Friday, July 12, 2013

Collaborative Unit Design: Process

If you want to build community and collaborate with strength, then plan to revise or design a student learning unit with students, educators, and/or community members.

Working together to design with a common purpose demands the best of us, and brings us forward with collective skill, creativity, and learning.

Yet, often when a group gets together to plan, they don't have a research-based, efficient road map to follow.

Hence, I offer you the unit design template below.  This template is based on my learning design research over the past few years and the expectations of the new Massachusetts Educator Evaluation Rubric.

You are welcome to use this template to guide your independent or collaborative unit design processes.  If you have ideas for enrichment or revision please let me know.  Also please contact me with any questions you may have.

Interdisciplinary Unit Planning Template
Use this step-by-step planning template when planning a unit of study collaboratively or on your own to effectively teach children and to also meet the MA Evaluation Standards. You can skip around as you create, it's not necessary to complete the chart step by step.  

You can easily make a copy of this document on a Google doc and share the document with all collaborators so all can add/revise information as identified and developed. Decide on a collaborative process for revision so that individual’s work is protected. Note that it is easy to add or delete table rows if needed.

1. Determine Unit Rationale, Standards, and Title:
Pose the title as a question:

2. Keep a list of materials and resources that will be added to the unit website after the initial planning stage.
Teacher Resources
Books, Links, Workshops. . .

Student Resources:
Books, Websites, links, games. . .

(including technology)

Resource Sites: Museums, Nature Preserves, Zoos. . .


3. Use common core, state, and local documents to Identify the standards that you want to embed in the unit design:



Social Studies



4. Discuss and chart how this unit will appeal to students’ interests, passions, and developmental level.

5. Learning today points to a need for skills thought of as 21st century skills or life long learning skills. These skills prepare students well for the world they will be live in.  Discuss ways that the unit will develop these skills in student learners.
Ways this skill will be incorporated into the unit.



Critical Thinking Skills

Also include Citizenship and Character in the C's Chart.

6. Students respond to learning that is meaningful and relevant, learning that they can connect and develop with engagement. Also, substantial learning exists when students synthesize and apply their learning as well as teach others. Discuss ways that this unit will have meaning, relevance, engagement, enrichment, connectivity, synthesis, application, and opportunities to present to, teach, and coach others.

Unit Attribute
Ways that the attribute is exemplified in this unit.







Presentation, Teaching and

7. What skills, concept, and knowledge do you hope students will learn as they engage in this unit.  Define the “success criteria” related to this unit. Since most units are presented to a diverse group of learners, educators may want to design the success criteria that responds to three levels including review (meets standards prior to grade level and lays a foundation for grade-level learning), grade-level, and enrichment.

Success Criteria



8.  How will you know what students know before starting this unit study? How will you incorporate this information into the unit design and execution.  
Unit Pre-Assessment Design, Analysis, and Use.

9.  Design the overall roll-out of the unit in general with a step-by-step unit map.
(Leave space in the unit design for student choice and voice whenever possible)
Unit Step Description
(listed in order)
Approximate Dates

10. Create a Unit Website that includes the following:
I like to use Google Sites, but there are multiple website tools available.  Here’s an example of a unit website.
  • Unit Title
  • Unit Rationale: (research, student interest/passion, developmental appropriateness)
  • Unit Standards
  • Success Criteria
  • Plan (the schedule of learning experiences and expectations)
  • Resources
  • Enrichment (Extras)

11. Design unit specifically using this lesson design template for each lesson or group of lessons, activities, and events. Add specific lesson information to website as desired.  

12. Review unit design, website, lesson plans.
13. Collect necessary materials and adapt room design to meet unit requirements.
14. Share the unit plans and website with the learning community: students, families, educators, leaders.
15. Execute unit roll out.
16. Analyze summative assessment and unit roll-out.  Make decisions about unit revision and growth.