Backwards Design: My End is my Beginning

Learning Targets, Objectives, and/or Goals are synonymous terms for the skills we would like students to glean from our course and able to apply readily at future junctures, academic and otherwise. These objectives can range from conversational to compositional skills, as well as from memorization to creation. The key is for us to understand what we are asking and expecting of students before we assign particular tasks and, further, how each of these tasks lay a necessary groundwork for our objectives for the semester. For example, if our primary objective for this workshop is–attendees should be able to create a primary learning objective, and the secondary objectives that are necessary to achieve it–then we need to proceed through more marginal objectives to get there.

Thus, attendees should be able to:

  1. understand the distinction between the verbs describing cognitive processes
  2. apply the cognitive process verbs to create a few off-hand objectives
  3. analyze those off-hand objectives in relation to Categories of Knowledge
  4. evaluate those off-hand objectives in relation to Categories of Knowledge
  5. and finally, create an applicable set of Learning Objectives to guide a rudimentary syllabus outline

1. Attendees should be able to understand the distinction between the cognitive processes verbs

Remember:  Retrieve relevant knowledge from long-term memory.

Understand:  Construct meaning from “instructional” messages, includes oral, written, and graphic communication.

Apply:  Carry out and use a procedure in a given situation.

Analyze:  Break materials into constituent parts and determine how parts relate to one another and overall structure or purpose.

Evaluate:  Make judgments based on criteria and standards.

Create:  Put elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganize elements into a new pattern or structure.

This is where assessment needs to be considered; in other words, how Hans and I are going to judge whether or not the necessary skills have been conveyed and absorbed successfully. As there is a wide range of skills that need to be acquired before creation happens, there is a also a wide range of assessment methods to check the process. What terms you use in your understanding/writing of your own objectives will help to narrow assessment options. Our  method of assessment  for evaluating the efficiency of your  understandingof these terms is head nods and the wake in which there are no further questions. The next step will use a different assessment method. We move on now.

2. Attendees should be able to apply the cognitive process verbs to create a few off-hand objectives.

Take a few minutes to think about the crowning project of your course. What abilities will your students have to demonstrate? For example, my 211 students should be able to  understand the relationship between individual texts and the larger social/historical issues they invoke.  I will be able to assess this based on what they include in their introductions and/or conclusions

Write two primary/semester Learning Objectives.

This step practices a different assessment method in that we will have volunteers share their objectives and as a group we will  analyze  and  evaluate  them to see if they are ambitious enough to serve as a primary objectives or would better function as a step along the way. Here, we assess attendee’s ability to  apply  what we took for  understood  and  createfunctional objectives. The groups’ ability to  analyze  these generous offerings will further validate our accurate assessment of  understanding and lead us into a deeper realm of knowledge.

3. Attendees should be able to analyze those off-hand objectives in relation to Categories of Knowledge.

4. Attendees should be able to evaluate those off-hand objectives in relation to Categories of knowledge.

Categories of Knowledge:

Factual Knowledge:  The basic elements students must know to be acquainted with a discipline or to solve problems within it. (Cognitive processes verbs)

Conceptual Knowledge: The interrelationships among the basic elements within a larger structure that enable them to function together. (Where we are now, at this very instant [almost]!)

Procedural Knowledge:  How to do something, methods of inquiry, and criteria for using skills, algorithms, techniques, and methods. (When we get to outlining.)

Metacognitive Knowledge:  Knowledge of cognition in general as well as awareness and knowledge of one’s own cognition.

This framework is essentially a metaphor for the progression a student makes when all they have learned as amounted to an understanding of their participation in one of the many speculative angles; they have come to see themselves, found a “community” of similarly inclined thought wherein they are positioned, and, further, the many other nuclei–IDEALISM! FEED IT!

Now we discuss and, again, Hans and I assess via cease questions and head nods. Great.

5) Attendees should be able to create an applicable set of Learning Objectives and rudimentary syllabus  outline.

Now, let’s get into groups of 3 or 4 and  create  Learning Objectives that prod the higher echelons of the Categories of Knowledge.

1) Come to a consensus on two primary Learning Objectives and how you would assess them in a final paper/project.

2) Outline the secondary objectives necessary to achieve each Learning Objective.

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