What is Backward Design?

What is Backward Design? is a method to create lessons using a backward approach by

  1. Thinking about the end goal first.
  2. Determine the assessments to use.
  3. Create the learning activities to develop the knowledge and skills.

The article brought to my attention the importance of assessment, which I have often overlooked due to the context of my lessons.  I’ve used informal assessment as a way to organize and personalize the lesson activities, but have yet to do formal assessments with specific measuring tools in place to put on record. Part of this has been the result of not being formally trained in how to create assessments.  The authors Wiggins and McTighe stated that the primary function of an assessment is to show the evidence that students have learned the stated objectives. They stated that in addition to using tests, several other methods are available to demonstrate that students have achieved understanding.  These include observations, discussions, academic prompts, and performance.  The time to create an assessment is after establishing the end goal and while developing the knowledge and skills to reach the objective.  If I were to apply this to reading comprehension, one of the primary objective would be vocabulary acquisition.  To reach this goal students would need to be knowledgeable of the words and learn the skills to achieve understanding.  To begin, I would be selective in my word choices.  The words would be essential concepts for this reading topic and also possibly applicable in other reading situations.  The assessment would try and incorporate key principles mentioned by Wiggins and McTighe.  It would have students think critically and apply the word into a performance.  Rather than a test, I could use an activity as a way to measure understanding. One idea would be students analyzing two similar words and investigate their differences.  The other could be a word analysis where students study a word from multiple angles.  It’s a topic that I need to further research to properly include in my online course.


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