transfer goals understanding by design

05 Oct Making Meaning of Standards with Transfer Goals That Stick

Curriculum is full of catch phrases. Sometimes we get so hung up on those catch phrases that we lose sight of developing or implementing a curriculum that is catchy in itself.  “UbD” and “Transfer Goal” are just two of those catch phrases. UbD is far from new. If you are not following UbD as a framework to unit planning, you will have at least heard of it at some point:

  • What do we want our students to learn?
  • How will we know they have learned it?
  • What will we do to help them learn it?

Making Meaning of Curriculum for Students

While the first step of UbD starts with the standards, those standards need to be read, re-read, broken down, and “translated” into something user friendly: transfer goal, enduring understandings, essential questions, content & skills. These are what motivate both the teacher and the students. They can drive exciting thoughtful dialogue among students or provide the overarching connection from one lesson to the next and beyond.

Transfer goals are a clear, concise way of communicating the what, when, and how students will apply their learning independently outside of school. They provide an opportunity to not only chunk your standards into meaningful units of study but more importantly, to connect to the students and increase their interest in what they are learning. This is the moment to pre-empt that question all students ask: “Why do we have to learn this?”

Educators understand this value of bridging classroom learning to students’ lives but planning this learning is not always as easy as some expect. So how does one get from “what we want our students to know, do and understand” to “this is what it means to you in your real life”?

Use Transfer Goals in Curriculum

When I first started working with transfer goals it seemed easier to avoid reinventing the wheel and use ones already published in curriculum documents and the plethora of UbD articles. While useful for my own planning and especially in ensuring a logical scope and sequence, they fell short in engaging the students. Of course, students learn math so they can solve real world problems on their own! I began questioning how I could reword this so it would reflect more accurately what and why the students were learning.

Take a look at some very good transfer goal examples from Jay McTighe:

  • “Carefully draft, write, edit, and polish one’s own writing to make it publishable.”
  • “Make economically sound and ethical financial decisions.”
  • “Apply the lessons of history when considering contemporary issues.”
  • “Evaluate scientific claims and analyze current issues involving science.”

Consider these examples.

They are great for your unit plan.

Now, reflect on them using your students’ perspective.

Transfer Goals in Action

When crafted and presented appropriately, the transfer goal can be more than just a part of your unit plan. It can become more than the guiding statement or objective on the board. With reflection and a bit of tailoring, the transfer goal could be used to get your students excited. In order to do this, one needs to get to know the standards and students really well. I needed to get to know my standards better. I sought a deeper understanding of my students’ interests and aspirations. I researched careers to appreciate what is and what isn’t often applied once students enter this “real-world”. It took time but it was worth it.

Let’s revisit those 4 good examples from your students’ perspective:

  • What might your students want to publish? A letter to the editor? A blog? Why? Could you rewrite this transfer goal to reflect that?
  • Why should your students care about financial decisions now?
  • Yes, history repeats itself. How can this goal be changed slightly to emphasize students’ roles in current issues?
  • And maybe this last one would spark enough discussion on its own already if students follow politics on Twitter…

For more PD opportunities, check out our upcoming webinars here!

Jennifer Parker has worked in international education for over 17 years in a variety of teaching and leadership roles including high school mathematics and sciences educator, upper elementary teacher, and Curriculum Coordinator.  Her educational passions lie in place-based education, project-based learning, and her current action research in student-designed assessments. In the past, she has had the pleasure of presenting at conferences such as ECIS, ELMLE, and the International Symposium for Scientists and Science Teachers. “Home” is a state of mind for Jennifer but one could say she is a Canadian with honorary rights to being Spanish yet loves living in the desert by the sea.

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