42: Coverage vs Uncoverage





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  • coverage of surface details with little depth
  • treats all facts as discrete parts of equal value
  • teaching by mentioning
  • tends to cover up big ideas
  • Pitfalls to avoid:
    • taking textbook information at face value
    • using textbook as a syllabus
    • going through textbook in page order without regard for learning goals
    • assessing things as discrete pieces of information
  • Learn ideas by testing them in various scenarios
  • Learn ideas by using them to organize other ideas, experiences, and data
  • Helpful practices: 
    • use textbook as a tool for finding information related to essential questions and enabling skills
    • read sections of textbook in a sequence that supports learning goals
    • supplement textbook with primary sources
    • let students conduct inquiry based work that culminates in a performance assessment
    • make abstract ideas real by using them to make sense of data and/or experiences
    • use dense statements in text as basis for essential questions
Planning is not the same thing as harvesting. We promote student misunderstandings when we present knowledge as something to be apprehended as opposed to comprehended.


Teaching on its own can not produce understanding.  The learner must make active attempts to understand to develop understanding.  Only experts and highly gifted students can hear knowledge and immediately understand its meanings, applications, and implications on their own.  Teachers need to create risk-friendly environments and need to teach students to take risks while learning in order for students to conduct the tests and inquiries that build understanding.


Preparation Steps
  • Early in the year and sprinkled throughout, conduct activities that promote and improve a safe positive risk-friendly learning environment
  • Analyze ideas and skills embedded in standards.  Analyze NOUNS and VERBS in standards.
  • Brainstorm and research scenarios that students can use to test their knowledge and skills
  • Select which of the 6 facets of understanding can get students to apply knowledge and skills at another level that facilitates deeper understanding
  • Decide on a logical sequence for scaffolding and assessing learning goals
  • Find textbook excepts and primary sources that support learning goals
Early Implementation Steps
  • Teach students how to read academic texts
  • Facilitate inquiry-based activities that provide opportunities to interpret or evaluate their knowledge and skills using experiences and/or data
  • Ask students to reflect on how abstract ideas relate to their research and experiences
  • Ask students to describe how they are connecting different concepts and skills to make sense of phenomena and to solve problems
  • Give students lots of formative feedback that inform them as to whether or not their uncoverage attempts are leading to accurate understandings
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Develop criteria for coverage and uncoverage and ask students to evaluate learning activities using that criteria
  • Provide opportunities for students to use uncoverage criteria to design learning tasks they can use to explore material

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