Backward Design

Backward Design


Read for Review

If you need a refresher on backward design, read Chapter 1: Surfacing Backward Design from Small Teaching Online.

The link above goes to the e-book chapter in one of our Library databases. Let us know if you have trouble logging in to read the chapter.

Use Backward Design to Develop Your Open Pedagogy Assignment

In preparation for writing instructions for your students for the open pedagogy assignment, chose one assignment you’d like to try and use the backward design worksheet to build on your post and any notes from last session’s worksheet,

We’ll be using this worksheet in our next session.


If you have time and interest, here is a podcast episode (48 minutes) interviewing the author of Small Teaching Online, Flower Darby. This is from Tea for Teaching, an excellent podcast out of SUNY Oswego.


  1. I’m fortunate that some of the courses I teach are courses that I wrote, and with all such courses, I used Wiggins and McTighe’s model of backwards design to map out courses. This is particularly true of the ACR 200 course, the course I am using for the workshop. I wrote the outcomes for the course and am aware of the relationship between course learning outcomes and the assessments that I require, and I also make this clear to students who not only complete projects that demonstrate achievement of the goals but also write reflective statements for each such project. When doing so, students are also thinking about the relationship between a particular project, the content we are covering, and particular learning outcomes.

    One aspect of the Wiggins and McTighe model that I’d like to mention is the focus on misunderstandings – which are cognitively constructed, though erroneous, ways that students understand phenomena or concepts about which we teach. Because these are cognitive constructs in individuals’ schemes, it is essential to actively unteach/unpack these misunderstandings to ensure students are accurately learning. This is a particular aspect of backwards planning that I spend time addressing in my ACR 200 course. As an example, general understandings of fluency don’t actually match what scholars of literacy, as a discipline, understand to be fluent reading. Knowing what the general, non-literacy, conceptions of fluency are allows me to specifically target these problem areas and help ensure that students are constructing understandings of fluency as it relates to literacy-based practices. I specifically challenge and unteach misunderstandings of fluency in our module; students reconcile their new knowledge with the misunderstandings in the reflective statement they write for their read-aloud project attached to this module.

  2. After some careful consideration, I think I’m going to cop-out and choose to have my students create videos in which they explain a theory/concept from the course to use for future cohorts. I had considered having my students slowly create a textbook (which I still might do in the future) but currently feel like without a clear understanding of how I’d like to approach that it may be biting off a bit too much for this upcoming semester/summer.

    To this end, I think the biggest takeaway I have from this chapter is to create smaller progressive assignments to “encourage” my students to work on the assignment early and often. It will also help to drive students to begin finding research early, find interviews, and so forth for the assignment earlier in the semester. If the goal of the lesson is to have them work collaboratively on making decisions, having those decisions be scheduled and paced thoughtfully will help them achieve that goal.

Leave a Reply