Teaching Competencies by Design

When it comes to implementing the new curriculum in classrooms, the question that I am asked most often is not why are we doing this, but HOW do we do it?

How do we teach thinking? How do we teach students the “competencies” (both core and curricular)?

Then, come the questions about assessment.

How do we assess thinking? How do strategies fit in?

These are valid questions and they deserve in depth processing and discussion. It is my belief that students will not magically learn to think and process information in a strategic fashion unless they are taught HOW. Conceptually, we learn through a process that follows this model below:


  1. Image – We need to take the information and be able to image/imagine, and create the picture/movie in our mind.
  2. Infer – Once we have an image, we can then begin to make inferences (guesses) about what the important pieces are.
  3. Interpret – Finally, once we start making more complex inferences (that we can justify with evidence) we can interpret the information and make assertions and hypothesis’.

We call this process the I3 Model*. This model needs to be attended to when designing learning experiences for students.

When designing learning experiences, we need to teach students in a fashion where by design we teach thinking strategies. Ideally, we repeat teaching through this framework over and over again. Teaching using a framework that supports a metacognitive approach is not a new concept, but I believe that it is not as mainstream as it should be in our system. Whether it is a:

 A thoughtful design will lead to improved student strategic acquisition.

A lesson designed in this fashion teaches students to think. In the “Before” portion of the lesson, students are asked to make connections, make predictions, and access any prior knowledge in regards to the lesson. “During” the lesson, students learn strategies to help them process the information/ideas in a learning sequence connected to the goal of the lesson (an authentic task). The scaffolding, chunking, and explicit teaching during this portion prepares students and gives them the skills and background to be successful in their demonstration of learning (call it authentic task, assessment of learning, etc). It is during this processing portion of the lesson where inclusion of the I3 Model concepts are most important.

Finally, the “After” portion of the lesson focuses on reflection, metacognition strategies and new thinking. Starter questions could include:

Lesson design can assist in the teaching of core/curricular competencies. (Screenshot credit BC Ministry of Ed.)


Did you achieve your goal?

What did you learn?

What was easy/hard?

What strategies helped you?

What would you do differently next time?

BC’s new curriculum calls for the teaching of Core Competencies (Thinking, Communication, and Personal/Social Responsibility). In addition, there is a new content area to complement traditional subjects like Math & Language Arts called ADST (Applied Design, Skills and Technology). This curriculum supports Design Thinking – which very much follows a Before, During, After lesson design process. It is all connected.

A more in depth discussion connecting ADST, Design Thinking, and lesson design will be the focus of a future blog post.

*From P.L.A.N. for Better Learning




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