Enduring Understandings, Essential Questions, & Transfer Goals

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There are three components to Understanding by Design (UbD) that occasionally confuse those new to UbD: Essential Questions, Enduring Understandings & Transfer Goals. You can read about each of them here in a very helpful handout titled “UbD in a Nutshell” from Jay McTighe’s site.

On Grant Wiggin’s site he writes:

“An essential question is – well, essential: important, vital, at the heart of the matter – the essence of the issue. Think of questions in your life that fit this definition – but don’t just yet think about it like a teacher; consider the question as a thoughtful adult. What kinds of questions come to mind? What is a question that any thoughtful and intellectually-alive person ponders and should keep pondering?” Read more here.

Multiple sites provide the following definition for enduring understandings:

“Enduring understandings are statements summarizing important ideas and core processes that are central to a discipline and have lasting value beyond the classroom. They synthesize what students should understand—not just know or do—as a result of studying a particular content area. Moreover, they articulate what students should “revisit” over the course of their lifetimes in relationship to the content area.

Enduring understandings:

  1. frame the big ideas that give meaning and lasting importance to such discrete curriculum elements as facts and skills
  2. can transfer to other fields as well as adult life
  3. “unpack” areas of the curriculum where students may struggle to gain understanding or demonstrate misunderstandings and misconceptions
  4. provide a conceptual foundation for studying the content area and
  5. are deliberately framed as declarative sentences that present major curriculum generalizations and recurrent ideas.”     Accessed here.

Transfer Goals 

Transfer goals highlight the effective uses of understanding, knowledge, and skill that we seek in the long run; i.e., what we want students to be able to do when they confront new challenges – both in and outside of school. There is a small number of overarching, long-term transfer goals in each subject area.” Jay McTighe & Grant Wiggins. Accessed here.

More on transfer goals can be found here.



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