University of Oregon

Backward Design

To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now so that the steps you take are always in the right direction. —Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 1989, p. 98

Backward Design is a three-stage approach to designing curriculum, and in this case, designing an online or hybrid course.  This is a process driven and supported by research.  Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe provide a thorough introduction and hands-on approach to backward design in their book, Understanding by Design, Expanded 2nd Edition, 2005.

Backward Design steps - Learning Outcomes, Assessment, Learning Activities & Content

To assist faculty with the backward design process, a worksheet has been designed.  It begins with course objectives and modular objectives.  Once those are identified, assessment activities that meet those expected outcomes, followed by learning activities that help students learn the material and then complete the assessments.  This worksheet, and another created by TEP (UO's Teaching Engagement Program) are available here.  One of these two worksheets should work with most individual learning and work styles.


Learning Objectives & Taxonomies

When writing learning objectives and module objectives, it is important for them to be measurable and clear.  There are two taxonomies that are very helpful when thinking about learning and learning objectives, Bloom's Taxonomy and Dee Fink's Taxonomy.  

UNC-Charlotte has a great site that covers Writing Objectivies using Bloom's Taxonomy.

Where to?

From Understanding by Design the diagram below (WHERETO) is very helpful in understanding the backward design process.


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