Role Playing and Understanding by Design (UBD)

I was staring through a sample UBD unit plan that was around 8 pages.

“Man, this is hard work, ” I told myself.

Teachers, you have probably heard the word UBD already. Or perhaps, you’re already using it. We’re in the same boat! *high five*

UBD stands for Understanding by Design. Filipino Teachers and UBD are soon to be synonyms as this trend is gaining momentum.

I had a brief affair with it during the summer of last year then forgot about it.  This year it resurfaced big time as the school decided to implement it in the Grade School.

There was this particular day where all the teachers had to present their unit plans under the close scrutiny of the faculty and directress. We spent a day and half listening to different subjects applying the UBD. It felt like torture but at the end of the session, I got to know UBD better and to see it in various contexts like Math, Science and even HELE.

I discovered we played 5 roles when we undergo the UBD process.

Our 5 roles:

1) We are Designers.

UBD will test our designing skills. Teaching is no longer just teaching content. It’s about designing a program of study for our students that will help them know why they are learning particular things and to learn those things in a fun and innovative manner.

I believe that the designer in me will unfold as I do more unit plans. Practice makes perfect. For this year, I estimate creating 36 unit plans. How about you?

How creative are you?


2)  We are Judges

Now, stage 2 of the UBD process requires us teachers to create performance tasks that will check for understanding. This stage is quite interesting because it’s a combination of being a designer and a judge.  We are designers because we have to be creative when we come up with a performance product or performance because this is not a pen and paper exercise.

Now, the judge in us will then have to come up with criteria to assess these performance tasks. Personally, this part is quite challenging because you have to come up with rubrics that will objectively assess the performance task. So more thinking here actually. Eat plenty of nuts to boost brainpower in this stage.

Are you objective?

3) We are Philosophers.

Philosophers think and question. In UBD, we dig deeper as to why we teach something. We go beyond curriculum. We look deep into ourselves as to why what we teach matters. Why should our students care about what we teach when we don’t care much about it?

Hence, with UBD, we care about our topics. We think of essential questions that drive the understandings that we want our students to learn. The really cool thing with the understandings is that they are not mere facts. They are more like words of wisdom that are timeless and that transcends subject matter. It is about life itself.

How deep will you go?


4) We are Managers.

What we manage in the UBD process is the learning time devoted for our classes. It is up to us to plan out how we will spend the time given for our subjects. We have a lot of things under our management: learning time, materials, equipment and other resources.

The UBD is a tool for us Filipino teachers to help us maximize the resources we have to reach our objectives. Managers first and foremost create objectives or goals. Similarly in UBD, we create transfer goals for our students which are guided by the DepEd curriculum.

Can you master time?


5) We are Students.

While I was undergoing the UBD, it was a great experience for me to delve deeper into my course material. I was beginning to appreciate better what I will be teaching in the new school year. This is probably the best role we have in the UBD process because when we find meaning in what we teach, the students find meaning in what they learn.


Will you keep on learning?


Teachers, please share your experiences and insights about the UBD on the comments below 🙂

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Argee Abadines
Argee Abadines is the founder and chief content engineer of this website. He is a brain based educator and his educational interests are pedagogy, higher order thinking, creativity, and educational technology. He is also the founder of Bruner Learning Hub. He currently teaches high school business studies and economics. Previously, he taught English to primary students. He reads up regularly about trends in education and online media. You can visit his personal blog at


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