Backwards design is one option for course design. Using this method, instructors determine course goals as the first step, and focus on student learning and understanding throughout the process. This approach is particularly applicable when using open resources, since they can an be adapted to fit student needs.
The 3 steps of backward design are:
Basics of Backwards Design by Rebecca Johnson, used with permission.
If you are familiar with open educational resources, you may have heard the term "open pedagogy." It is a learner-driven teaching approach that that utilizes open resources and engages students with renewable assignments rather than disposable ones. With renewable assignments (per Wiley and Hilton):
This new approach is worth exploring during the redesign process, but may require a big change to your teaching style. Check out the following resources for more ideas about open pedagogy, and specific considerations for its use.
"What should students know, understand, and be able to do? What is worthy of understanding? What enduring understandings are desired?" (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 2). Thinking about your goals for the course and defining clear learning objectives prior to developing content will help you align assessments and lessons in order for students to accomplish your goals for the course. Your objectives should be measurable and observable.
It may be helpful to use a template when defining your course's learning outcomes. This template from Vanderbilt University offers a clear table format with learning objectives, goals, evaluative criteria, and a strategic learning plan.
Step two in the backwards design process is to think about how the final objective will be assessed. Your outcomes might be measured by a mix of formative and summative assessments. If possible, assignments should be "authentic," to the types of skills used by professionals in the discipline.
Using the backward design approach, you will select your assessment based on the type of desired outcome. For example:
|Type of Outcome||Type of Assessment|
Objective test items that require students to recall or recognize information:
Further reading: Why should assessments, learning objects and instructional strategies be aligned from Carnegie Mellon University.
At the content stage, you will identify readings, activities, and lessons that align with your desired outcomes and assessments. Choose content, create lessons, and develop assignments that will ensure students are prepared for the assessments, thus achieving the learning outcomes for the course.
Bowen, Ryan S., (2017). Understanding by design. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching.
DeRosa, R. & Robison, S. (2017). From OER to Open Pedagogy: Harnessing the Power of Open. In Jhangiani, R.S. & Biswas-Diener, R. (Eds.), Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science, pp 115–124. London: Ubiquity Press.
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.
Wiley, D. & Hilton III, J. (2018). Defining OER-Enabled Pedagogy. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(4).