Introduction to backward design
The best way to start the course redesign process is to reflect on the core purpose of your course, and use that to guide all of your other decisions. Backward Design will help you work through this process. Backward Design helps you structure your course in meaningful ways by starting with the concepts and skills you want students to master and then working backward. That approach guides you toward resources and methods that lead toward the learning goals you want students to achieve.
Backward Design Steps
1. Identify desired results (learning goals): What do I want students to be able to do at the end of this course?
2. Determine acceptable evidence: How will I know if students have achieved learning goals?
3. Plan learning experiences and instruction: What activities will equip students with the needed knowledge and skills?
Well-designed courses have strong alignment between these three steps.
The podcast to the right of this page, produced by Doug Ward and Meagan Patterson from the Center for Teaching Excellence, explains backward design in greater detail and will help you think about how you can apply it to your own course.The graphic on this page also explains important concepts in backward design.
Additional resources from the CTE website to help you think through backwards course design:
- Preparing a course. Material on designing a course, creating a syllabus and preparing for the first day of class.
- Effective Course Design. A Two-Minute Mentor video with Dan Bernstein and Crystal Lumpkins.
- Using class time well. Advice on such things as creating effective reading and writing assignments, working in groups, and helping students think critically.
- Posters and portfolios. Posters by Marta Caminero-Santangelo and M'Balia Thomas explain how backward design can be used in course planning. A portfolio by Anton Rosenthal looks at how backward design helped with rethinking a graduate seminar.