Backwards Design and Outcomes

Backward Design

1. McTighe and Rhomas. “Backward Design for Forward Action” – Backward design is useful for improving schools as a whole. Sometimes, however, the end that is focused on is higher standardized test scores, to the alienation of deeper learning. By “unpacking” the institutionalized standards teachers can teach students to answer complex questions while also preparing them for testing. While multiple choice tests are one useful way to assess learning in order to get the bigger picture other methods of assessment should be added. Creating the plan for school improvement should be done carefully, while looking at the shoal school and its structure. 
While I was working on my application to the BYU IP&T program I was asked to take the GRE. I am not sure how much weight was put on my GRE score during the admittance process, but I was informed that it would be very difficult for me to gain acceptance if my score was too low. It is often too difficult to spend too much time with each applicant, causing institutions to use more easily quantified standards to determine success and failure, even though other assessments might more accurately predict success within a program.

2. Wiggins and McTighe. “What is Backward Design? – Backward Design is planning learning experiences based on the desired end result. The first step in Backward Design is to identify desired results, in a classroom station this means asking what the students should be learning in both the long and short term from this experience. This step also involves identify8ing the information that is least and most important for the students to retain into adulthood. The next step is to decide what will provide evidence that the goal has been accomplished. This encouraged educators to find or create assessments that fit their learning outcomes and students’ needs. Such evidence should be collected in various ways throughout the learning experience. The final steps is to plan the actual learning experience that will lead to the accomplishment of the previously understood evidence and results. A teacher will match the goals with information, skills, activities, materials and structure that are most likely to accomplish them. One professor meticulously crafts each of his classes this way. At the begging of each semester he presents the students with learning outcomes and a detailed plan for the semester wherein every assignment and activity is directed toward the accomplishment of one or more learner outcomes. 
One professor I have taken classes from meticulously crafts each of his classes this way. At the begging of each semester he presents the students with learning outcomes and a detailed plan for the semester wherein every assignment and activity is directed toward the accomplishment of one or more learner outcomes. This contributes to learning and especially to the needs of college students, who can clearly see that none of the activities are “busy work”. 
3. Wiggins and McTighe – “Understanding by Design”
This book explores understanding and the concepts that make it up. It also focuses on the design of experiences and assessments that promote understanding. 
The book opens with four vignette’s that highlight an issue with understanding in today’s educational system.
Vignette 1 describes a common problem experienced when students work toward a grade on an assent instead of understanding. They may earn good marks, but will not finish the experience with pride in their work or lasting skills. 
Vignette 2 describes a school wherein curriculum is integrated across subjects, allowing students a memorable experience that may not, however, produce success in targeted learner outcomes.
Vignette 3 is an example of the consequences of teaching processes but not how to apply them to real world circumstances.
Vignette 4 describes an unfortunate situation in which a teacher must remove helpful learning activities from his curriculum in favor of rushing through material to try to prepare students for a standardized test. This approach will likely not contribute as much to their long term learning. 
Chapter 1 covers Backward Design as covered earlier.
Chapter 2 focuses on goals, and determining which are worth the most attention. Curriculum focused on understanding points out difficult to understand ideas and makes them easier to grasp. Designers must be able to see the issues from the position of the students in order to pull out that which is most difficult for them to learn and prioritize learning experiences accordingly. Some knowledge is worth spending time to internalize, but other knowledge can be given a more cursory treatment. Questions are one way to spotlight the important topics and to give students an avenue to a greater depth of thought, as long as they are of the sort that require thought and time to answer. Questions can also be used to introduce a unit and invite students to think critically about something they have previously accepted at face value.
I had a history class in high school that was made almost completely of easy and repetitive worksheets with movies and games to break up the monotony. Because of the organization of the class it was impossibly to determine which information was most important, and because I couldn’t take every detail in it all seemed equally unimportant. 
Learner Outcomes
1. Developing Learner Outcomes – Learner outcomes are those skills, knowledge etc. that students should have acquired after completing the learning experience. They are not simply topics, but broader changes in the abilities of the individuals. Learning outcomes help teachers to plan towards goals and allow students to to understand the trajectory of the course. Good learning outcomes are specific and can be measured, which allows teachers and students to easily assess whether or not they have been met.
I think that most of my professors have had learner outcomes before, but in most cases they have been glanced at in the syllabus and forgotten. This can be difficult because often at the end of a course I have learned many things, but they are often scattered and I am unable to group them into any cohesive results of the course experience.
2. “Techniques and Methods for Writing Objective and Performance Outcomes” – Performance outcomes and assessments outline the kind of learning desired and should be as specific as possible so that they can be easily measured. The Mager format includes the expectations of the learner, the constraints of the environment and the criteria for success. the Gagne and Briggs format add t the Mager format an object to be achieved and the possibility of tools needed. The ABCD format add to the Mager format an audience to plan for. 
As perviously discussed many learner outcomes are vague. These formats allow educators to create outcomes that fit their specific class’ needs and constraints, which gives the class a reachable goal to work toward. 
3. Forehand “Bloom’s Taxonomy” – Bloom used his taxonomy to classify levels of thinking. Each level encompasses the level before it. The original taxonomy is as follows: 1) knowledge 2) comprehension 3) application 4) synthesis and 5) evaluation. In recent years it has been updated to 1) remembering 2) understanding 3) applying 4) analyzing 5) evaluating and 6) creating and organized and changed structurally to add a focus on its dimensions: knowledge and the cognitive process. Blooms Taxonomy assists teachers in denitrifying how best to spend their time to cultivate learning and prepare students to meet standards. 
One of my professors used Bloom’s Taxonomy in our major assessments. He assigned several essays in each exam, each about a group of terms or ideas. We were asked define the terms, and explain them to demonstrate understanding. Then, in order to receive the highest grade, we were asked to synthesize these ideas with others within our course or within the discipline. This pushed us to master the subject matter instead of simply regurgitating the information. 
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