Overview of the Understanding Ideal


The Understanding module helps students delve into the complexities involved in directing one's own learning for understanding. Specifically, the Understanding module aims to:

  • Increase students' appreciation for what is involved in developing understanding – as opposed to merely working to remember knowledge and skills.
  • Develop students' awareness of occasions when it is important to invest time and energy in working to understand something.
  • Provide students with strategies that they can use to develop their own understanding.
  • Engage students in reflection and communication that fosters the thinking skills involved in developing understanding.


As in all the modules, the Understanding Module makes extensive use of learning routines that are thinking rich. These routines are simple structures—for example, a set of questions or a short sequence of steps—that can be used across various grade levels and content. The routines become the ways in which students go about the process of learning. Routines are always used for a purpose and not merely to practice the routine. Routines for any one module are not exclusive to that particular module. For example, there are perspective-taking routines in both the Understanding and the Fairness modules,. In addition, some routines work well across all modules. Think-Pair-Share and What makes you say that? are good examples of such routines. The seven routines for this module are:

  • What makes you say that? A routine for looking closely, interpreting what is observed, and reasoning with evidence
  • Think, Puzzle, Explore. A routine for eliciting prior knowledge and developing curiosity about a topic.
  • Think, Pair, Share. A routine for promoting communication and active engagement of all students
  • Headlines. A routine for summarizing and consolidating ideas, events, and experiences.
  • Question Starts. A routine for activating curiosity and generating questions for exploration.
  • The Explanation Game. A routine for building explanations about parts or features of something.
  • Connect, Extend, Challenge. A routine for processing and making sense of new information.

Each of these routines is explained in the Understanding Routines section.

Other Activities

Because the Understanding module is an inquiry into students' thinking as much as it is an instructional program, the module includes several activities for probing students' thinking. These are often done at the beginning of the module as a way of Introducing the Ideal. Other activities involve students in reflecting on their learning and can be found in the Working with the Ideal section. Finally, wrap up and post-measures of students' thinking are included in the Looking at Students' Conceptual Development section.