CFA Magazines Adopt UbD Aproach

MAY 20TH 2011

Starting this coming school year, several magazines published by CFA will feature new Gospel study guides and educational articles that are in line with Understanding by Design (UbD). The “re-invented” magazines include Gospel Now and Gospel “K” (both for high school), and Gospel Komiks (English and Pilipino) for elementary students. Among local faith-related publications, CFA’s magazines will be the first to adopt the UbD approach. Pambata, CFA’s academic magazine for elementary, will also be “UbD-ized.”

UbD was developed in 1998 in the US by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. It makes use of “backward design” where the teacher starts by defining the desired goal he wants his students to achieve. He then programs the instruction and experiences the students need to undergo to reach the goal. Rather than being textbook-dependent where students are made to “cover the curriculum,” UbD advocates engaging them in inquiry and the “uncovering” of ideas to create curriculum. Shortly after its introduction, US schools that adopted UbD reported dramatic gains in student learning.

In the Philippines, Caloocan City public schools were the first to try UbD in 2007. The Philippine Senate took notice and, in 2008, passed Senate Resolution 1295, which supports the implementation of UbD in the Basic Education Curriculum. After pilot testing UbD in 22 schools across the country, the Department of Education formally implemented the UbD method in the 2010 Secondary Curriculum.

Since its magazines are among the supplementary materials used in elementary and high schools, CFA decided to align its publications with the new program. The editors of CFA noted that, with UbD, they can make use of learning materials that are outside of the regular textbooks – thus making available to Gospel students a richer pool of resources for learning and understanding.

In connection with the Sunday Gospel for June 5, for example, the editor of Gospel “K” Magazine opened the discussion by presenting a komiks version of the movie, “The Mission.” (The Gospel is taken from Matthew 28:16-20 – “Go and make disciples of all nations,” otherwise known as the Great Commission.) A movie to study the Gospel? “Kids love movies,” the editor explains. “And ‘The Mission’ has a theme that resonates with the Gospel in question.”

Going by UbD, the study guide for this Gospel starts with a definition of the desired result: “Impress on the student the need to make Gospel-sharing a personal mission.” Working backward, questions are raised, and research work and exercises are proposed that would lead the student to the objective.

According to the UbD pioneers, there are six facets (or manifestations) of understanding. Students can be said to truly understand a subject when they can explain, interpret and apply what they have learned, as well as gain perspective, empathy and self-knowledge about the subject.

The UbD-ized Gospel study guides in CFA’s magazines cover all these facets. To test whether the student can interpret Gospel-sharing correctly, for instance, the study guide asks: “Does Gospel-sharing involve talking only? How does one share the Gospel by actions?

But it’s actions, or applications, that matter most to CFA’s editors – not head knowledge. To help the reader apply what he learns from the Gospel and thus pass the test of understanding, the study guide proposes: “Start regular Bible study sessions among your family, friends, neighbors or fellow workers.”

CFA’s editors have tested their UbD-based materials with focus groups (two in Manila, two in Bulacan) consisting of teachers, students and school officials. The response has been generally very positive – indicating the practicability of UbD in Gospel study.

In a separate but related development, CFA’s Catechetical Resource Center made UbD the theme of their annual Catechetical Congress this year (click here for related story). CRC explored the feasibility of UbD in catechesis.