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Curriculum

A teacher works with a CHCCS student to develop Transfer Goals
The district’s curriculum is designed by classroom teachers, coaches, administrators, and curriculum coordinators. The curriculum is a local decision, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. However, the curriculum must be aligned to the state standards

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools staff are currently writing curriculum units, using a research-based curriculum design known as Understanding by Design (UbD). For more information on your child’s specific curriculum and grade/course learning goals, please visit with your child’s teacher.

Have a question about curriculum? Ask us!

Understanding by Design (UbD)

Understanding by Design is a process that CHCCS teachers use to design curriculum.

An Introduction to UbD at CHCCS

Teachers and administrators discuss the ways that they use UbD at CHCCS.

UbD Process

Teachers use the “Backward Design” method to align units of study with the standards. This three stage process supports teaching for understanding. Teachers are able to support the needs of all students if they begin with ‘the end in mind’ (see Stage One below). Once teachers have determined the outcome, there are multiple instructional strategies or assessments that could support the learning goal for each unit. A unit could last from 2 days to 3 weeks. Frequent assessment for understanding should take place throughout a unit. Assessment could come in the form of a project, class conversation, quick write, quiz, game, performance, or demonstration.

A key concept in the UbD framework is alignment (i.e., all three stages must clearly align not only to standards, but also to one another). In other words, the Stage 1 content and understanding must be what is assessed in Stage 2 and taught in Stage 3.

The stages of the design process are as follows.

Stage One 

Identify the Desired Results

Key Questions: What should students know, understand, and be able to do? What is the ultimate transfer we seek as a result of this unit? What enduring understandings are desired? 

Stage Two 

Determine Assessment Evidence

Key Questions: How will we know if students have achieved the desired results? What will we accept as evidence of student understanding and their ability to use (transfer) their learning in new situations? How will we evaluate student performance in fair and consistent ways?

Stage Three

Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction

Key Questions: How will we support learners as they come to understand important ideas and processes? How will we prepare them to autonomously transfer their learning? What enabling knowledge and skills will students need to perform effectively and achieve desired results? What activities, sequence, and resources are best suited to accomplish our goals? 

Transfer Goals

An important element of UbD is Transfer Goals. Transfer Goals are a way to think about how students convey skills and knowledge across content areas. These 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.

A Transfer Goal:
  • states the long-term accomplishments that students should be able to do with  knowledge and skill, on their own.
  • frames Standards as long-term performance accomplishments.
  • answers the questions “Why?” and “What can you do with this?” 

Demonstrating Understanding Through Transfer Goals

CHCCS students work on a construction to demonstrate understanding
When a child or adult demonstrates understanding, they are able to transfer their understanding within and across disciplines and for several years. Understanding is different from memorization and recall. There are multiple ways for students to demonstrate understanding. Some of these include:
  • project-based learning
  • assessment
  • performance
  • videography
  • blogging 
  • mentoring a younger student 
  • presenting to an audience

Institute for Learning (IFL)

Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools has partnered with the Institute for Learning (IFL), an outreach of the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center (LRDC) for several years. IFL provides coaching for teachers and administrators. The district also uses curriculum developed by the IFL to support student understanding.

The Institute for Learning (IFL) focuses on what it takes for all students to become effective, enthusiastic, and independent learners, and what it takes for educators at every level to inspire, foster, and sustain high levels of achievement in their students. Teachers have been trained on the Principles of Learning. These theory and research-based statements form the foundation of the IFL's work and are designed to help educators analyze and improve teaching and learning for all students.

Teachers across the school district also emphasize Accountable Talk, another research-based strategy developed by the IFL.

Benefits of Accountable Talk Include:
  • Talk makes thinking visible. 
  • Talk boosts memory. 
  • Talk supports language development.
  • Talk helps students develop their ability to reason well, using evidence. 
  • Academic talk apprentices students to talk in the disciplines.