Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

2.3: Backward Design I

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    Workshop Overview

    The Backward Design workshop sessions provide an introduction to this learner-focused course design approach.  During the workshop, participants first will engage with the different steps of the process. Then, participants will apply the approach to a topic from a course with which students struggle.  This workshop is split into two sessions.  The first session will introduce the overall method. In the second session, the participants will practice what they learned about backward design - stating learning goals (broad, vague, not easily assessed, e.g. know, learn, understand...) and outcomes (specific, concrete, easily measurable, e.g. predict, explain, contrast, defend...) - by applying it to a specific topic.

    Learning Outcomes

    Participants will be able to:

    • Argue the merits of a learner-centered course design approach
    • Identify and align learning goals and outcomes for a specified topic/concept.

    Key Terms

    • Backward Design
    • Deliberate practice
    • Learning goals
    • Learning outcomes
    • Learning objectives
    • Alignment
    • Bloom's Taxonomy
    • 3-Dimensional Learning Assessment Protocol (3-D LAP)

    Active Learning/Formative Assessment Strategies

    • Matching/categorizing
    • Small group discussion
    • Alignment table development
    • Reflection



    In order for our students to develop mastery, they need to spend time and effort engaged with the specific concept or skill. This idea is called Deliberate Practice (Ericsson et al., 1993). Essentially, the one doing is the one learning. The two essential components of this learning theory are effort expended on activities (practice) that are specifically designed to result in mastery of a desired skill or concept (deliberate). Backward Design is a course design approach that helps us focus on the deliberation aspect of Deliberate Practice. Backward Design guides us to be specific and intentional about what we want students to know, understand, and be able to do by the end of our course. With Backward Design, we then use that knowledge to guide our development of assessments that will provide evidence about whether or not students achieve our desired goal. Lastly, with Backward Design, we develop learning activities that will maximize the likelihood of students' success. 


    Please complete the following tasks prior to the workshop:

    1. Identify a topic from your class that you would like to transform during this workshop.

    During Workshop


    1. Developing learning goals and outcomes - Visit the Backward Design Session Google Folder then go into the folder for your institution.
      • Open the Backward Design in Action Google doc and follow along with the sequential activities to develop your alignment table for your topic during these sessions. Resources to help are linked to the bottom of the Google doc and linked below as well for your convenience.
    • Asking questions
    • Developing & using models
    • Planning & carrying out investigations
    • Analyzing & interpreting data
    • Using mathematics & computational thinking
    • Constructing explanations
    • Engaging in argument from evidence
    • Obtaining, evaluating, & communicating information



    1. Complete the Learning Goals and Outcomes columns in your row of the Alignment table in the Backward Design in Action Google doc in your institution's folder inside the Backward Design Session Google Folder. Use the examples of alignment tables (a document in your institution's folder) as a guide. 



    2.3: Backward Design I is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.