Attributes of a Standards Based Unit of Study

Published: 10/4/2012 10:04 AM

A unit of study is a cohesive and intentional plan for teaching and learning developed to address content standards in a meaningful way.


​Standards-based units of study are designed to ensure that every student will learn at high levels. Teachers plan these units by identifying the desired results of the unit in terms of student learning, determining the acceptable evidence of learning, and designing purposeful lessons. Effective units of study are developed around a significant "chunk" of content from one or more courses. Any unit, whether discipline-based or inter-disciplinary, whether developed by one teacher or a team of teaches, should have the following important attributes.

The Unit:
  • Contains a manageable number of relevant content standards to be addressed (Learner Goals, Academic Expectations, Program of Studies, Core Content for Assessment, Performance Level Descriptions, local and national standards)
  • Identifies the relevant content standard(s) to be assessed
  • Contains cohesive, sequential connections to previous and current learning and aligns with school curriculum map
  • Provides an organizer around an issue, problem, question, or goal that engages students and connects their learning to prior knowledge, experiences, skills, beliefs, and customs
  • Proposes essential questions that address selected content strands, promote students' thinking, result in active application of learning, and draw attention to the relevance of learning in students' lives
  • Includes opportunities for student inquiry, conferencing, reflection, research-based activities, and problem-based learning
  • Includes equitable instructional practices and multiple cultural perspectives that address the needs of all students
  • Contains authentic assessments that include appropriate writing tasks (i.e., open response, on-demand, and portfolio-appropriate writing tasks) that reflect the identified content and performance standards and essential questions
  • Communicates clearly the focus of instruction and performance expectations to students, parents, and others
  • Communicates clearly behavioral expectations to students, parents, and others
  • Aims for students' real-world understanding and lifelong application of learning including career options


The Student:
  • Participates in learning events/lessons/assessments that align with identified content and performance standards and essential questions
  • Engages in inquiry and problem-based learning activities as a critical and creative thinker, problem-solver/generator, and investigator
  • Makes links within and among disciplines through interdisciplinary connections
  • Learns in an environment that promotes optimal learning and positive behaviors, incorporates research-based activities, and addresses students' needs and learning styles
  • Receives instruction that addresses individual academic/physical/social/emotional needs
  • Uses a variety of appropriate and culturally relevant resources
  • Experiences different cultural perspectives
  • Uses relevant technology
  • Chooses from a variety of assessment options
  • Demonstrates understanding of content, performance, product, and behavior expectations
  • Demonstrates learning through varied assessments, including open response, on-demand, and portfolio-appropriate writing tasks, that address identified content and performance standards and essential questions
  • Demonstrates effective communication skills (e.g., reading, writing, speaking, listening)
  • Receives positive, varied, and continuous feedback on learning progress
  • Engages in conferencing for the purpose of improving academic and behavioral performance
  • Reflects on learning experiences
  • Recognizes and celebrates achievement through a variety of options
  • Engages in planning next steps for learning including connections to career choices


Standards-Based Unit of Studies Attributes
SBUS Attributes.docSBUS Attributes.doc


Karen Kidwell
Office of Next-Generation Learners
Division of Program Standards
500 Mero Street, 18th Floor CPT

Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-2106
Fax (502) 564-9848