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The Skinny On Backward Planning (Series 1 of 4)

September 18, 2019

 

Begin with the end in mind.

That’s a revolutionary way to think about courses at Carthage. Thanks to the Backward Planning Design Model (Wiggens and McTighe), reinforced by the Teaching Commons, faculty think about student learning achievements before they think about their teaching materials! For the past decade, “Backward Planning” has been a backbone for course design at Carthage.  

Backward Planning has now become a saturated phrase among faculty. 

In this post, I would like to share with you the skinny on backward planning and how you can apply it using Schoology.

As an instructional designer operating out of the Teaching Commons at the Hedberg Library, I have the privilege of receiving consultation requests by many faculty. After we get settled in my office, my first question is, “Are you familiar with Backward Planning”? I would get responses like:

I have heard about Backward Planning.

I think I read about it somewhere.

It’s a course development process, right?

I did work on a workshop on Backward Planning at the Teaching Commons!

I don’t think I have ever heard about Backward Planning.

Regardless of the responses, I spend the first session explaining how to apply Backward Planning in the course design process. I admit, I enjoy the first session with all faculty! I can’t help noticing the awestruck expressions on their face. They feel empowered and want to change the way they design and plan their courses. And then I hear feedback like:

This makes complete sense!

Beginning with the end in mind! I never thought of that before.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

Connecting three things together is the secret! Learning outcomes, assessment items and the content.

The Understanding by Design (UbD) Framework

Backward Planning is the official course design model at Carthage College. It is a best practice with proven higher achievement in students. In 1998, Wiggins & McTighe introduced the Backward Planning approach to curriculum design where the destination is designated before mapping the route to be taken. The Backward Planning concepts are explained under a title called Understanding by Design (UbD). The following are the primary seven touch points of UbD. Click on the links within each point to learn more about its application at Carthage through Schoology.

  1. Learning is enhanced when teachers think purposefully about curricular planning. The UbD framework helps this process without offering a rigid process or prescriptive recipe.
  2. The UbD framework helps focus curriculum and teaching on the development and deepening of student understanding and transfer of learning (i.e., the ability to effectively use content knowledge and skill).
  3. Understanding is revealed when students autonomously make sense of and transfer their learning through authentic performance. Six facets of understanding—the capacity to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self-assess—can serve as indicators of understanding.
  4. Effective curriculum is planned backward from long-term, desired results through a three-stage design process (Desired Results, Evidence, and Learning Plan). This process helps avoid the common problems of treating the textbook as the curriculum rather than a resource, and activity-oriented teaching in which no clear priorities and purposes are apparent. 
    1. The Stage 1 of Backward Planning encourages us to create learning outcomes before we do anything else. Click here to see how to create learning outcomes on Schoology.
    2. The Stage 2 of the Backward Design encourages us to create assessment items. These can be assignments and quizzes. Click here to learn how to create assessment items on Schoology.
    3. The Stage 3 of Backward Planning encourages us to develop learning experiences and activities aligned with the learning outcomes and assessment items. Click here to learn how to add learning materials on Schoology.
  5. Teachers are coaches of understanding, not mere purveyors of content knowledge, skill, or activity. They focus on ensuring that learning happens, not just teaching (and assuming that what was taught was learned); they always aim and check for successful meaning making and transfer by the learner. (See how you can gauge mastery on Schoology). 
  6. Regularly reviewing units and curriculum against design standards enhances curricular quality and effectiveness, and provides engaging and professional discussions. (See UDL for accessible course design standards). 
  7. The UbD framework reflects a continual improvement approach to student achievement and teacher craft. The results of our designs—student performance—inform needed adjustments in curriculum as well as instruction so that student learning is maximized.

Parting Words

Stephen Covey, the author of the famous “Habits of Highly Effective People”, says:

Begin with the end in mind.

Your course learning outcomes is your starting point. For each learning outcome, think of how you would assess your students. Thinking about what your students will be able to do, how they would behave and what knowledge mastery they would acquire after completing your course will change the course design game for you. Activities and content come last. And that is the essence of Backward Planning.

Once you have a clear goal of the course in mind (in your own words), developing assessment items becomes a breeze.

To learn more about how to apply this model to your courses, visit the following blogs: 

UbD Stage 1: Desired Results

UbD Stage 2: Determine Acceptable Evidence

UbD Stage 3: Plan Learning Expereinces with WHERETO

Have you used Backward Planning in your courses? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

References

Understanding By Design Framework, By Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggens. https://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/siteASCD/publications/UbD_WhitePaper0312.pdf

Writer:

Zubia Mughal