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Backward Design SED 509

Backwards Design Overview

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  • Backward Design

    SED 509

  • What Is It? n Backward Design is a process of lesson planning

    created by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe and introduced in Understanding by Design (1998).

    n This lesson design process concentrates on developing the lesson in a different order than in traditional lesson planning.

    n Treats teachers as designers. An essential act of our profession is the crafting of curriculum and learning experiences to meet specified purposes.

    n too many teachers focus on the teaching and not the learning.

    n Reaction to the twin sins of traditional design: activity-focused and coverage-focused teaching.

  • How Is It Different?

    Traditional n Goals & objectives

    n Activities

    n Assessments

    Backward Design n Goals & objectives

    n Assessments

    n Activities

  • Identify desired results.

    Determine acceptable evidence.

    Plan learning experiences and


    Wiggins, G & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

  • n Enduring Understandings: What specific insights about big ideas do we want students to leave with?

    n What Essential Questions will frame the teaching and learning, pointing toward key issues and ideas, and suggest meaningful and provocative inquiry into content?

    n What should students know and be able to do? n What content standards are addressed explicitly

    by the unit?

    Identify Desired Results.

  • Why goals?

  • Starting with standards n Standards (benchmarks, learning results, performance

    indicators, etc.) n A Nation At Risk (1983) n Distributed nature of U.S. education n 1990s federal funds used to pay for drafting of national

    curriculum standards n Science National Science Education Standards (NRC),

    Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS) n Math Curriculum and Evaluation Standards (NCTM)

    n State standards n No Child Left Behind (2002) n Common Core Standards

  • Using standards

    nPurpose guides, not prescriptive nUnpacking standards nGeneral structure:

    nNature/history of discipline nUnifying concepts and processes nContent

  • How can we take a mass of content knowledge and shape

    it into engaging, thought-provoking, and effective work?

  • Essential Questions Serve as doorways through which learners explore the key concepts, themes, theories, issues, and problems that reside

    within the content (p. 106) n Center on major issues, problems, concerns, interests, or

    themes relevant to students lives and to their communities. n Go to the heart of the discipline and highlight big ideas. n Are open-ended, non-judgmental, meaningful and purposeful

    with emotive force and intellectual bite, and invite an exploration of ideas.

    n Encourage collaboration amongst students, teachers, and the community.

    n Raise other important questions. n Have no one obvious right answer. n Are deliberately framed to provoke and sustain student interest.

  • Essential Questions n For example:

    n Why should students read the novel, Lord of the Flies? Why this book and not another? What will they gain from this experience that will make a difference to them? What are the big ideas in this work? What makes this book a classic?

    n Essential questions relevant to Lord of the Flies might include: n What does it mean to be civilized? Are modern

    civilizations more civilized than ancient ones? What is necessary to ensure civilized behavior? Do children need to be taught to be civilized? What causes us to lose civilized behavior?

  • Essential Questions E.G.s

    nMathematics: n What makes an estimate reasonable? n How can change be described mathematically? n What kinds of questions can be answered using

    proportional reasoning? n Why do we use roots and powers? n When is multiplication useful? n How does an architect use geometry? n What makes a mathematical argument


  • Essential Questions E.G.s n Science:

    n Is it possible to make a list of the characteristics of living things that fits all known organisms?

    n How does an organisms structure affect its ability to survive? n How can you tell that energy has transformed? n Why is a perpetual motion machine impossible? n How is life on earth affected by the universe around it? n How are water and air related? n Do animals need plants to survive? Do plants need animals? n Is the earth unique? n Do all scientists follow the scientific method? n How does the ocean affect someone living in Corvallis? n What would happen if all of the worms disappeared? n Why is there order to the periodic table? n Is Corvallis in any danger from natural disasters?

