Backward Design

In their book Understanding by Design, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe offer a course design framework called backward design. In contrast to what you could call "forward design", this framework starts by focusing on course goals or objectives, which is what students are expected to have learned by the end of the course. Once the goals are defined, the means of assessing student learning can be identified, and thus learning activities and resources can be selected.

The three stages of backward design include:

  1. Identifying desired results: What should students be able to do, and what skills should they master after completing the course? This is the stage where your course learning outcomes will be defined.
  2. Determining acceptable evidence: How will you know if your students have achieved the desired results? This is the stage where you choose the methods of assessment used to determine if students have achieved the course goals. This includes any and all forms of assessment, such as projects, papers, exams, group activities, case studies, and so on.
  3. Planning learning experiences and instruction: With learning objectives and assessment methods established, you can begin designing your instructional strategies and activities while selecting the appropriate resources.

For additional information on backward design, try the following YouTube videos:

If you are interested in discussing this design approach – or any others – for your own course, get in touch to partner with us in enhancing the Miami experience.