Sept 23, 2008

McGlynn School


What is backward design?

Backward design begins with the end in mind:
  • What enduring understandings do I want my students to develop?
  • How will my students demonstrate their understanding when the unit is completed?
  • How will I ensure that students have the skills and understand the concepts required on the summative assessment?

These are the kinds of questions that teachers pose at the earliest stages of the backward design planning process. By beginning with the end in mind, teachers are able to avoid the common pitfall of planning forward from activity to activity, only to find that some students are prepared for the final assessment while others are not. Using backward design, teaching for understanding, and requiring students to apply and demonstrate their learning are not new concepts. Many of the best teachers have been using this approach, even if they didn't have a name for it. The resources on the linked web pages below attempt to explain the backward design planning process and show how it can be used to design thematic, multi-genre units that promote enduring understanding.


This lesson organizer shows the relationship of standards and the essential question to goals and objectives. The guiding questions are written in a student-friendly format. After examining the sample, complete an organizer for your lesson using the template .



Overview: Backward Design Process

Lesson Organizer Template



What is historical thinking? Why does it matter?

"Historical thinking matters. Not only does it matter, it needs to be learned."

"Boring names, facts, dates - this is history for a lot of people. But historians think about history differently. They see themselves as detectives, often unsure about what happened, what it means, and rarely able to agree amongst themselves. This process of trying to figure out things you don't already know is as different from mindless memorization as you can get."

The Historical Thinking Matters team provides a "framework that teaches students to read documents like historians. Using these 'habits of mind,' they will be able to interrogate historical sources and use them to form reasoned conclusions about the past. Equally important, they will become critical users of the vast historical archives on the web."
View the FLASH movie Why Historical Thinking Matters where Professor Sam Wineburg of Stanford University discusses how historians investigate what happened in the past.


Visit the following links to learn more.

Backward Design Process
Understanding by Design Exchange Web site
If you join as a member (free) you can share with other faculty and develop online curriculum using their online instructional design templates.

Second chapter of "Understanding by Design"
PowerPoint presentation on Project-Based Learning and plan your results using Backward Design

Historical Thinking
Historical Thinking Matters
History Matters (Making Sense of Evidence) Scholars In Action presents case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence.
Analyzing 19th Century Letters (Written in 1846 and 1848 by labor activist, reformer, and entrepreneur Sarah Bagley who advocated on behalf of the young female workers employed in textile mills in Lowell to Angelique Martin, a prominent reformer and champion of women's rights.)
Overview of Standards in Historical Thinking
Picturing Modern America


Submit completed lesson template by September 23.