  • Essential Questions

    nOverarching essential questions nUnifying concepts and processes (science) nPractices (math)

    nTopical essential questions nContent standards

    A good unit requires both

  • Your turn

  • Enduring Understanding

    Wiggins, G & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

    Worth being familiar with

    Important to know and do

    Enduring Understanding

  • Taking a closer look at Enduring Understandings: They...

    n Are specific generalizations about the big ideas. They summarize the key meanings, inferences, and importance of the content

    n Require uncoverage because they are not facts to the novice, but unobvious inferences drawn from facts - counter-intuitive & easily misunderstood

    n Are what students should remember 20 years from now.

    n Are deliberately framed as a full sentence moral of the story Students will understand THAT

  • Examples - math n There are many ways to represent a number. n In certain situations, an estimate is as useful as an exact answer. n Real-world situations can be represented symbolically and graphically. n Algebraic expressions and equations generalize relationships from

    specific cases. n Proportional relationships express how quantities change in

    relationship to each other. n Fractions, decimals, and percents express a relationship between two

    number. n Relationships among quantities can often be expressed symbolically in

    more than one way. n Linear functions arise when there is a constant rate of change. n Geometric models are useful in representing algebraic relationships. n Inductive and deductive reasoning can be used to formulate

    mathematical arguments.

  • Examples - science n Systems have cycles and patterns that allow us to make predictions. n All living things are made from cells that carry on chemical reactions necessary

    to sustain life. n Life depends on energy flow within systems. An ecosystem transfers matter and

    energy from one organism to another. n The diversity of life is the result of ongoing evolutionary change. n Species alive today have evolved from ancient common ancestors. n DNA is the universal code for life; it enables an organism to transmit hereditary

    information and, along with the environment, determines an organisms characteristics.

    n All changes in and interactions of matter are associated with changes in energy. n Scientific ideas evolve as new information is discovered. n The periodic table is arranged in a logical sequence that can be used to predict

    the properties of elements. n Energy not only provides the ability to do work, but drives systems and cycles of

    our universe, solar system, Earth, and life. n Acids and bases and the pH scale are important to understanding the

    environment, household chemicals, and homeostasis in the body.

  • Your turn

  • Determine Acceptable Evidence nHow will the enduring understandings

    be measured? nUse your essential questions! nMatch the goals to the appropriate type

    of assessment

  • Assessment Continuum

    Wiggins, G & McTighe, J. (1998). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

  • Reliability: Snapshot vs. Photo Album nWe need patterns that overcome

    inherent measurement error nSound assessment requires multiple

    evidence over time - a photo album vs. a single snapshot

  • Curricular Priorities and Assessment Methods

    Worth being familiar with

    Important to know and do

    Enduring understanding

    Assessment Types

    Traditional quizzes and tests




    Performance tasks and projects




  • Your turn

  • Plan Learning Experiences

    n Learning experiences are planned after desired results and the method of measurement of those results are identified.

    n What will the students need to know and be able to do in order to achieve the desired goal, learning, or understanding?

    n These will then be translated to the specific lesson plans that make up your unit.

  • Lesson objectives - science

    nStudents will know that n Cells are the basic unit of life and combine themselves into

    increasingly complex levels of organization. n The cell membrane is involved in protection, transport, and

    maintenance of the internal cell environment. n Plants transform light energy into chemical energy for

    storage and use in the process of photosynthesis.

    nStudents will be able to n Mount and stain onion root tip cells. n Utilize a microscope to identify the parts of the cell. n Design a controlled experiment.

  • Lesson objectives - math nStudents will know that

    nStudents will be able to nStudents will know that solving linear

    inequalities utilizes inverse operations that maintain the relationship between quantities in an inequality. nStudents will be able to solve linear

    inequalities using inverse operations, properties of addition and multiplication, and the distributive property.

  • Misconception Alert: the work is non-linear It doesnt matter where you start

    as long as the final design is coherent (all elements aligned) nClarifying one element often

    forces changes to another element

    nThe template blueprint is logical but the process is non-linear

  • Questions