Connecting Integration and UBD
There are a number of strong similarities between the ideas of Wiggins & McTighe (1998) and the guiding principles of curriculum integration.
Authentic Learning Experiences
Both backwards design and curriculum integration suggest that the student should not be a passive recipient of information. Both approaches advocate that students should construct, not receive meaning from learning experiences.
Both approaches call for a dramatic rethinking of student assessment. Rather than the traditional regimen of quizzes, tests, and paper assignments students should be presented with the opportunity to solve real problems and apply their knowledge in an authentic matter. In essence, both Wiggins & McTighe (1998) and Beane (1990,1993, 1997, 2005) ask that students be provided with opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge in genuine contexts. For example, students who are learning about proper nutrition develop a three-day menu of meals and snacks for an outdoor education field trip (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998).
Uncoverage, not Uncoverage
Both approaches advocate an approach that requires students to think and rethink what they have learned. The emphasis is on solving major, meaningful problems. These problems are not easily solved or understood. They require students to think deeply and uncover layers of meaning rather than "cover" all of the content.
Big Ideas and Student Interests
Consider the following quotes:
"By having students encounter big ideas in ways that provoke and connect to students' interests (as questions, issues or problems), we increase the likelihood of student engagement and sustained inquiry" (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998, p.11).
"A challenge we face as designers is to know the design users well enough - the students - to know what will need uncoverage from their point of view, not ours" (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998, p. 21).
"With its emphasis on real-life themes, contextual application of knowledge, and constructivist learning, the curriculum integration approach is particularly well suited to help students integrate learning experiences into their developing schemes of meaning" (Beane, 2005)
Both backward design and curriculum integration propose that students will be more deeply engaged when they are pursuing ideas that hold personal relevance to the student. Moreover, both approaches suggest that students should be engaged in thoughtful, in-depth examination of major themes and questions. Wiggins & McTighe (1998) call the questions that get to the heart of the matter "essential questions". These questions recur naturally throughout one's learning and in the history of a field. Moreover, essential questions raise other important issues.