The Principles and Practices of Backward Design

The Principles and Practices of Backward Design

The concept of planning “backward” starting from desired results (the end in mind) is not new. In 1949 Ralph Tyler described this approach as an effective process for focusing instruction. Recently, Stephen Covey, in the bestselling book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, reports that effective people in various fields are goal- oriented and plan with the end in mind. Although not a new idea, the deliberate use of backward design for planning curriculum units and courses results in more clearly defined goals, more appropriate assessments, more tightly aligned lessons, and more purposeful teaching.

The backward design process explained by Wiggins & McTighe begins with the end in mind: “One starts with the end – the desired results (goals or standards) – and then derives the curriculum from the evidence of learning (performances) called for by the standard and the teaching needed to equip students to perform”(Wiggins and McTighe, 2000, page 8). There are two key ideas in Backward Design: 1) Focus on teaching and assessing for understanding and transfer, and 2) Design curriculum “backward” from those ends. It aims to provide a framework to guide curriculum, assessment and instruction.

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The ackward design framework is based on the following seven key tenets: 1 . Learning is enhanced when teachers think purposefully about curricular plan ning. 2. The backward design framework helps focus curriculum and teaching on the develop ment and deepening of student understanding and transfer of learning 3. Understanding is revealed when students autonomously make sense of and transfer their learning through authentic performance. 4. Effective curriculum is planned backward from long-term, desired results through a three-stage design process (Desired Results, Evidence, and Learning Plan). Teachers are coaches of understanding, not mere purveyors of content knowl edge, skill, or activity. 6. Regularly reviewing units and curriculum against design standards enhances curricu lar quality and effectiveness, and provides engaging and professional discussions. 7. Backward design reflects a continual improvement approach to student achieve ment 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. Three Stages of Backward Design

Backward planning asks educators to consider the following three stages: Stage 1 – Identify Desired Results Stage 1 asks teachers to identify the “big ideas” that we want students to come to understand, and then to identify or craft suitable essential questions. Big ideas reflect transferable concepts, principles and processes that are keys to understanding the topic or subject. Essential questions present open-ended, thought provoking Inqulrles tnat are explored over time. An Important polnt In DacKwara design is to recognize that factual knowledge and skills are not taught for their own ake, but as a means to larger ends.

Eventually, teaching should equip learners to be able to use or transfer their learning; i. e. , meaningful performance with content. This is the “end” we always want to keep in mind. Stage 2 – Determine Acceptable Evidence How will we know if students have achieved the desired results? What will we accept as evidence of student understanding and proficiency? How will we evaluate student performance? In Stage Two, we distinguish between two broad types of assessment – Performance Tasks and Other Evidence.

The performance tasks ask students to apply heir learning to a new and authentic situation as means of assessing their understanding. There are six facets of understanding for assessment purposes. When someone truly understands, they: 1) Can explain concepts, principles and processes; i. e. , put it their own words; teach it to others; Justify their answers; show their reasoning. 2) Can interpret; i. e. make sense of data, text and experience through images, analogies, stories and models. 3) Can apply; i. e. , effectively use and adapt what they know in new and complex contexts. ) Demonstrate perspective; i. e. , an see the big picture and recognize different points of view. 5) Display empathy; i. e. , perceive sensitively and “walk in someone else’s shoes. ” 6) Have self-knowledge; i. e. , show meta-cognitive awareness, use productive habits of mind, and reflect on the meaning of their learning and experience. Not all six facets of understanding need to be used all of the time in assessment. Performance Tasks based on one of more facets are not intended for use in daily lessons, but they should be seen as culminating performances for a unit of study.

