Backward Design: What Will Students Remember in 20 Years?

Three steps of backward design: 1. Identify desired results. 2. Determine acceptable evidence. 3. Plan learning experiences & instruction.


"What Will Your Students Remember From Your Class in 20 Years?" (post) makes a case for backward design (beginning course planning with the desired end goals in mind) based on feedback from several years of asking faculty a simple question: "Twenty years from now, what do [you] hope students will remember from [y]our courses?"

1. The Faculty Responses

"None of [them] listed specific course content as something [they] hoped [their] students would recall in 20 years." 

  • They hoped that what the students had learned would help "to enrich their intellectual lives, to make them into better people, to give them the skills and knowledge they would need to make the world a better place."
  • Specifically, the patterns of response revealed four principal areas of interest: "Passion for the subject ... A sense of disciplinary literacy ... An understanding of how the discipline matters in other realms ... A eye for the big picture" -- each point being elaborated in the post.

2. Connection to Backward Design

"The question provides a means of pushing faculty members toward the process of "backward design."

  • "The premise is simple enough: In designing a course, start with the end in mind."
  • "First decide what you want students to walk away from the course with — knowledge, skills, habits of mind — and then work backward into selecting the materials, activities, and assessments that will help them achieve those goals."
  • "Many faculty members work the other way around — first selecting the content of the course and then devising objectives based on the content."

3. Backward Design Resources

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