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Cambridge LibGuides

Tools for Teaching

Backwards Design: guidance from Alison Hicks, UCL

The guidance below on 'Backward Design: Designing for Teaching and Learning' is from Alison Hicks, Department of Information studies, University College London (UCL). A Microsoft Word version of the content can be downloaded via the link at the end of this section.

Design your teaching session according to what you want your students to learn i.e. start with the learning objectives.

Learning objectives (LOs) describe what students should be able to demonstrate, represent or produce as a result of their learning. The LOs can build a structure for your session and communicate to the students how to be successful.

Write learning outcomes in order to start designing a lesson plan. Be careful not to be too specific or broad.

Learning outcomes should be:

  • Measurable
  • Clear to student and teacher
  • Outcomes need to match the level of the student, the course and the time available
  • You could use Bloom’s Taxonomy so that your outcomes represent a variety of levels using vocabulary
  • Outcomes should integrate with course material (LIS sessions can be one-off)

Image version of Bloom's Taxonomy diagram. Adapted text version for accessibility can be downloaded via the link at the bottom of this section.

A diagram outlining the concepts in Bloom's Taxonomy. Adapted text version linked below for screen readers.

When thinking about designing your session you might want consider whether your teaching is inspired by Behaviourist (Skinner, 1968) or Constructivist/Social Constructivist (Bruner, 1966; Vygotsky, 1978) teaching theories or pedagogy.

Think about Assessment of learning. It is good to have reflective, authentic assessment of learning. Formative or summative assessment? Use performance assessment, which requires students to perform a task rather than select an answer from a ready-made list. Assessment needs to help you assess your learning outcomes.

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