L. Dee Fink’s 3 Column Table vs. Understanding by Design (UbD)

December 12, 2017

As a teacher, I am told what information I am required to teach and it is up to me to develop a plan for the best way to teach the information to my students.  In a course that I am taking, EDLD 5313: Creating a Significant Learning Environment, we have been looking at a broader view of student learning instead of focusing on what information the students are learning.  In this course, I have been introduced to different types of plans to develop a unit or lesson which implement the big picture of the lesson instead of focusing on the activities that go with the lesson.  I took two of the ideas from the course, Fink’s 3- Column Table and Wiggins and McTighe’s (2005) UbD 1-Page Design Template and designed plans for the next unit I am teaching, Plate Tectonics.

Click here to view my Learning Outcomes 3- Column Table

When working through some worksheets developed by Fink to complete my 3- column table; I looked at several different situational factors that might affects my students’  learning and worked through to develop activities that would meet the goals I had for my students.  The worksheets helped me to determine what pieces I needed to put into my worksheet to develop activities and assessments based on the outcome of the course.

After reading Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design (UbD) (2005) I felt like I had a better idea of how to pull the entire lesson together than I got from Fink’s 3-column table.  UbD provides an educators approach to taking all of the pieces of a lesson and putting them together to develop a lesson that meets a certain goal.

When comparing UbD and the 3- Column Table, both begin with the goal of the course in mind.  The 3 column table has you work backwards from the goal while UbD pulls together several aspects of learning to obtain the goal.  I preferred UbD because I found that UbD provided more detailed instruction on creating my lesson for this unit.  I am eager to come back from the holiday break to begin implementing my lesson which I planned using the UbD one page model.


Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (expanded second ed.). Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.