Backwards Design is an outcomes-centered and learner-focused process for designing (or redesigning) a course.

In Backward Design, you work through the following questions, in order, as you design your course:

  • What are the course’s outcomes? What will students know and be able to do by the end of the course?
  • What kind of evidence will allow your students to demonstrate their knowledge and/or competency?
  • What materials and activities will get them there?

This outcomes-first process helps focus your course on student achievement and growth. It also provides an opportunity to think more about the relevance of your content and assessments. Do they really do what you want them to do? You can also use this process to consider how your course design might support equity and inclusion in both your content and the ways you ask students to demonstrate and produce knowledge.

Our Course Design Form walks you through the Backward Design process, from College-required course outcomes all the way to a week-by-week plan.

Here is an introductory video by Rebecca Mills explaining how Backwards Design works at the activity and course levels.

For more, check out this additional video by the Centre for Learning, Teaching, and Technology at the University of British Columbia, which provides further details and ideas.

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