Lee Academy has adopted the Common Core curriculum standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, which has been adopted by 43 other states in America. The Common Core was created by professional educators around the country along with curriculum experts in the fields of curriculum and assessment. Lee has also adopted the Next Generation of Science Standards that teachers and professionals in the field of science education and industry endorse. Both groups of researchers believe these standards are what students should know and be able to do to function in the 21st century.
In addition, through a comprehensive study of how curriculum should be taught and assessed, Lee Academy has adopted the instructional philosophy of “Understanding by Design” as its way of creating an atmosphere of a relevant and rich curriculum for our students. Our research tells us that UBD is the most effective way for students to become intrinsically motivated to learn, because how they learn will engage them based on the relevance it has in their everyday life and because of how that learning can be transferred to new, spontaneous situations that were not previously taught or encountered before. Our goal is to create independent and critical thinkers who can problem-solve on their own long after they have graduated from Lee Academy.
Understanding by Design has often been referred to as “backwards design”. The first step is to establish a goal that students can clearly see and understand. Once the goal has been established, usually in the form of national or state standards, the standards will be assessed in an authentic performance-based fashion, which effectively creates a “constructivist” learning environment for our students. This is the second stage in the UBD development process. Through guidance and support from our teachers, students take control of their own learning by displaying in multiple ways (of their own choosing) their understanding of the goal or goals of the unit.
Students are also able to have their work reviewed by teachers and then given an opportunity to rethink, revise and refine their work based on descriptive feedback from faculty. Another important aspect of this new instructional pedagogy is that students will be given the opportunity to assess their own work. These formative means of looking at their own work gives students a chance to improve upon what they are asked to know and be able to do, and make corrections based on self-reflection and descriptive feedback from teachers. This is the final stage of unit development using the Understanding by Design philosophy.
By adopting the Common Core and Next Generation of Science Standards and implementing them using Understanding by Design, Lee Academy is on the cutting edge of educational research and best practice of the most effective way for students to learn, understand, and transfer their knowledge to their everyday lives.