Backwards Planning: Essential to Successful Lessons and Units

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Self Directed Learning Tasks to Help You Become an Expert in Backwards Planning.

Our desired outcome as a result of the playlist/content below is for YOU to plan your learning activities beginning with the END in Mind FIRST. This OUTCOME will be measured by your sharing your completed lesson plan, assessments with evaluation rubrics before teaching your lesson.

Your lesson will be evaluated using the criteria described by PBL Works. Please email them to for feedback.


  1. Read this article on Backwards Planning. The article is the first chapter of the book Understanding by Design by Wiggins and McTythe. This is the WHY the best teachers plan this way.
  2. Listen to the recording about Backwards Planning on this CultofPedagogy blog.
  3. Read the text below and begin to craft your lesson/ unit plan. Follow the directions. This is the recommended template for planning a unit of learning.

Key difference between a good teacher and an outstanding one is INTENTION.  Intention defined by something one wants and plans to do.  All teachers plan and know that in practice/ action plans will shift but the challenge is how to stay focused towards the goal, the outcomes by students.

Using Grant Wiggins & Jay McTighe Understanding by Design (2005) approach this workshop will provide one with the tools needed to design a highly effective scheme of learning that can supplant lesson plans with the exception of formal observations.

To help get us started before going to I would suggest you begin with a large piece of paper and respond to the series of key questions below:

Stage 1: (Begin with the end in mind.)

  1. What should learners know, understand, and be able to do at the end of your course (module, unit…)?  Consider by June, 20XXX what will learners have achieved by the end?
  2. What 10 key skills do learners need to demonstrate mastery in in order to achieve these outcomes?
  3. How are learners assessed on their achievement?  What is the format, method and how does it match with the original goals of the course?

Stage 1a: (How to motivate learners and consider big picture.)

  1. Now, knowing what you know what provocative questions can you generate that to answer would be a demonstration of mastery, deep thinking, learner achievement?  These are termed the essential questions for your course that guide the learners’ journey.

Stage 2 ( Assessment and Feedback)

  1. Match the assessment to answering these questions- or design an assessment that will demonstrate learners’ knowledge and mastery to be able to feedback to learners with.  For example:
  2. How will we know if learners have achieved the desired results?
  3. What will we accept as evidence of learner understanding and their ability to use (transfer) their learning in new situations?
  4. How will we evaluate learner performance in fair and consistent ways and feedback to learners their progress and specifically areas to further develop to achieve course mastery?

In courses where assessment criteria is set one of the keys is to be sure that part of the teaching includes teaching learners what is expected of them and how to read and interpret the feedback.  Collectively teachers spend too much time writing feedback with learners receiving it and not being clear on what to do in the future to improve.

Be clear on the priorities for assessment.  This tool can help:

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Stage 3: Planning of Units, Modules, Lessons  (Here is where the fun can take place keeping the eye on the target.)

  1. Considering the big picture- what are the key ‘happenings’ in your department during the year to be aware of?  Have you collectively adopted any themes or common approaches towards including equality/ diversity, School Values, English, math…?
  2. Calendar: Looking at the calendar how might you order the modules and assessment tasks?  Consider terms, holiday time, and department pressures.  Map out the skills learners will need to master in order to achieve the course goals.
  3. Identify what reinforcements learners may need to achieve- be pro-active and prevent any misconceptions.
  4. Begin to shape each module, the essential questions, and apply Kolb’s Learning Cycle to the teaching.    Here are a few templates to use for planning. Option 1; Option 2. Send/Share your plans and assessments to Mara. Her email is: for feedback.
  5. Consider your learner diagnostic at the beginning of the course, and each module to know and identify what they already know and what more they need to achieve.

Most of all once planned- review and revise often as this tool becomes a living guidebook  for you and your learners over the rest of the year.  Don’t change the goals but be flexible on the pathway.