Tips for Course Planning

Nov 11 2009

Tips for Course Planning

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Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe provide helpful course design strategies in Understanding by Design. One of the most compelling portions of their work is their presentation of backwards design, a process that forefronts the results we want students to achieve and then works backwards through acceptable evidence that students have achieved those results and through learning experiences and instruction that support students’ progress.

  1. Backwards Design – Enduring Understanding
    Wiggins and McTighe begin backwards design by asking faculty to consider what students should develop an enduring understanding of, what is important for students to know and do, and what is worth knowing. In English 110, our objectives and shared experiences fit this category of “enduring understanding” and should serve as our starting point for our course planning. **Please list the course objectives – as they are articulated in your ENG 110 faculty notebook and on the course website – on your syllabus. This simple step helps demonstrate to students and others that we have shared learning outcomes for the course, even though we each may employ different assignments to support those outcomes. Thanks for your help!**
  2. Backwards Design – Acceptable Evidence of Learning
    The next step in backwards design is determining acceptable evidence. How do we know that students have met the objectives or achieved our desired results? What assignments and classroom activities might provide evidence that students have met learning outcomes (our objectives)?
  3. Backwards Design – Learning Experiences and Instruction
    Finally, Wiggins and McTighe encourage teachers to brainstorm what learning experiences and instruction students will need to successfully progress towards the desired outcomes. For instance, what do we need to teach students about source use and what types of practice can we provide them in order to help them prepare to synthesize research to support an argument? What learning experiences and instruction do we need to provide to prepare students to produce the assignments we identified in step 2 as acceptable evidence of learning?


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