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Getting Started Select Design Task Learn About Design
MOVIE 1:   6 minutes 42 seconds
Backward Design

Grant Wiggins, lead author of Understand By Design, claims that teachers engage in designing and redesigning all of the time. Hear are some of those occasions:

1. Although most teachers do not have the time to create whole curricula from scratch, they regularly adapt and redesign textbook activities to meet the particular needs of a particular group of student.

2. Teachers continually devise tests and create assessments.

Wiggins also describes how important assessment is in designing activities. He calls this a backward design process because typically teachers go about finding an interesting activity and then asking, almost as an after-thought, "Now what and how should I assess students' use of this?"

In MOVIE 1, Grant walks us through the three stages of an "activity designer" (page 68), where the first, critical stage involves asking "What are the key learning results I want students to achieve?" Here teachers focus on understanding rather than memorizing, and using "essential questions" to unify a set of lessons. The next stage involves deciding what student product or performancewould count as "convincing evidence" that effective learning has taken place. Only then do teachers and curriculum designers, working backwards, select materials or create activities that will support students in reaching these goals.

Wiggins describes the three-stage backward design process (page 14-19) as follows:

  • Identifying Results (what key ideas and skills do I want my students to leave with)
  • Determining What Is Acceptable Evidence (what products/performances are convincing evidence of learning)
  • Planning Learning Experiences, Activities and Instruction that will produce that performance or evidence

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