Upon initial consideration, you may not notice any similarities among the world of designers and the world of educators; however, both designers and educators must be very mindful of their desired results before they can properly execute their products or lesson plans.
There is a term used in graphic design – grid – that refers to a template that breaks space or time into regular units. It can be a simple or complex invisible foundation to build upon to prevent a design from looking sloppy or “off.” A well-designed course or lesson should also have a grid. A template that connects the lesson plan to the assessment instruments to the desired results. Educators often believe they are following a template or grid to design a course or lesson – usually one mapped out by a predecessor or one based on one’s own culmination of learning experiences – but then they are surprised when the assessment results do not reflect the learning they thought was taking place in the classroom or reflect the intended results of the course.
“I don’t see much sense in that, said Rabbit. No, said Pooh humbly, “there isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it along the way.”
There are probably many strategies out there suggesting ways to fix this issue, but one in particular that makes sense to me, is the Backward Design Method. Jay McTighe and Ronald S. Thomas coined the term “Backward Design” to refer to a design method in which one works backwards to plan a lesson plan by starting with what you intend the outcome of the lesson plan to be. According to McTighe and Thomas, there is no point in developing a course plan or developing an assessment instrument, until you know what you expect students to be able to do at the end of the course. Here is the 3-step process:
“Why do we describe the most effective curricular designs as “backward”? We do so because many teachers begin with textbooks, favored lessons, and time-honored activities rather than deriving those tools from targeted goals or standards.” – McTighe and Thomas
I can recall being guilty of this myself during my teaching days. I remember a particular instance in which I was scouring a video store to find my favorite psychology documentaries to show students in one of my psychology classes. I wanted to show these documentaries because they had a significant impact on my appreciation for the field of psychology; however, I was not considering whether or not the subject matter of the documentaries was directly tied to the information students were supposed to be able know by the end of the term. Now, you could argue that showing the documentaries I favored could still have a positive influence on the students by potentially increasing their interest in the subject matter as a whole, which could then improve their participation in other discussions in class; however, if I had worked backwards and decided to only show a documentary in class that was directly related to the desired results of the class I could be confidant in the fact that I was not wasting class time (which is very precious, especially in a quarter system) and confidant that I was leading my students on the most direct route to their intended academic destination.
If you would like to learn more about Backward Design, I suggest you follow the link below:
Categories : discussion point, recommended reading