Connecting DI, UbD and other acronyms

I was looking forward to the Saturday ASCD session on connecting acronyms because of its powerhouse of presenters: McTighe, Wiggins, Tomlinson and Marzano? (Okay, I didn’t know Marzano), authors of books that have crossed my desk often over the last few years, and important figures in the ASCD world, which seems to be a world of constructing frameworks for better teaching that each have a number of steps or stages, and often catchily titled ones too.

This session was in panel format, where the convenor would throw out a topic or question and get responses from each of the panel. I’ve captured something of their responses below. The whole session, like the rest of the conference, is available to purchase in .mp3 format from iPlayback


Tomlinson: Standards are ingredients to make good curriculum from. Look at the deep intent of the discipline and reconcile the standards with them. Students need ‘teaching up’, to understand the big ideas of the discipline.

Wiggins: Standards and textbooks are confused with curriculum; they’re just not the same. Wiggins also announced a new soon to be released template change for the UbD, which generated some murmurs of excitement in the audience.

Marzano: Wanted 20/30 standards per subject per year level 😐

McTighe: Unpack the standards. Don’t focus on the standards, but the outputs. Think about athletics, that’s the model (keep the game in mind)


Tomlinson: If our curriculum is murky, then assessment becomes thin. Assessment is too often used by teachers to defend the grades they’ve given. It should influence instruction in an immediate way; use assessment as instruction.

Marzan0: Students need to be in the process.

McTighe: It’s our goals that determine what assessment should be. Are we only testing things that are easy to test? Be careful of mistaking the measure for the goals.

Wiggins: Feedback and its use is often more effective than the initial teaching. It’s not about making time; rigid pacing guides are are not useful in developing learning.  Under the present system we keep time fixed and learning varies, what if we reversed that paradigm? He talked up the ‘merit badge’ approach of the Boy Scouts: an authentic accomplishment, not time dependant, feedback given, performance orientated with transparent criteria.


Merzano: Good teaching is flexible. A non-negotiable: students learn in your class.

Wiggins: Meaning making is falling through the cracks. Different types of goals require different strategies.

Tomlinson: The key question that drives all disciplines is ‘What is life? And who am I in it?’ That question lies beyond frameworks.

Wiggins: Teachers are far too quick to blame students for failing to learn.