Developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, Backward Design is a framework for designing courses and content units focused on student learning and understanding. As opposed to the traditional “forward approach” in course building that starts with the learning material, the Backward Design process begins with defining and articulating learning objectives; then, it proposes designing the assessment schema that will provide evidence that the goals have been met; finally, the framework suggests integrating learning materials as the third step.

Identify Desired Results by Writing Course Objectives

What do you hope to achieve in the course?

At this stage, the instructor identifies and prioritizes educational goals, defines curriculum expectations, and examines content standards established by the department, institution, or state/nation.

Determine Acceptable Evidence Through Assessment

How do you know that your students achieved the learning objectives?

Evidence in the context of Backward Design refers to student work collected through assessment that proves that students achieved learning goals. Creating a set of formal and informal assessments that provides proof of student understanding of the material should follow the learning goals stage.

Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction

What do your students need to know in order to achieve the course objectives?

After identifying the goals and designing the assessment schema, the instructor can embark on selecting learning materials and appropriate instructional activities.

Backward Design Stages

Backward Design Stages. Wiggins, Grant and Jay McTighe. Understanding by Design. Assn. for Supervision & Curriculum Development, 2005. Google Books.

Key Takeaways

  • Student-centered
  • Result-oriented
  • Takes into consideration national, state, district, and institutional standards
  • Great for developing curriculum and individual learning units

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