When designing Powerful Learning experiences, teachers utilize high impact strategies with an intentional sequence of learning activities. These activities start with learning outcomes and aligns with essential questions and big ideas. Assessment for Learning approaches and strategies are embedded along with consideration for modifications and adaptations to meet the diverse needs of learners. Purposeful, ongoing assessment ensures that students achieve a Deep Understanding of the core learning goals/skills and is imperative to student success. In order to do this, the concepts and big ideas are identified and made explicit. This type of intentional design allows teachers to consider the scope of student needs in their classroom and therefore allow for multiple entry points so that all students can participate in the experience. Core competencies such as: collaboration, communication, and critical thinking are integrated when designing units. Design frameworks such as “Understanding by Design- UBD” (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) or the “Cascading Curriculum” principles (TC2), have informed the Powerful Learning template that will guide teachers in designing lessons.
Planning for Powerful Learning occurs through several phases, beginning with teachers identifying the conceptual understandings of the curriculum outcomes.
Key concepts of each discipline focus the learning and lead students to a Deep Understanding that can transfer across situations. Teachers identify what is important for students to know, understand and be able to do, while incorporating Powerful Learning strategies. This type of design involves the purposeful articulation of what the teacher and student work will look like, as well as what will be collected as evidence of learning. Deciding how students demonstrate a Deep Understanding requires being able to plan for multiple ways of representing and expressing ideas. As well, teachers plan for various ways that students can enter into the learning/ work due to learning differences. Inquiries and tasks are developed that require student collaboration to achieve Deep Understanding. In the design of Powerful Learning, every attempt is made by teachers to consider what the discipline calls for (i.e. in mathematics we consider how to help students to learn how to think like a mathematician). Consideration is also given to Golden Hills Foundational Frameworks (Literacy, Numeracy and Technology) as well as strategies and considerations identified in the “drivers” of Powerful Learning.
Concept-Based unit and lesson planning provides a structure that helps teachers identify the conceptual lens to help students understanding the generalizations and conceptual understandings of the curriculum (Erickson, Lynn, et.al. 2017). This type of design involves the purposeful development of what the teacher and student work will look like as well as what will be collected as evidence of learning. Deciding how students can demonstrate a deep understanding, requires being able to plan for multiple ways of representing and expressing ideas. Inquiries and tasks are developed that require student collaboration to achieve deep understanding. In the design of learning, every attempt is made by teachers to consider what the discipline calls for (i.e. in mathematics we consider how to help students to learn how to think like a mathematician).
Alberta Learning is in the process of developing curriculum, beginning with grades K-4, although drafts have been released. In the curriculum, key concepts and conceptual ideas of each discipline are the “drivers” for learning, which lead students to a deeper understanding that transfer across different situations. Alberta Learning has utilized a “Concept-Based Curriculum design” intended to provide teachers with clear targets. Lesson design requires teachers to integrate concepts, knowledge and skills giving relevance and purpose to the factual study. The intention of the curriculum is to help students retain factual information through the use of a conceptual lens. Concept-Based Unit design steps can be used for planning as outlined in Erickson et.al. 2017 (Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction: for the Thinking Classroom).