Math/science teacher reflects on using Understanding by Design
At Christian Academy in Japan, we’re excited about using the Understanding by Design framework to foster student understanding of God’s world and Word. David Marshall, high school math/science teacher, reflects on using Understanding by Design:
I am a more enthusiastic teacher than I used to be. Mathematics and science are courses traditionally loaded with content and light on connection to anything. I have been increasingly dissatisfied with this. Understanding by Design has given me the tools I need to turn this situation around.
The six facets of understanding have helped me to see what I really want my mathematics and science students to "get" by the time they leave my class. I especially like the facet that looks for how the students gauge the relevance of what they are learning to the world in which they live.
Focusing on enduring understandings has helped to weed out some content that has been there just because it is in the textbook. I now deal with what is really important and do not get tripped by extraneous detail. For example, our geometry course has often dealt with some obscure properties of quadrilaterals. They are interesting to mathematicians, but not necessary in a 9th grade course. Once we understood that measurements with quadrilaterals were more important, we only did that material. This left us time to deal with proportions and trigonometry in more depth, something we knew was important but had consistently not managed to reach in one year.
Mathematics and science do not have great track records with Biblical connection either. Adding an enduring understanding about, for example, how the extreme order of the periodic table supports the existence of a Creator and Designer of the universe, makes me address this and similar issues. The students then have a real connection to what they learn in Bible.
The whole Understanding by Design process has also helped my partner teacher and me plan effectively together. We have common goals, we have common assessments, and we have 47 students who are much more engaged in science classes than I have seen for a long time! We are hopeful that some of them will take their interest in science, combine it with a solid Christian worldview and impact the world of science for Jesus.