Design Your Course Backwards

The Cheshire Cat told Alice in Wonderland that if she didn’t know where she wanted to go, then it didn’t matter which path to take. Getting somewhere specific requires knowing the destination. This same concept (starting with the end goal in mind) applies to creating or modifying a course. In the book, Understanding by Designthe authors suggest three steps for creating a course using Backwards Design (i.e. designing from back to front – see model below). Note that determining what to actually teach is the final step.

  • Identify the desired results. Determine what students should know and be able to do by the end of the course (i.e. the course objectives). Consider national, institutional, or department standards and clearly define the desired outcomes.
  • Determine acceptable evidence. Determine how you will know when, and to what degree, students achieve these results by using formal and informal assessments (e.g. written work, demonstration, community project, dialogues, exams, etc). With clear results in mind, consider what facts/principles/skills/characteristics students need to demonstrate to you so that you can assess, and then grade, their learning.
  • Plan learning experiences and instruction. Determine what learning experiences will best equip students to achieve the desired results. What will need to be taught, and in what order, throughout the semester? Build materials and gather resources needed to accomplish these goals (e.g. lesson plans, PPT slides, active-learning projects, field trips, labs).

If you want help designing courses (face-to-face, online, or hybrid), the Technology & Learning Program has instructional design consultants available to assist you. Click here to request a consultation.

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