Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids

Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids

Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids

Integrating Differentiated Instruction and Understanding by Design: Connecting Content and Kids


Teachers struggle every day to bring quality instruction to their students. Beset by lists of content standards and accompanying high-stakes accountability tests, many educators sense that both teaching and learning have been redirected in ways that are potentially impoverishing for those who teach and those who learn. Educators need a model that acknowledges the centrality of standards but also ensures that students truly understand content and can apply it in meaningful ways. For many educators, Understanding by Design addresses that need. Simultaneously, teachers find it increasingly difficult to ignore the diversity of the learners who populate their classrooms. Few teachers find their work effective or satisfying when they simply serve up a curriculum--even an elegant one--to students with no regard for their varied learning needs. For many educators, Differentiated Instruction offers a framework for addressing learner variance as a critical component of instructional planning. In this book the two models converge, providing readers fresh perspectives on two of the greatest contemporary challenges for educators: crafting powerful curriculum in a standards-dominated era and ensuring academic success for the full spectrum of learners. Each model strengthens the other. Understanding by Design is predominantly a curriculum design model that focuses on what we teach. Differentiated Instruction focuses on whom we teach, where we teach, and how we teach. Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe show you how to use the principles of backward design and differentiation together to craft lesson plans that will teach essential knowledge and skills for the full spectrum of learners. Connecting content and kids in meaningful ways is what teachers strive to do every day. In tandem, UbD and DI help educators meet that goal by providing structures, tools, and guidance for developing curriculum and instruction that bring to students the best of what we know about effective teaching and learning.


Both authors of this book have worked on the ideas in it in one way or another for careers that now span well over three decades. Our particular personalities, experiences, talents, and predilections have led us to think about the varying and complementary facets of teaching and learning. We share a common attraction to classrooms. We have both been classroom teachers. We have both been administrators. We have both been teachers of teachers. Our professional paths have led us in different yet highly complementary and overlapping directions. We certainly have not come down these roads alone. Each of us has been nurtured by mentors, extended by professional partnerships, and challenged by minds that see further than we do—or differently.

Over the past nine years (give or take), we have each pursued a body of work that was born of our particular experiences and passions—and that continues to feed those passions as well. Tangible evidence of that work has emerged as ASCD has shepherded a series of books, videos, online courses, Web sites, and other tools for educators related to what we now call Understanding by Design (UbD) and Differentiated Instruction (DI).

We knew each other—and learned from each other's work. And we kept doing what busy people do. We worked diligently in the directions that we felt enhanced our work.

About four years ago, Sally Chapman from ASCD arranged a dinner for the two of us along with Grant Wiggins, Jay's colleague in UbD. The goal of the dinner was to explore the idea of a book or some sort of project that connected the two bodies of work on backward design and differentiation.

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