CECS 5510 – Week 4 Activity 4

Using UNT libraries databases locate an instructional design model with which you are not currently familiar. In your Blog answer and discuss the following:

  • What was the model
  • What is the point of the model?
  • How is the model different from what you already know? How is it the same?
  • Is this model something you may use? Why or why not?
  • How is an ID model different from a theoretical model (i.e. social constructivism)? Why is this distinction important?
  • Do you think such a differentiation will matter for a client?

In the UNT libraries databases I found an article on Backward Design. The idea of Backward Design comes from Grant Wiggins & Jay McTighe and suggests that learning should be planned with the final assessment in mind. Backward design creates instruction by first looking at the desired results then developing the curriculum based on what is an acceptable measure of learning and then deciding what is the particular teaching that students need in order to produce the desired performance. For example, if an algebra teacher determines the desired result is that their students understand the ‘FOIL’ method of multiplying two binomials, then the acceptable measure of learning is that students can successfully complete the ‘FOIL’ step on a test and the particular teaching needed might be a hands-on-activity of completing the ‘FOIL’ method steps.

The Backwards Design method of instructional design is different from other models I know because it is … backwards. (Sorry for the poor description but that’s the best word to put here.) Instructional design thus far starts with stating what needs to be taught and ends with assessing if the lesson was learned. Backward Design doesn’t do an end assessment to determine if what was supposed to be learned was actually learned. The assessment is in the middle of the Backward Design.

The Backward Design is the same as other theoretical models, like social constructivism, in that constructivists believe that learning is an active process (Tram, 2000). Constructivists believe, however, that knowledge is constructed by people and doesn’t exist outside the human mind (Tram, 2000) and Backward Design operates on the premise that students will acquire knowledge as a result of performance (Fox & Doherty, 2011).

I will probably not directly use the Backward Design method of instructional design. I will, however, keep the end goal in mind when creating instruction. There is a purpose to teaching which is evident in the key elements of Backward Design:

* The importance of what students learn rather than what faculty teach; i.e. the value of student learning outcomes rather than on topic “coverage”

* A need to design curriculum to help students achieve these outcomes

* The recognition that topic expertise does not necessarily closely track with course design so there needs to be collaboration

* The understanding that different delivery modes may necessitate radically different course designs

* An explicit recognition of the value of education that occurs outside the classroom (Fox & Doherty, 2011).

I like the concept of instructors teaching how to learn rather than merely providing facts and figures for students to regurgitate during the test. In my experience memorizing for the test does not result in retention of learning material.

The argument against Backward Design is that it supports ‘teaching to the test.’ This concept is the very reason some grade school teachers no longer teach. They were frustrated that their job had become centered on making sure the students pass the state standardized test instead of stimulating the minds of the students so they can think and learn. In our current education system, instructors are supposed to teach material that students need to know by the next assessment. This method doesn’t help students develop learning skills.

I think the type of design I use to create instruction should matter to my clients, but I am not sure if my clients understand or care about the difference as long as the end result is the same. I once found an explanation of instructional design that basically said learning happens, everywhere, all the time. The role of the instructional designer is to focus the students’ attention on what needs to be learned and help make sense of the material. For this reason I don’t think clients pay much attention to how something is taught as long as the students learn what is taught. There is an exception – if the clients feel the teaching method is too unusual or significantly different than the established normal teaching method they are already comfortable with, then the clients don’t particularly like it. It is difficult to accept change.



Fox, B., Doherty, J. (2011). Design to learn, learn to design: Using backward design for information literacy instruction. Communication in Information Literacy. 5(22). 144-155.

Tram, M. (2000). Constructivism, instructional design, and technology: Implications for transforming distance learning. Educational Technology & Society. 3(2). Retrieved from http://www.ifets.info/journals/3_2/tam.html


CECS 5510 – Week 4 Activity 4

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