Understanding by Design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) offers a backward way of thinking about curriculum that focuses on defining first what students need to know, rather than the activities and instructions that will be used. Design of assessment needs to take place first in order to clearly identify academic standards and the purpose for learning. This makes the learning evident for both the student and teachers. Teachers should first think about the evidence they will need to determine students’ learning. This can then guide the lesson planning and instruction. According to Wiggins & McTighe (2005), students should be able to answer questions during a lesson such as:
- What are you doing?
- Why are you being asked to do it?
- What will it help you do?
- How does it fit with what you have previously done?
- How will you show that you have learned it? (p. 17)
Teachers can apply backward design to any curriculum or learning standards and at any grade level. There are three stages of backward design which include:
Stage 1- Identify desired results.
Stage 2- Determine acceptable evidence.
Stage 3- Plan learning experiences and instruction. (p. 18)
In backward design, the purpose is to teach to reach objectives, instead of teaching to cover content in a textbook. As teachers we need to think first about what students need to know and second about the instruction and activities that will help students meet the objectives. This way the design of instruction becomes more purposeful and students have a clear understanding of what they need to know and why. The backward design template serves as a way to guide teachers through this process to make sure their instructional plan aligns with the evidence they expect to see. Assessment evidence can take various forms including observation, tests, quizzes, journal entries, self-assessments or prompts (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005, p. 22). This artifact, FormativeAssessment, is an example of a formative assessment I have used in my classroom to assess the learning target: addition with regrouping. I started by identifying the desired results: students should be able to add with regrouping. Next, I created an assessment that included acceptable evidence that would tell me the student met the learning target. In addition to the student solving the problem correctly, he also had to explain if he needed to regroup and why and the steps for solving. Without this evidence I would not know if the student conceptually understood the regrouping process or if it was just a memorized procedure. If teachers can design their lessons based on what they expect students to be able to do by the end of the lesson, their instruction and learning activities will be purposeful and will align with assessment.
Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J., (2005) Understanding by Design. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.