On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) into law, beginning the era of accountability. This law requires that states, school district, superintendents, schools, principals, and teachers be held accountable for the overall achievement of all students. In the past the academic achievement of minorities, exceptional education, limited-English proficiency, and low socio-economic students was often overlooked. These “overlooked” students were not receiving the proper education they deserve.  In this new era states and school districts are accountable for the achievement of not only these students but of all students with whom they encounter and must track the students progress through the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) formula.

To increase student achievement extensive instructional planning required. “If one fails to plan, then one plans to fail” is the proverb that is resounded throughout the education world. School districts typically instruct teachers to apply the most recent planning model within their classroom without questioning the usefulness of the model in improving student academic achievement. The purpose of this study is to determine whether the Madeline Hunter Decision Making Model or the backwards design approach is more effective in increasing student academic achievement.

The intent of school is not to cover content but to enable students to apply the content in the world beyond the school. Therefore, students must learn for understanding rather than for coverage. Learning for understanding requires the curriculum and instruction address three different but interrelated academic goals: helping students (1) acquire important knowledge and skills (2) make meaning of that content, and (3) effectively transfer their learning to new situations both within school and beyond it (Wiggins & McTighe, 2008).

Currently many schools focus on acquisition at the expense of meaning and transfer. (Wiggins & McTighe, 2008).  Learning skills out of context is one of the greatest weaknesses in the secondary school. By covering chapters in the textbook and teaching skills in isolation rather than in context leads to schools not achieving their purpose.

Over the past 20 years Madeline Hunter has become a household name in curriculum and instruction. Her “principles of instruction” have been adopted by thousands of teachers and hundreds of school district across the land (Goldberg, 1990). The Madeline Hunter Model is a generic lesson plan format that can be used at any grade level and any grade level focuses on the application on research to help teachers make more informed and appropriate decisions in the classroom (Reyes, 1990). It provides teachers with a practical structure for designing schools (Stallings, 2001).

 According to Hunter (1985) (as cited in Ryan, Jackson, & Levension, 1986) the model is designed to promote a positive concept in learners and facilitate the development of a “productive contributing human being. Hunter dubbed her lesson plan model “a teacher decision-making model”. Hunter’s model is based on the premise that the teacher is the primary decision maker (Ryan, 1986). A teacher’s decisions (good or bad) affect the learning outcome that occurs in the classroom (Ryan, 1986). In an interview with Mark Goldberg Madeline Hunter compares teaching to surgery “where you think fast on your feet and do the best you can with the information you have.

You must be skilled, very knowledgeable, and exquisitely well trained, because neither the teacher nor the surgeon can say, ‘Everybody sit still until I figure out what in the heck we’re gonna do next’.”Madeline Hunter  explains that “all the decisions a teacher makes every day fall neatly into three categories: what you’re going to teach, what the students are going to do to  learn it and to let you know they’ve learned it (Goldberg, 1990)

The Madeline Hunter Model is comprised of seven steps: anticipatory set, objectives and purpose, input, modeling, guided practice, checking for understanding and independent practice. For some educators these steps have become synonymous with lesson planning.  As teachers plan and implement their lessons, they may decide to use some of all seven of these teaching steps depending on the appropriateness to a particular learning situation (Stallings, 2001).

The Madeline Hunter Model begins with an anticipatory; Reyes (1990) affirms that the object of this set is to get all students involved in an activity related to the lesson. The next step involves stating the purpose of the lesson and is followed by instruction.  According to Stallings (2001) instruction is delivered in a series of conceptual blocks each followed by nine checks for understanding and guided practice; at the conclusion of the instruction, a final check of all students’ understanding closes the lessons; after students who succeed the final check proceed to independent practice.

These seven steps of the Madeline Hunter Model have acquired a life of their own due to lack of teacher training and/or the combining of steps. In Sardo-Brown (1990) thirty-three teachers who taught in a school district that required the use of the Madeline Hunter Model of planning were surveyed about their instructional planning practices.

The majority of the teachers who participated in the study reported using the planning model in a more flexible manner than prescribed, compared with how they were instructed to use it, adjusting for a wide range of student abilities within the classroom, interruptions in the school schedule and a variety of management concerns. In this study participates also reported having difficulty in integrating cooperative learning and whole language. These teachers also reported dilemmas involving prioritizing content in the mandated curriculum and planning in a flexible manner.

To effectively implement the Hunter model, extensive training is required. Goldberg (1990) expresses that rigor and time are two things required of school districts to take the mode seriously implement it effectively. In addition Goldberg (1990) states the districts must send their staff members to valid workshops time and time again, provide continual support in the home district, and send trainees back for research updates as often as possible (Goldberg, 1990).

Brief training is not enough to successfully implement the Hunter model and this poses a problem in improving student achievement. Trainers and teacher often take a quick crash course to acquire propositional knowledge of the model and are then expected to teach it to others (Madeline Hunter, 1985). Hunter (1985) also asserts that is unfortunate that lack of understanding, misunderstanding, and misapplications have resulted in some rejection and misuse of  this potentially powerful model.

Gibboney (1987) reveals two major deficiencies revealed in the Hunter Model (1). The content of the model is primarily about technique, and the training program uses didactic teaching process that requires mostly fact-recall responses from participates. Both content and training are nonintellectual (2).The model itself is nonintellectual and mechanistic and thus will not improve the quality of education. Gibboney (1987) further revealed that the model does not clearly assert the primary aim of teaching to cultivate thought. The listen-don’t-tell-me-what-I-said quality of Hunter’s learning process is nonintellectual and would register about Level 2 on Bloom’s Richter Scale (Gibboney, 1987). In education today, students are expected to perform at a much higher level.

