The backwards planning model is a method teachers can use to plan the content, means of instruction and assessments they will use throughout the school year. This method begins planning with the end in mind, working backwards from the larger academic goal towards the individual lessons and activities that will help students master the objectives necessary to reach that goal. Teachers must complete a significant amount of planning prior to the start of the year in order to successfully implement the backwards plan model.
Identifying Learning Goals
The backward plan model is only effective if a clear learning goal is identified. According to the Center for Teaching and Learning at The University of California Berkeley, clearly defined learning goals give structure to the classroom activity and help teachers select the proper assessment tools, content and grading methods. The learning goal answers the question, “What do I want my students to know after this unit or course of study is completed?” State grade-level academic standards help identify specific expected outcomes for your subject area.
Creating Summative Assessments
Summative assessments are high stakes examinations, usually given at the conclusion of a unit to evaluate student learning. During the backwards planning process, assessments are carefully created once the learning goals have been identified, using the means of assessment that will be most effective in demonstrating student mastery of the subject matter. Assessment measures like performance-based tasks give students the opportunity to apply learning to real world scenarios. More traditional criteria-referenced exams explicitly test students' knowledge, skill and retention of what has been taught.
Unlike learning goals, lesson objectives are specific, measurable outcomes that you can see your students doing as the result of a lesson. The objectives pinpoint the specific knowledge, concepts and understandings that a student will need to answer each question on the summative assessment. As a guide, you can begin each objective with the phrase “Students will be able to … ,” ensuring that each objective outlines a measurable outcome. For example, the science objective, "Students will be able to compare and contrast igneous and sedimentary rock" gives a clear task for students to complete.
Lesson plans are tools that help teachers guide students to make connections between long and short-term learning outcomes. Presentations and activities incorporating multiple methods of instruction that appeal to students of all learning styles should be incorporated into each lesson plan. In the backward plan model, each lesson is a necessary step towards achieving the curriculum unit goal. To ensure that students gain comprehension at all phases of learning, formative assessments which check for understanding should be built into each lesson plan.
- Univeristy of California Berkley: What are Learning Goals
- Association for Middle Level Education: Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom
- Understanding by Design: Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe
- Carnegie Mellon University: What is the Difference Between Formative and Summative Assessment?
- Western Kentucky University: Principles of Backward Design
- Teaching As Leadership: Backwards Plan Your Year and Units
- West Virginia Department of Education: Examples of Formative Assessment
- Center for Research on Learning and Teaching: Strategies for Effective Lesson Planning
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