to identify and set desired learning results. This includes setting learning goals, considering transfer goals and creating essential questions.

Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Learn the difference between knowledge and understanding

  2. Understand why defining your desired results is the place to begin your unit design process
  3. Learn to use the Understanding by Design framework to design your units to help students transfer their knowledge

Video show

Show Notes

Episode Highlights

Key Point #1: Why would a teacher want to use the Understanding by Design framework?

  • We are preparing students for an increasingly complex interconnected and unpredictable world
  • This requires understanding

Key Point #2: What is the Understanding by Design framework

  • Understanding by Design is a curriculum planning framework that prioritises transfer of learning
  • 3 stages for teaching and assessing for understanding and transfer.
    • Stage 1 – identifying desired results
    • Stage 2 – what evidence of learning understanding and transfer do we need
    • Stage 3 – plan the learning experiences
  1. Learning is enhanced when teachers think purposefully about curricular planning.
  2. The Understanding by Design framework helps focus curriculum and teaching on the development and deepening of student understanding and transfer of learning
  3. Understanding is revealed when students autonomously make sense of and transfer their learning through authentic performance. 
  4. Effective curriculum is planned backwards from long-term, desired results 
  5. Teachers are coaches of understanding
  6. Regularly reviewing units and curriculum enhances curricular quality and effectiveness,
  7. The Understanding by Design framework reflects a continual improvement approach to student achievement and teacher craft.

Key Point #3: The first stage is Identifying the desired results, which is where we are focusing our efforts today. What are the key steps to this approach?

  • Goals and subgoals 
  • Understandings not just knowledge
  • Essential questions How do you design these?
  • Key knowledge and skills

Key Point #4: How do you see this part of the approach helping students to become self-sufficient learners?

  • What “understandings” do students need to be self-sufficient?
  • Ability to research
  • Ability to provide and receive feedback

Key Point #5: where would you recommend a teacher begin with this?

  •  Create units using the titles “A study in…”
  • Design essential questions around these

Powerful Quote from This Episode

‘we argue in fact that our goal is not to cover every bit of content that might be in a textbook or might be in a set of outcomes or standard document. Rather our goal should be equipping students to be able to use what they’ve learnt in new and effective ways.’.


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To fostering effective unit design for lifelong learning,


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