Loertscher (2006) in his book review of  Understanding by Design, 2nd ed., Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2005 by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe  refers to Understanding by Design (UBD) , which is synonymous with the backwards design approach as an instructional development model that asks teachers to begin with the design of clear statements of what students are to learn (state standards), followed by the design of an assessment (how the teacher will know when the learner has achieved the standard), followed by the design of a learning activity that pushes each student to the height of his or her potential.

The framework outlined in Understanding by Design (UBD) (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998) provides a three-stage backward design approach that centers curriculum and assessments on big ideas, essential questions, and authentic performances. According to Bransford, Brown, & Cocking (1999) (as cited in Wiggins & McTighe, 2008) the backwards design approach engages students in meaningful learning; it provides a way to manage large quantities of content knowledge  and signals students, parents, and faculty that the underlying goal of every school effort is to improve student learning of important content, not just raise test scores.

The backwards design approach to curricular design departs from the common practice of thinking about assessment as something we do at the end, once teaching is completed. ,

The backwards design approach is easily utilized with general education curriculum ( ) and can be implemented in inclusive classrooms with students with disabilities and across content areas and grade levels. When implementing the backward design approach understanding the difference between student knowledge and student understanding is critical (Childre, Sands, & Pope, 2009). Wiggins and McTighe (2006) (as cited in Childre et al., 2009) argues that teachers cannot plan how to teach until determining what you want the students to learn: backwards planning focuses on learning outcomes, and standards and the assessments for accomplishing those standards.

These assessments then guide the development of the learning outcomes; with the learning outcomes clearly articulated as assessments that scaffold understanding towards those outcomes is a more straightforward process (Childre et al., 2009).

After thorough review of the literature no criticisms of the backwards design approach were cited. This maybe because the model has been in existence for less than fifteen years or could it possibly be that this model truly increases student understanding of skills.


1) Stronger Accountability for Results

The federal government has required all public schools to be academically assessed, rated and given report card. Schools which do not meet the standard are required to give supplementary services e.g. after school assistance, taking corrective actions, free tutoring and if the problem persist, the school should change the mode of leaning/teaching.

States have some elasticity as to what subjects are tested and when. Prior to 2005-2006, they must measure proficiency of mathematics and reading or language arts, and do this at least once during grades three through five, six through nine, and 10 through 12. By 2005-2006, states measure student achievement annually against state academic and accomplishment standards in grades three through eight in mathematics and reading or language arts.

Beginning in 2007-2008, states must also include science assessments at least once during each of these three grade spans, by 2007, students will be tested annually from grades 3 to 8 in reading and math, tested twice in the elementary grades in science, and then in reading, math, and science at least once in grades 10-12. The standardized testing has pushed teachers to focus on procedural compliance. The government has tried its level best to control the public schools in term of accountability monitoring.

2) More Freedom for States and Communities

Many public schools have been able to utilize 50 percent of the federal grant funds they get from Educational Technology, Innovative Programs, Drug-Free Schools programs and Improving Teacher Quality State Grants to one of NCLB programs. This shows the government does not restrict the use of funds where NCLB programs are involved.

3) Proven Education Methods

NCBL emphases on education program and practices  which have been scientifically researched, tested, implemented and proven to be effective, an example of a proven method is the reading first program.  These methods renders effective measures when the government test and monitor accountability. By having teachers determine what they would accept as evidence that students have attained the desired understanding and proficiencies before proceeding to plan teaching and learning experiences, enables them to remain focused on the desired results.

4) More Choices for Parents

Parents are entitled to transfer their children if the school they are studying does not meet the minimum standard set by the federal government for at least two consecutive years to a better performing public charter school within the district. School district should provide children with transport to their new schools. Low-income children who do not do well in the school for at least three years should receive supplemental education.


Childre, A., Sands, J., & Pope, S. T. (2009). Backward design. Teaching Exceptional Children ,41 (5), 6-14.

Gibboney, R. (1987). A critique of Madeline Hunter’s teaching model from Dewey’s perspective. Educational Leadership ,44(5),  46-49.

Goldberg, M. F. (1990). Portrait of Madeline Hunter. Educationaal Leadership, 47(5), 41-43.

Hunter, M. (1985). What’s wrong with Madeline Hunter. Educational Leadership , 42,(5) 57-60.

Loertscher, D. (2006). Integrating differentiated instruction and understanding by design: Connecting content and kids, (33)5 46-47

Reyes, D. (1990). Models of instruction. Clearing House , 214.

Ryan, C. W., Jackson, B. L., ; Levinson, E. M. (1986). Human relations skills in training in teacher education: The link to effective practice. Journal of Counseling and Development , 65(2), 114-116.

Sardo-Brown, D. (1990). Experienced teachers’ planning practices: A US survey. Journal of Education for Teaching, 16(1), 57.

Stallings, J. (2001). A study of implementation of Madeline Hunte’s Model and its effects on student. Journal of Educational Research, 78(6),  325-337.

Wiggins, G., ; McTighe, J. (2008). Put understanding first. Educationaal Leadership, 65(8), 36-41.