In addition to Performance Tasks, Stage 2 includes Other Evidence, such as traditional quizzes, tests, observations, and work samples to round out the assessment picture to determine what students know and can do. Stage 3 – Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction In Stage 3 of backward design, teachers plan the most appropriate learning activities to help students acquire important knowledge and skills, come to understand important ideas and processes, and transfer their learning in meaningful ways. Teachers consider a set of instructional principles, embedded in the acronym W. H. E. R. E. T. O. oviding the blueprint for instructional planning. W = How will I help learners know – What they will be learning? Why this is worth learning? What evidence will show their learning? How their performance will be evaluated? H = How will I hook and engage the learners? (Essential questions) E = How will I equip students to master identified standards and succeed with the transfer performances? What learning experiences will help develop and deepen understanding of important ideas? R = How will I encourage the learners to rethink previous learning? How will I encourage on-going revision and refinement?

E = How will I promote students’ self-evaluation and reflection? The second “E” of WHERETO reminds teachers to build in time and expectations for students to regularly self assess, reflect on the meaning of their learning and set goals for future performance. T = How will I tailor the learning experiences to the nature of the learners I serve? How might I differentiate instruction to respond to the varied needs of students? O ??” How will I organize the learning experiences for maximum engagement and effectiveness? wnat sequence wlll De optlmal given tne unaerstanalng ana transTer goals?

Research Underpinnings The Backward Design framework is guided by the results of the three student achievement studies summarized below: 1) Newmann et al. (1996) investigated 24 restructured schools at the elementary, middle, and high school levels to study the effects of authentic pedagogy and assessment approaches in mathematics and social studies. In classrooms that emphasize interactive instruction, students discuss ideas and answers by talking, and sometimes arguing, with each other and with the teacher. Students work on applications or interpretations of the material to develop ew or deeper understandings of a given topic.

Such assignments may take several days to complete. Students in interactive classrooms are often encouraged to choose the questions or topics they wish to study within an instructional unit designed by the teacher. Different students may be working on different tasks during the same class period. The results of the study showed that the type of instruction which enhances student achievement parallels methods advocated by Backward Design for developing and assessing student understanding. 2) In a related study, Newmann, Bryk, & Nagaoka (2001) examined the relationship of the nature of classroom assignments to standardized test performance.

Researchers systematically collected and analyzed classroom writing and mathematics assignments in grades 3, 6, and 8 from randomly selected and control schools over the course of three years. In addition, they evaluated student work generated by the various assignments. This study concluded that, students who received assignments requiring more challenging intellectual work also achieved greater than average gains on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills in reading and mathematics, and demonstrated higher erformance in reading, mathematics, and writing on the Illinois Goals Assessment Program.

The instructional methods that were found to enhance student achievement are basic elements of the pedagogy in the Backward Design planning model. 3) The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), conducted in 1995, tested mathematics and science achievement of students in 42 countries at three grade levels (4, 8, and 12) the results of the less publicized companion TIMSS teaching study offer explanatory insights. In an exhaustive analysis of classroom teaching in the U. S. Japan, and Germany using videotapes, surveys, and test data, researchers present striking evidence of the benefits of teaching for understanding in optimizing performance. The results showed that nations with higher test scores use teaching and learning strategies that promote understanding rather than “coverage” and rote learning. Conclusion The principles and practices of Backward Design often challenge conventional planning and teaching habits. However with some practice, educators find that backward design becomes more not only more comfortable, but a way of thinking.

The teacher’s role is primarily one of guide or coach. Teachers using this form of instruction create situations in which students … ask questions, develop strategies for solving problems, and communicate with one another…. Students are often expected to explain their answers and discuss how they arrived at their conclusions. These teachers usually assess students’ mastery of knowledge through discussions, projects, or tests that demand explanation and extended writing. Besides content mastery, tne process 0T developing tne answer Is also vlewea as Impo ssessing the quality of the students’ work.

References rtant In 1- Tyler, Ralph W. (1949). Basic Principles of Curriculum and Instruction. 2- Covey, Stephen. (1989). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. 3- Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. and (1998, 2005). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. 4- National Research Council (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. 5- The complete research reports at http://www. consortiumchicago. org/publications/

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