A good way to keep course planning from becoming overwhelming is to break the process into steps. If you decide to go with a backward design, you can use the three questions from the overview to structure the planning process. For example:

  • Step 1 - Identifying End Goals. You can ask some key questions while approaching this step to help you answer the first question in the overview. Some ideas may include, "What are the main ideas, skills, or knowledge my students should retain?" and "What complex information should my students become familiar with?"

By asking these questions in the first step, it becomes easier to prioritize material and its relevance. There isn't a way for students to learn everything about a field in one class, so an important first step is figuring out how your course will establish or expand upon a foundation of knowledge. University of Wisconsin-Madison's Learning Objectives and Alignment page is another resource to help you work through this step.

  • Step 2 - Providing and Evaluating Evidence. After you figure out exactly what your students should be learning throughout your course, you can start to consider what evidence you want to present to them, and what evidence you will observe to assess their retention (for more on assessment, consider the Knute Broady Collection's Assessment page). Important considerations include, "What materials will help achieve desired results?" and "What evidence will I accept that they have retained important information?"

Doing this after Step 1 allows you to prioritize your materials based on your primary learning goals and figure out what methods of assessment are best for your class. Consider using expansive means of assessment to ensure students retain desired information, allowing you to adjust the provided materials where gaps may arise. University of Wisconsin-Madison's Instructional Materials page can assist in working through this step.

  • Step 3 - Visualizing Your Course. How do you want your course to look in application? Are there any key learning strategies or activities that will be helpful to student retention (for more on this, consider the Knute Broady Collection's Active Learning page)? Are there any challenging concepts that will require more attention and designated class time?

This step is a good time to consider yourself as an instructor. By asking these questions after figuring out your assessment strategies and building a foundation of materials, you can begin to fine-tune how these concepts will appear in application. Here, you can finalize primary materials and organize any materials you may want to include in case an adjustment needs to be made during the course. To help make this process easier, consider reviewing Jay McTighe's backward design templates with version 2.0 being the most current.

Be sure during this process to consider how you will be creating a learning environment that will work for students from various backgrounds. Some ways to think about inclusion is by understanding demographics outside of your own and allowing for different learning opportunities so students can showcase their knowledge and comprehension of the material. For more information on inclusion, consider the Knute Broady Collection's Inclusive Teaching page.

If you are having trouble planning out your course, consider the following videos from Verbal to Visual: