Teaching to learning outcomes is a foundation for instruction. We have state and national standards we aim to meet with students. However, we know instruction needs to culminate in deep understanding that goes beyond the surface level of standards and objectives. Backwards design is an approach to designing curriculum that uses learning outcomes to carefully plan instructional methods and assessment. There are three stages to backwards design that must be considered.
Stage 1: Identify the learning outcomes.
These are the big picture ideas and skills that you want students to ultimately attain from the learning experience. This is more than a specific content objective. Think big themes like “the ethical dilemmas of war” rather than the details of a specific battle during a war.
Stage 2: Determine satisfactory evidence that the learning outcome has been met.
What would student understanding authentically look like?
Stage 3: Design varied activities that will bridge the learning outcomes with the evidence. Choose activities that lead to knowledge and skills necessary for showing evidence of learning outcomes.
Understanding by Design® is a backwards design framework for achieving deeper learning. Developed by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins, this framework includes emphasis on teachers as coaches, the creation of authentic performance tasks, and continual improvement to student achievement and teaching. Trinity University has an entire collection of K-12 lesson plans specifically designed using this framework. Here are some examples of their lesson plans:
- The Shakespearean Sonnet: Students will create their own “Hollywood Sonnet” to be displayed in a Gallery Walk for discussion and critique.
- Insert Novel Here: A Metacognitive Study of the Reading Process: Students will use draft reading strategies to review a movie of their choice.
- How Do We Measure?: Early elementary students find different ways to compare attributes of measurement of different objects
- Take a Chance on Probability: 7th grade students will use their knowledge of probability to design their own fun and fair game of chance.
- Animal Needs and Habitats: Elementary students will design a habitat for three animals that live together for a new zoo exhibit.
- Forensic Chemistry: Students will utilize chemistry knowledge, chromatography, and flame testing to investigate a mock crime.
- Mythology is a Reflection of Culture: 7th grade students will create a myth that reflects local geography and culture
- Transformations in Europe 15th-18th Centuries: High School students will describe the impact of a particular Renaissance, Reformation, Scientific Revolution, or Enlightenment thinker on the world today.
For more of Trinity University’s backwards design lesson plans, see the full collection here. Do you have a great backwards design lesson plan to share? Share the love and upload it to our free global respository to help other teachers enhance their teaching! Start by joining us for free here!