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Overview of Backward Course 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 not so that the steps you take are always in the right direction."

- Stephen R. Covey. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Backward course design is a planning framework to help educators teach in a more goal focused, effective way by better aligning short-term plans and actions with long-term goals, blend content and performance, and better engage learners. Start with the end in mind, your course goal or outcome, which is the mission statement for your course. Then think about what constitutes evidence of how students are doing against the goal, and finally what instructional activities should be happening to support and head toward the goal. A careful consideration of what students already know, how the learning fits into the context of the program, and applicability of the knowledge they will gain in the course are also essential to instructionally sound course design.

Why Use Backward Course Design?

In this two-part video series, Grant Wiggins, co-author of Understanding by Design, explains what backward course design is all about and why this framework can improve student achievement. He goes on to explain that it can help clarify your learning goals, devise assessments that reveal student understanding, and craft effective learning activities.

Why Use Backward Course Design? View Part 1 of the Series

Backward Design Resources

Course design is a specialized skillset. It's easy to be intimidated by this process if you're not familiar with it. Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe offer several resources to walk you through the understanding by backward designing the course design process. Try the design templates below to help you frame your course goal, assessment, and activities:

The first step in the process is to define your course goal. Additionally, LIT is happy to talk through your course design, provide ideas and support you along the way.