Creating Significant Learning Environments

3 Column Table


BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) – Overarching Course Goal

Learners will … be empowered to use their voices to create change within the school community by researching, developing, and proposing a new dress code on which administration and Learners can agree.


Learning Goals Learning Activities Assessment Activities
Foundational Knowledge:

Learners will know how to engage in effective processes to bring about change.
Learners will successfully use rhetorical strategies.

Learners will review and discuss the current dress code.

Learners will read and discuss relevant articles


Student/team progress tracking


Learners will use rhetorical devices to express a position on the current dress code.

Learners must be able to read, summarize a text in a way that captures authors’ viewpoint without taking a position.

Learners will read to gather information and to conduct research to determine the validity of current dress code. Annotated bibliographyDiscussion
Integration 1

Learners refer to and utilize knowledge gained from previous units on argument and research.
Learners will locate, evaluate and compile web-based resources that support their argument.

Learners collaborate to create a new dress code. Development of “Need to Know” board. Written proposal of new dress code.
Integration 2

Learners will develop a presentation to present to the school board

Learners employ technology skills to build an interactive presentation. Presentation of new dress code.
Human Dimensions

Learners will learn to collaborate effectively with each other, to work as a team, and to see things from someone else’s perspective.

Collaborative teaming Student/team progress tracking
Caring Goals

This process will learn to see where the opposing viewpoint is coming from.

Identify elements of the current dress code where adult opinions on appropriateness affect the student.   Discussion
“Learning-How-To-Learn” Goals

Learners must learn how to be a part of a collaborative team, reading and sharing information.

Learners will learn the difference between general online research and database research.

Collaborative teams progress through the research and development together.
Learners compare research from a variety of sources.
Student/team progress tracking


Learning Environment & Situational Factors to Consider


  1.  Specific Context of the Teaching/Learning Situation

To increase collaborative opportunities, two classes of junior English will be combined for the duration of this unit. The classes will meet for 50 minutes per day, each weekday. Each class is made up of a mixture of on-level students, special education students with learning disabilities, and English language learners. The combined classes will meet in the library flex classroom, which is larger and open to the library to accommodate the combined class, which will be approximately 60 students at a time. With 7 class periods, over 300 students will participate throughout the day. The library flex space is made up of tables and chairs that can be rearranged to meet our needs. Ample computer access and Wi-Fi are also available. While the class is primarily live, technology will be used for sharing of documents and collaboration. Discussion, feedback, and information sharing will happen online.


  1.  General Context of the Learning Situation

The district expects teachers to experiment with learning strategies and is extremely supportive of PBL efforts such as this. The department expects this teacher team to try out new strategies and act as mentors to the other teachers. The teachers have placed additional standards and requirements on the course in addition to the state-mandated TEKS, such as ISTE student standards and College and Career Readiness Standards.

Teachers are required to record 9 daily grades and 3 major grades during the course of a 9-week unit.


  1.  Nature of the Subject

This unit will allow students to use the research skills, argument skills, and analysis skills they learned in the first semester in a practical application. Students have been dissatisfied with the dress code, but do not know how to properly challenge the status quo. The administrators on campus are aware that this will stir up the conversation but are hopeful that the process will give the student the proper avenue for discourse. This project has the blessing of the administration.


  1.  Characteristics of the Learners

As students of a public school, the learners are comprised of a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. The bulk of the learners will fall into a low to mid socio-economic group. Of those who will go on to college, most will begin at the local community college. Very few will enter a four-year university upon graduation.

Learners have very limited knowledge of the process for enacting change.

Most learners are reluctant to take on complex projects but are motivated to fight the dress code.


  1.  Characteristics of the Teacher

The teachers for the combined classes are actively seeking to move beyond the traditional classroom experience. Both teachers agree that being able to intelligently argue for change is an important life skill. Both teachers are experienced with research, argument, and writing proposals. The strengths of this teaching team in their ability to work together efficiently and effectively. The team has not co-taught together, but feel confident that co-teaching together will be successful.


Questions for Formulating Significant Learning Goals


“A year (or more) after this course is over, I want and hope that students will remember how empowered they felt by this process and remember how to engage in authentic research and initiate change.”
My Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for the course is: Learners will … be empowered to use their voices to create change within the school community by researching, developing, and proposing a new dress code on which administration and students can agree.

Foundational Knowledge

What key information (e.g., facts, terms, formulae, concepts, principles, relationships, etc.) is/are important for students to understand and remember in the future?

  • how to engage in effective processes to bring about change.
  • How to use rhetorical strategies 

What key ideas (or perspectives) are important for students to understand in this course?

  • Rhetorical devices, research methods, collaborative communication skills, using their own voice as a tool


TEKS to cover


Application Goals

What kinds of thinking are important for students to learn?

  •      Critical thinking, in which students analyze and evaluate

 Students will think critically when they analyze the current dress code, line by line, and when they read articles and look for evidence to support their claims.

  • Creative thinking, in which students imagine and create

Students will think creatively when they create an interactive presentation

  • Practical thinking, in which students solve problems and make decisions

Students will make decisions about which components of the dress code they wish to challenge and which to keep.  They may make a decision to completely rewrite the dress code.


What important skills do students need to gain?

  • How to conduct research using the online databases
  • How to follow a process for proposing change.
  • Do students need to learn how to manage complex projects? YES. This is the most complex project these students have ever attempted.

Integration Goals

What connections (similarities and interactions) should students recognize and make…:

  • Among ideas within this course? Students are giving real-world application to concepts introduced in the first semester.
  • Among material in this course and the students’ own personal, social, and/or work life? This process will be applicable to students in their own lives.


Human Dimensions Goals

  • What could or should students learn about themselves? They have the power to research information and propose change.
  • What could or should students learn about understanding others and/or interacting with them? They have to listen to their team and learn how to be a partner. They have to learn to see things from another’s perspective.


Caring Goals

  • What changes/values do you hope students will adopt? Long term, students could learn to make a plan and make changes rather than complaining. They become valuable citizens in the community capable of contributing to progress and change. 


“Learning-How-to-Learn” Goals

What would you like for students to learn about:

Students will learn how to manage a complex project by creating plans and communication boards. They will learn how to navigate scholarly databases for research.


Learning environment & Situational factors adopted from: by L. Dee Fink, (2003) Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

One thought on “Creating Significant Learning Environments

  1. Pingback: Understanding by Design | Allie Pruett

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