Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Backward Design

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Backward Design (or Backward Planning) is a process initially developed for use in the K-12 classroom and presented in the book “Understanding by Design” by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe; it is the outcome of research centered around focusing students and teachers on learning thereby combating student boredom, passivity, apathy, ability to rote memorize but inability to apply knowledge.

The process is equally well employed to advantage in the College Classroom and has been recommended by scholars for curriculum design and development, learner centered pedagogical strategies such as collaborative learning and assessment. 

Briefly, Backward Design is comprised of three stages: (1) The educator identifies the desired results, i.e. what are the ‘enduring understandings’ that you want the students to retain? What knowledge and skills should the students master? And, What is it worth the students being familiar with? (2) The educator determines what acceptable evidence for those results having been achieved is, and (3) The educator plans the learning experiences and instruction to meet the goals you have set.

A good summary of Backward Design is available at:

The purpose of this FLC will be to:

  • Explore the process of “Backward Design” through reading of explanatory articles, examination and analysis of “Backward-Designed” material, using available “Workbooks” and inviting experts.
  • Provide a supportive and creative environment within which you will take an assignment, lecture or entire course, and “design it backwards.”
  • Evaluate improvements in teaching and student learning that result from the Backward-Designed material or curriculum.

Meeting Times:

Tentative Dates: Weeks of September 9, September 30, October 21, November 18, December 16.


Kate Pound, Atmospheric and Hydrologic Sciences


Nancy Sundheim, Mathematics and Statistics

Mike Rogers, Biology

Kristin Ruth Bratt, Academic Support