Backward Design

Backward design, also called backward planning or backward mapping, is a process that educators use to design learning experiences,  instructional materials and teaching techniques to achieve objectives or goals for the course. 

Planning a Course Using “BACKWARD DESIGN”1

In backward design, the Study Leader begins with objectives — what learners are expected to learn and be able to do as an outcome — then creates a sequence of learning experiences to achieve those objectives.   

What the Design Process Looks Like

  • Based on the course objectives, the Study Leader can create focus questions to frame and facilitate learning and guide design of learning experiences.
  • The Study Leader then creates a series of learning experiences to progressively move learners’ understanding toward desired learning outcomes. Learning experiences may include lessons, problems, exercises, projects, lab work, presentations, discussions, along with supporting instructional materials (videos, charts, timelines, speakers, maps, etc.).
  • While Osher Study Leaders do not evaluate learners' work, the Study Leader should review and reflect on the success of learning experiences and learners’ progress in attaining course objectives.  Continually ask:  what do I want learners to know and be able to do at the end of this class or course.  

Start THINKING BACKWARDS, not chronologically

Define the course objectives, identify content, develop learning experiences that will engage the adult learner, review and reflect on success in attaining course objectives.

How you can use backward design to plan and create your course


1Glossary of Education Reform, Great Schools Partnership

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