Backwards Design


Backwards Design is a concept rooted in the idea that teachers are designers. According to Wiggins and McTighe (2005), the ideal way to design curriculum is a simple three-step process, through which you should ask yourself some questions:

1. Identify desired results: "What should students know, understand, and be able to do? What content is worthy of understanding? What enduring understandings are desired?" (Wiggins and McTighe 2005, p. 17). This is the stage where you consider the state standards.

2. Determine acceptable evidence: "How will we know if students have achieved the desired results? What will we accept as evidence of student understanding and proficiency?" (Wiggins and McTighe 2005, p. 18). This is where you consider what kind of assessmenus are appropriate to assess what knowledge the students has gained from your desired results. (Graphic organizer on page

3. Plan learning experiences and instruction: What enabling knowledge (facts, concepts, principles) and skills (processes, procedures, strategies) will students need in order to perform effectively and achieve desired results? What activities will equip students with the needed knowledge and skills? What will need to be taught and coached, and how should it best be taught, in light of performance goals? What materials and resources are best suited to accomplish these goals?" (Wiggins and McTighe 2005, p. 18-19).

Some important key terms include:
Enduring Understandings: "Specific inferences... that have lasting value beyond the classroom" (Wiggins and McTighe 2005, p. 342). What do you want students to remember, years down the line?

Essential Question: "A question that lies at the heart of a subject or a curriculum... and promotes inquiry and uncoverage of a subject. Essential questions thus do not yield a single straightforward answers (as a leading question does) but produce different plausible responses, about which thoughtful and knowledgeable people may disagree" (Wiggins and McTighe 2005, p. 342).

Uncoverage: Rather than simply "covering" a topic, the idea here is that you go into depth into a topic and "uncover" it. Therefore, "uncover age involves clarifying effective and efficient means, given the ends of skill, leading to greater purposefulness and less mindless use of techniques" (Wiggins and McTighe 2005, p. 352-353).




Wiggins, G. and McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ.