Understanding by Design

Last week, I explored backward design by using Fink’s 3-column table and my BHAG. For this assignment, I experimented with Understanding by Design, a similar, but much more detailed model for backward design. I appreciate both methods, as they are focused on outcomes. UbD makes a point to ensure that the curriculum is focused on deeper learning, not just recall of information or pointless (although engaging) activities.ce3fda2eb423055c948175f114415552

After working with both models, I strongly prefer Fink’s 3-column table with my BHAG over UbD. It’s clear, simple, and outcome-focused. It can be used as an overview for an entire course and also for individual class meetings.

That being said, UbD helped me understand how to effectively design a course. These processes can be used not only to design courses, but I imagine I can apply them to my Innovation Plan as well. I can develop learning outcomes for Dental- Medical Collaborative Care and use backward design to incorporate the activities necessary across all dental hygiene courses.

Here is my UbD plan for Dental Radiography:

Stage 1: Identify Desired Results

Established Goals:

  1. Learners will investigate the concepts of electromagnetic radiation and how X-radiation is used in dentistry.
  2. Learners will practice radiography skills and trouble-shoot errors.
  3. Learners will analyze how taking quality radiographs aids in proper diagnosis for their patients.
  4. Learners will analyze the importance of safety for themselves and their patients.
  5. Students will investigate new technology in radiography and how it can improve upon current modalities.


What essential questions will be considered?                  

What understandings are desired?

What is X-radiation and how is it different from other forms of radiation?


How is X-radiation used for medical and dental purposes?


What are the criteria for clinically acceptable dental radiographs?


How can errors be identified and corrected?


How do we ensure safety for ourselves and our patients when working with X-radiation?


What will dental radiography look like in the future?

Students will understand that…


There are different energies associated with different types of electromagnetic radiation.


Natural background radiation exists, comprising about half of human exposure to radiation.


Man-made dental X-rays are short wavelength, high energy forms of ionizing radiation.


Good radiographic technique and skill are vital in order to minimize retakes and produce quality, diagnostic radiographs.


Without the aid of radiographs, many conditions such as periodontal disease, caries, abscesses, cysts, and impacted teeth could remain undetected. Radiographs assist in earlier diagnosis which greatly improves treatment outcomes.


The American Dental Association has guidelines for prescribing radiographs that align with the concept of ALARA (As Low as Reasonable Achievable) that stresses evaluating each individual’s needs for X-rays.




What key knowledge and skills will students acquire as a result of this course?


Students will know…


Key terms: electromagnetic radiation, X-radiation, radiograph, kilovoltage peak (kVp), milliamperage (mA), developer, fixer, safelight, digital sensor, bitewing, periapical, occlusal, panoramic, Cone Beam Computed Tomography, ALARA


What radiation is and how it can produce images on film


Different types of radiographic projections


The differences between analog and digital radiography


How X-radiation affects biological tissues and the importance of safety and precautions


The ADA guidelines for prescribing dental radiographs


Future trends and new technology in radiography


Students will be able to…


Decide which radiographs are appropriate for different situations


Take, develop, and mount diagnostic dental X-rays


Use digital imaging to obtain radiographs


Assess their skills and make corrections in technique as needed


Use proper safety precautions for themselves and their patients


Interpret dental radiographs


Research new technology that will likely be used in dental radiography in the future



Stage 2: Determine Acceptable Evidence


What evidence will show that students understand?

Project and presentation: using the learner’s choice of media, they will address and discuss safety concerns. Examples may include: PPE, dosimeters and lead aprons, calibration of machines/ quality control, radiographs on cancer patients, biological effects of radiation, Osteoradionecrosis, non-medical/dental sources of radiation, minimizing re-takes and unnecessary exposure


Project: based on their research, learners will imagine their ideal radiography operatory for the future. They will include:

The type of technology they want to incorporate and why

What brands they prefer

Projected costs

How it will benefit the patients

How it will benefit the dental practice


What other evidence needs to be collected in light of Stage 1 Desired Results?

Graded sets of radiographs, Chapter minute papers, pre- and post-class Kahoot quizzes, Midterm exam and Final exam



Student Self-Assessment and Reflection:

Learners will assess the radiographs they take in class for acceptability, based on the criteria for diagnostic radiographs


Learners will identify their errors and explain how to correct them


Learners will discuss in class and share their experiences as dental assistants or dental patients, and how they will do things differently after this course



Stage 3: Plan Learning Experiences


1.       Ask the students “Can people become radioactive when they are exposed to X-rays?”H

2.       Learners will read assigned chapters in their textbook, Essentials of Dental Radiography for Dental Assistants and Hygienists for each class meeting. W

3.       Instructor will give a pre-class Kahoot quiz on the reading material (not graded; no point value) E

4.       Instructor will present material at each class meeting, encouraging student discussion, interaction and participation E

5.       Instructor will give the same Kahoot quiz at the end of class to help with retention of the material and to practice questions that will cover the same material on the Midterm and Final E

6.       Lab: hands-on practice with taking X-rays on Dexter: traditional film and digital sensors; all types of projections. T E

7.       Students write a daily journal entry on their successes and how they can improve R E

8.       Practice developing films in the darkroom E

9.       Practice mounting radiographs E R

10.   Practice using Dexis and Dentrix software O E

11.   Discuss case studies: compare poor quality radiographs with good ones, noting what can be diagnosed from each film E R

12.   Discuss personal experiences in dental offices regarding X-ray protocols R W

13.   Review the ADA guidelines for prescribing dental radiographs. Discuss why some offices allow insurance to dictate how many and what type of X-rays are taken on patients. Discuss the ethics of this practice and ALARA R E

14.   Research current technology for dental offices and possibilities for future technology E R



Learning Activities Key:

What learning experiences and instruction will enable students to achieve the desired results? How will the design

W = Help the students know Where the unit is going and What is expected? Help the teacher know Where the students are coming from (prior knowledge, interests)?

H = Hook all students and Hold their interest?

E = Equip students, help them Experience the key ideas and Explore the issues?

R = Provide opportunities to Rethink and Revise their understandings and work?

E = Allow students to Evaluate their work and its implications?

T = Be Tailored (personalized) to the different needs, interests, and abilities of learners?

O = Be Organized to maximize initial and sustained engagement as well as effective learning?



Wiggins, Grant; McTighe, Jay. Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition (Page 22). Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development. Kindle Edition.

Author: CruzN

I'm a Curriculum Specialist, Dental Hygienist, and Goldendoodle breeder. I want to share my passions with others so we can collaborate. I have an A.S. and a B.S. in Dental Hygiene, and a Master's in Education with a focus on Digital Learning. I have a passion for Goldendoodles, and have taken courses in breeding and genetics through AKC. I'm also a member of GANA. I have an amazing husband and three kids: Matt, Chloe, and Silas. I also have 3 dogs and a cat. Definitely a full house! When I'm not editing curriculum or fighting plaque and gingivitis, I like to hang out with friends and family (a little BBQ here and there), garden, play with the kiddos and my dogs, travel, and remodel our house (a never-ending project!). Most of all, I love to learn and share ideas. Thanks for stopping by!

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