SIP 2.14 Backward Design

Thirsty for Strong Instructional Practice?Graphic of an arrow pointing to the left with the word backwards written backwards over the top of the arrow

Backward Design (Wiggins & McTighe) provides a framework for course and lesson design that in which instructors begin by identifying course objectives and then determine acceptable evidence to determine whether students have met those objectives and only then plans instruction that will support students in meeting the desired objectives.

Take a SIP of this: Backward Design

The three steps for planning courses or instruction using Backward Design are as follows:

1. Decide on your instructional objective – Goal

Instructional objectives can be taken from the course goals in the syllabus. A single instructional objective can be for a single class or an entire unit of content.

Content Goals: What knowledge should students have to meet the instructional objective?

Skill Goals: What skills should students have, what processes should they be able to complete to meet the instructional objective?

2. Decide how will you know if students have met the instructional objective – Assessment

Vary the format of assessments to get the best understanding of students’ progress and achievement of the instructional objective. Tests, quizzes, debates, writing assignments, exit slips, demonstrations, creative projects, or presentations could be some possibilities.

3. Decide what content, experiences, and materials will you provide so that students can meet the instructional objective – Instruction

Some ideas (depending on the discipline) include discussions in pairs, small groups, and with the whole class, written materials, videos, podcasts, simulations, field trips, guest speakers, and independent research, among others. Be sure that all materials and resources are accessible to all of your students.

Still thirsty? Take another SIP of Backward Design

This resource from George Mason University elaborates on how to identify instructional goals and objectives.

Vanderbilt University provides a comprehensive process for course planning using some of the principles of Backward Design:

This article from Stanford University expands on the context of course design using Backward Design:

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