Flip it into Reverse

Determining what a teacher needs to assess and how they might go about assessing it is a difficult task.  Being able to connect teaching to student learning to students showing their learning is not easy, especially when there is not necessarily a set goal for where teachers should aim for.  That is why it is important to first think about what the end goal should be, and then work backwards from there.

One effective way to work backwards is to use the backwards by design approach, in which teachers first look at what the curriculum outcomes expect the students to understand by the end of the course and then working backwards in terms of what learning needs to happen before the end result is attained until the teacher reaches to the point at which the students are at.  It is a very constructivist approach in which learning one day depends upon that which was learnt the day before.  In this approach, because teachers know what students are supposed to have learned before being able to move onto the next stage, it is that much easier for them to come up with ways of assessing students’ knowledge and abilities, thus allowing teachers and students to have a clear idea of where they are at, where they need to go, and how they are going to get there.

This method is a very effective way to show teachers what needs to be assessed in terms of student learning because of those very reasons.  When students know where they are at, what the goal is to succeed, and what they need to do to bridge that gap, then they are that much more able to be effective, because the path to success is then clearly marked out for them.

What do you think?  Are there other approaches to working with the end in mind?  Do you even agree that backwards designing is a more effective way for teachers to create assessments?  If so, why, and if not, what ways might be more effective?  Thanks for reading.

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