Backward Design

A strategy that has been helpful in assisting faculty with course design is outlined in a book by Dee Fink titled: Creating significant learning experiences: an integrated approach to designing college courses. In his book, Fink speaks of the “Backward Design” where the faculty member starts off thinking about what they would like to see as the end result of a student taking their course (Figure 1). Fink suggests that faculty ask themselves, “What do I hope the students will have learned that will remain with them throughout their educational experience and beyond?” From there, faculty work backwards to build a course that will help students gain the knowledge, skills and values necessary to achieve the final result. In building one’s course with the intent of creating significant learning experiences, it is instructive to remember the paradigm of student-centered learning, where the focus is on what students need to learn and do, rather than on what faculty need to teach. It is no longer acceptable for a faculty member to stand at the front of the room and lecture for the allotted course time with little to no interaction from the students. A quick review of learning theory will help to further support this point.

Figure 1. Backward Course Design.9
Backward course design