Understanding By Design – The Problem of Goal Setting

One of the cornerstones of Wiggins and McTighe’s “Understanding by Design” philosophy is backward design. The idea of backward design means that a teacher first focuses on the outcomes or results and then choose materials and approaches to reach that goal and measure their students’ ability.
The problem with implementing backward design is that a teacher’s goal may not always jive with the goals of the school, the district or state. With the shifting tides of the Common Core added in to the mix, getting teachers’ goals aligned with administrative goals, etc. is more difficult.

Some would argue that Common Core hasn’t changed the goals and that only the means have changed. Students still need to learn fractions, for example, but the methodologies have changed. But once the assessment changes, that has an effect on the goals; a teacher needs to ensure that each student meets new standards and then choose new materials and approaches to ensure that.

This is not limited to Common Core changes. This is something that relates to backward design in general. While backward design is still an important educational approach, teachers need to be as focused on precisely defining goals as they are in developing the processes and approaches to reach those goals.