From Common Core Standards to Curriculum: Five Big Ideas—A Synthesis

McTighe Wiggins (2)

Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins, renowned educational authors and researchers are most notably known for their work on Understanding by Design (UbD). In 2012, they published an article titled From Common Core Standards to Curriculum: Five Big Ideas in order to explore an important question: How does the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) translate into a curriculum? McTighe and Wiggins essentially argue that we would be mistaken to assume that the CCSS simply require minor tweaks from the previous standards and instructional methodologies. The power of the article can be found in the big ideas, which include:

  1. The Common Core Standards have new emphases and require a careful reading: “We advise against zeroing in on the grade-level Standards before a careful examination of the goals and truncation of overall documents.”
  2. Standards are not curriculum: “Standards are outcomes, not claims about how to achieve outcomes (which is a curriculum)”
  3. Standards need to be “unpacked.”: “We recommend…unpacking them [the standards] into four broad categories—1) Long term Transfer Goals, 2) Overarching Understandings, 3) Overarching Essential Questions, and 4) a set of recurring Cornerstone Tasks.”
  4. A coherent curriculum is mapped backwards from desired performances: “We should think of curriculum as the pathway toward a destination.”
  5. The Standards come to life through the assessments: “Think about what we mean when we talk about 'high standards' in athletics, music or business: we refer to the quality of outcomes, not the inputs.”

When in practice, these big ideas have the potential to impact education in powerful ways. To read more visit:

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