A Tribute to Grant Wiggins

Grant Wiggins

Today, we honor a man whose influence on education has been felt by many and will be felt by many to come. Grant Wiggins was a long-time Pearson colleague and collaborator who taught the world the power of the Big Question and beginning with the end goal in mind. His Understanding by DesignⓇ (UbD) framework (co-created with Jay McTighe and published by ASCD) is one of the most widely known and implemented educational approaches of the last (nearly) twenty years.

The Man Behind the Work

In order to get a sense of the man behind the work, we asked around the halls of Pearson’s offices in New Jersey about people’s personal experiences with Grant and their sense of him. As expected, the comments we received were consistent. He was a passionate educator. He was a true innovator. He was down to earth, and he was accessible. He loved to engage in robust conversation. He believed in rigor and high standards. He was committed to the success of the students.

Looking back on our long-time collaboration, we see that Grant not only created the framework we and so many educators embraced, he helped us to infuse it into every aspect of our core high school curriculum programs. He partnered with our development teams, no matter where they were in their development process, to seamlessly integrate the philosophy and make the product better. Nearly 12 of our secondary school programs across several disciplines bear his name on the masthead as collaborator along with our subject-matter experts. We looked to Grant for help with iterating and improving on our programs, as he was always able to add new dimensions and thought-provoking inquiry to the work.

Where It All Began

Our collaboration started in the mid-2000s when we invited Grant to our New Jersey office to speak to the staff and train them on UbD. As a result of that first encounter, a strategic vision and partnership developed that helped shaped many of our core programs. Grant took on an author advisory role on all key titles going forward. The development teams found him to be extremely easy to work with and generous with his time, his expertise, and his counsel.

From then on, we started to internalize UbD and make it a key foundation and unifying thread in all our work across disciplines. We started asking our own Big Questions in the course of development, and those inquiry-based habits cascaded through other aspects of our work. He became a member of the Pearson family, and we started to forget there was a time before we knew him, when our pedagogical framework was something else. He became a critical and valued member of our team.

It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

That is one of many reasons why it is so difficult to say goodbye to Grant. He left an indelible imprint on so many of us at Pearson, on so many of the programs we produced together, and on the educators and industry so fortunate to be have been touched by his passion and genius. You’ll be missed, Grant. Rest in peace.