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howtocbc Pulse: 🚀 Get Ahead with Backward Design

howtocbc Pulse: 🚀 Get Ahead with Backward Design
By howtocbc • Issue #7 • View online
Hello dear reader!
Welcome back.
In today’s issue we present a step-by-step framework to get you started on your course creation, Backward Design of Your Cohort Based Course. 

What is Backward Design?
Backward Design is an outcome focused research backed method of course design which starts from Learner Outcomes and works backwards to figure out the steps necessary to achieve these outcomes. What this means is that curriculum content, assessment methods, and activities all follow logically from the Learner Outcomes laid out at the start.
This design methodology is a natural consequence of applying Learner Centred Teaching to instructional design. The emphasis is on creating the right conditions for students to achieve their outcomes.
Why must you use Backward Design?
👨🏻‍🎓 For Students: Better Learning Experience 
Backward Design’s focus on achievable, measurable learner outcomes sets clear expectations for students and helps them focus. Students that are empowered to take charge of their own learning are known to achieve better results. By the end of the course, the learner can both apply and clearly communicate their newly acquired skills. 
👨‍🏫 For Instructors: Efficiency and Agile Course Development
Backward Design ensures that all elements of a course, from content to assessment to activities, coherently build up to learner outcomes. This keeps the course well-defined and efficient. 
In addition, frequently gathering evidence throughout the course provides fast feedback loops. Instructors can continually improve and orient their teaching towards outcomes.
🤝 For the Business: Better Outcomes drive more Business
A course curriculum allied to well-defined course outcomes makes course marketing much more targeted. Course creators can market the course to the right audience and clarify what the course helps a student achieve. When a student leaves the course with quantifiable, verifiable achievements, they provide far richer and more impactful testimonials.
Four Stages of Backward Design
Stages of Backward Design
Stages of Backward Design
Stage 1: 💥 Identify Learner Outcomes
This stage starts with finding your niche area of expertise and a suitable audience that can benefit from it. Afterwards, you craft actionable learner outcomes for your course using the problems your students want solved. Check our blog for a deep dive.
Stage 2: 🔎 Define Acceptable Evidence of Learning
Identify practical evaluation criteria for students and instructors to measure outcomes. The various types of evidence and metrics identified now can later be used to judge if the stated goals for the course are being met and to what degree.
For complex course level learner outcomes, the evidence may be long term tasks synthesizing various ideas learnt throughout the course such as a solo or group project. For an art course, it could be creating a work of art and writing a description to reflect their understanding. For smaller lesson level outcomes, the evidence can be smaller in scale such as case studies, in-class quizzes and polls, minute papers (sample), or other short tasks. 
There can also be independent evidence from third parties. For a computer programming course, such evidence can include taking part in a public coding competition
Stage 3: ℹ️ Create a Roadmap
After outlining the outcomes and evidence, find pathways to take your students from where they are prior to taking your course to the outcomes. List the know-how, skill set and specific tasks they must be able to complete to arrive at their outcomes. It is important to lay these out in a logical sequence and helpful to mark their complexity. If you are a visual thinker, you may find concept maps helpful.
Stage 4: 👨🏻‍🎓 Plan Learner Experience
Based on the roadmap, create the learning environment for students.
💼 Organise the course into lessons. List down outcomes for each lesson. Create or curate appropriate content for the outcomes.
👨‍🏫 Choose suitable methods of instruction and active learning 🏃 for each outcome - lecture, solo task, group task etc. Decide what the student needs to do asynchronously and what in a live cohort.
🛠️ List down various tools that need to be used. Our letter on tech stack for CBCs could give you some ideas.
🔁 Iterate. Designing an activity or lesson plan may prompt refinement of learner outcomes. You may also need to go back and forth between course level outcomes and lesson level outcomes to ensure overall cohesion. So be patient! 
📊 Use data. Design several points of engagement in your course to get feedback on how the student is learning, and where they are struggling. Act on the feedback to tailor your methods to drive outcomes. 
👷‍♀️ Apply. To some of us backward design may be logical and come naturally. To some others among us, it may be a completely new method that requires breaking old habits. As a starter, try applying backward design to everyday tasks around you. For example: How would you teach your 93 year old grandparent to play music on their smartphone?
⚠️ A word of caution. Beware of over-designing your course. Take care not to define outcomes, content or tasks too narrowly. After identifying main learner outcomes for the course, it is crucial to allow room for personalization and for students to find their own paths to learning and understanding. 
One last thing…
As you start to apply backward design and discover it’s magic, consider joining our next cohort and find your tribe of fellow teacher-creators!
Until next time 👋,
Team howtocbc
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