Curriculum Development: Backward Design

The Tyler model is the “way” of developing curriculum for most of the past 70 years. One variation of the Tyler model is the Backward Design model by Wiggins and McTighe. The model is backward because it changes the order of the steps in the Tyler model.

Let’s review the four steps of the Tyler model.

  1.  Develop objectives
  2. Identify experiences related to objectives
  3. Organize experiences
  4. Evaluate objectives

The Backward Design model simplifies the already simple Tyler model. The steps are below.

  1. Develop objectives (aka outcomes)
  2. Determine evidence that objectives are met (this is step four in Tyler’s model)
  3. Identify learning experiences related to objectives (this is step two in Tyler’s model)

The changes are as follows. Step four and two in Tyler’s model have switch places. Step Four jump to step two in the Backward Design and step two moves to step three. The original step three in the Tyler model is removed because organization is assumed in Backward Design. Backward Design is backward because developing assessment now comes before determining learning experiences. This is backward from the perspective of the Tyler model

The reason for developing assessment before learning experiences is that by creating your assessment first, it helps to make sure that your learning experiences are consistent with the assessment you developed in advanced. Many times, teachers beginning teaching and create their assessment at the last minute. By doing this, sometimes the assessment addresses concepts that were not taught. By developing the assessment first, it helps the teacher to know what they need to cover in their learning experiences with the students.

The three steps of Backward Design are a small improvement in the Tyler model. Most accredited K-12 schools in the US use this model for developing curriculum.  These simple steps of developing objectives, determining your assessment, and planning learning experiences, is a practical model that is used extensively.

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