Book Reviews

Schooling by Design: Mission, Action, and Achievement

by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, Va., 2007, 287 pp. with index, $30.95 softcover

Backward design describes a process based on the premise of beginning with the end in mind. Applying backward design theory at the building level, in conjunction with guiding principles determined by individual schools, is the primary theme of Schooling by Design: Mission, Action, and Achievement by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.

Initially, the authors detail the specifics of this approach as applied to school curricula. Since today’s principal must be a true instructional leader, these insights are helpful in developing techniques for understanding effective curriculum design and delivery.

Readers are shown the importance of posing key questions called essential questions, which help stimulate student acquisition, understanding and transfer of knowledge. This process leads to successful instruction, what Wiggins and McTighe call enduring understanding. Their goal is long-term comprehension of skills and concepts.

The remainder of the text contains discussion and examples within the context of the principalship. Most helpful to administrators are the figures found in the last three chapters containing guides and templates pertaining to school reform, observation, assessment and data analysis. The Ideas for Action at the end of each chapter contain excellent starting points for the application of ideas.

This book may be most beneficial to those serving in school districts that have redesigned their curriculum in alignment with the conceptual framework of the authors’ previous book Understanding by Design, and are committed to that teaching and learning process.

Reviewed by Ronald A. Styron Jr., interim associate dean, College of Education and Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Miss.