Backward Design is a framework for course design and planning that begins with the end in mind.
SummaryBackward Design reverses the conventional process of starting with what to teach and how to teach it, and instead begins with the end in mind, to first define the student learning goals and outcomes, then identify assessments that evaluate those outcomes, and finally develop activities and instructional materials to scaffold student learning to reach those outcomes.
Stages of Backward Design
1. Identify desired resultsWhat should students know, understand, and do? What is most important?2. Determine acceptable evidenceHow will students demonstrate that they have achieved the desired results?3. Plan learning experiences and instructionWhat activities, materials, teaching methods, and tools will provide students with the necessary knowledge and skills to reach their goals?Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Backward Design is beneficial because it provides:
• Clear, transparent vision and structure for the course• Intentionality of content; everything has a purpose• Alignment of learning goals, assessments, and instruction
When we design a course, we can use a Course Design Map, a template that integrates the Backward Design framework into the course design process. Learn more about the EPD Course Design Map at EPD - Build a course design map
In the following video: "Educational Innovation at UW-Madison: The Backward Design Framework", Professor Erica Halverson explains Backward Design.
- Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005) Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Chapter One provides an overview, entitled “What Is Backward Design?”
- What is Backward Design? (MSU, Fata-Hartley)
- Understanding by Design Guide to Creating High-Quality Units (Youtube, McTighe)
- Understanding by Design Part 1 of 2 (YouTube, Wiggins)
- Understanding by Design Part 2 of 2 (YouTube, Wiggins)