Hi everyone, I was wondering if anyone has used backward design when making up lesson plans. In college I have been learning that backward design is the most beneficial way to make and teach a lesson plan. What are some of your thoughts?
It certainly is hard at times but if we cannot explain to the students how they will be assessed before and as they learn then our tests are unfair and unreliable. If I give a test, the kids are familiar with both its structure and the task presented. I am no fan of asking students to study for 100% of the content in the hopes that they will know the 10% I actually choose to assess. If it is knowledge and comprehension I require -- they have the specific questions before hand. If it is a skill, then they have practiced that skill in the manner I will assess it. Telling kids to learn all the multiplication tables and then testing them on the seven times table because you think it is the hardest is not good practice in my mind.
We just started using Backwards by Design this year and as a coordinator I like it very much. I think the lesson plans are much more organized, the goals are clearer and the lessons had more focus than previously. Once the teachers got used to it, they found it helpful.
Hi Lisa, Beyond the classroom, I am also a licensed tennis instructor. I thought I would share this analogy with you in hopes that you can look at it another way, which is really the basis of differentiated instruction/understanding by design. Regardless of one's knowledge of the game of tennis, we begin with demonstration of what a correct stroke is. Now, keep in mind that tennis strokes are like signatures, each one has its own individual traits, but the end result is the physical evidence of a person's signed name. How we arrive there is what embodies understanding by design or backward design. In this analogy, the tennis instructor has demonstrated a forehand. There are certain universal characteristics inherent in a "successful" forehand. The end goal would be to hit the ball over the net. Immediate goals in this are lessons such as safe net clearance. So maybe you focus on one particular component of that goal of getting it over. It could be turning, racquet preparation, etc. Keep in mind that we haven't talked about things such as grip, motion of the swing,spin, etc. At this point, we really have only concentrated on the end result of the ball successfully clearing the net. Where this impacts differentiated instruction is how each student arrives there. You teach to the student's strengths in order to enable them to reach that end goal of having the ball travel from point A to point B. Maybe one student has poor hand/eye coordination. So, we start with building these skills. Maybe another student has excellent hand/eye coordination, but poor footwork. We work on successful footwork for that student, but don't concentrate as much on hand/eye exercises. Again, remember we started with the demonstration of the end result (the successful forehand). Now we start to teach backwards because we have answered the essential question of What do we want to learn about the forehand through our demonstration. Apply this to a classroom concept. A good start would be to write the question on the board (or use the senseo or clicker device of your choice). Although this seems almost too simple, it should serve as the initial jumping off point. Hope this helps somewhat. As to your initial question of the most beneficial way, remember to look at some of the books on the one "best" system such as David Tyack's works. There really isn't a "most beneficial" way. The successful methods are often a potpourri of different methods, a hybrid or modification of established methods.You can also find a wealth of materials about this method at http://www.ascd.org. Our district has adopted, Schooling By Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Good luck in your schooling and a soon to be welcome to the ranks.
Thank you so much for your response. Your analogy really helped me to see how backward design is really the way to make lessons sucessful! I have read Wiggins and McTighe. The Understanding by Design is one of the major topics that we have been covering all year. It is a bit more challenging but from your analogy I can really see how it can be beneficial to the students and make their learning easier!
This kind of best practice technique allows for the learning to be student-learner-centred and student-learner-driven instead of teacher-directed and teacher-agenda-driven.
Make no mistake, Assessment for learning and clearly expressed student learning outcomes are reflected in my practice (we call them "I can" statements here). Teaching to the test (we don't even share common vocabulary these days) is student learner centred. Would you care to expand on why this is also student-learner-driven instead of teacher-directed or teacher-agenda-driven? Our student learning outcomes are directly from proscribed curriculum in Saskatchewan and therefore not student-driven in my mind. They work to our objectives however differentiated the learning might be. At best I might say we are attempting to shift ownership for learning to the student. We are not creating what might have been called Free Schools in my 1970s Wisconsin childhood.
Thank you for everyone's input! It has really been helpful to me. Just learning this method had me a bit septicle because it is a little more challenging than just writing a lesson plan but after all of your input I know that this will help me to become a successful teacher. Thanks again!
Hi Lisa, some of our district teachers have been using Backward Planning (Wiggins and McTighe) for ten years now. Now that we are moving more into constructivist teaching with technology, it helps us relook at all those outcomes, prioritize what is essential learning, what is useful to know, and create projects that are relevant, tie in curriculum and stay focused on student learning and achievement. It can be a painful process for some as curricular outcomes were taught in isolation with few meaningful connections overall. The other area that it is helpful is when you plan cross-curricular projects using UBD (Understanding by Design). Teachers begin to map the outcomes more effectively, see natural convergences and think about complementing bigger ideas with the "whole" curriculum.
I'm attaching a unit/project plan that we based on UBD but also incorporated some of the Metiri's group work on 21st century skills. I merged them and the document that is here reflects that. It is still a working document as we continue to refine the essential questions....always a work in progress!