The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

Educational Administration and Leadership, K-12: Ed.D.


Educational Administration and Higher Education


School of Education

First Advisor

James Johnson

Second Advisor

John Eller

Third Advisor

Frances Kayona

Fourth Advisor

Amy Christensen

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

Backward design, Understanding by Design, Curriculum development



An effective educational process demands a strong curriculum framework, quality instruction and appropriate assessment for successful teaching and learning and holistic development of students (Tomlinson et al., 2003). A quality curriculum is designed around the core concepts of a subject focusing on in-depth understanding of the key concepts and providing students abundant opportunities to transfer their understanding in various contexts (National Research Council, 2002). Understanding by Design (UbD) is a backward design curriculum framework that supports teachers and curriculum leaders in designing curriculum, instruction, and assessment with the aim of enhancing students’ understanding and performance (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). The general process in planning a curriculum backward using the UbD framework involves three stages that are interrelated and aligned with the state and district standards (McTighe & Wiggins, 2012a). Although UbD assists teachers in unpacking and transforming content standards into meaningful elements and creating a powerful curriculum that ensures academic success of learners, limited information is available whether teachers have been effectively implementing the UbD framework for designing curriculum, assessment, and instruction.

The study aimed to examine teachers’ planning of curriculum, instruction, and assessment using the essential elements and the three stages of Understanding by Design in the select school districts in central Minnesota. The study also intended to investigate to what extent the key principles and the essential elements of UbD were practiced for enduring understanding among elementary students in K-12 public school districts in central Minnesota. A quantitative study was carried out to examine teachers’ practices in the process of curriculum designing and planning and their understanding and expertise to exercise all the principles set by Understanding by Design. The data was evaluated using Wiggins and McTighe’s (2005) the Understanding by Design framework for designing curriculum backward. The curriculum directors from the ten school districts in central Minnesota were the participants for this study.

The findings provided evidence that almost all the curriculum directors’ school districts had employed the UbD curriculum framework in planning curriculum, assessment, and instruction. However, only a few core elements of UbD had been implemented while the literature suggests that all the elements are fundamental in designing a quality curriculum and should be focused and applied equally. The findings of the study indicated that the components and the three stages of Understanding by Design curriculum framework were unevenly executed and there was inconsistency in its implementation in the select central Minnesota school districts.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.