Of the many topics that we discussed throughout this semester, one that I found most interesting is the educational practice of Backward Design(BD).I found this method of structuring education to be very interesting because I see many poor ways in which it is being used in education right now, but I also see really effective ways in which it can be used as well. As future educators, we should be looking for the most effective ways to be utilizing teaching techniques, like BD, so that we can promote as much learning as possible in the classroom.
In Module 5 of our class, we watched this video in which Grant Wiggins talks more in-depth about BD, how it should be utilized in the classroom.
I resonated a lot with what Wiggins had to say in this video, especially when he talked about the importance of setting goals for students, so that teachers can assess what students have learned at the end of the course. However, Wiggins, like many other educators, has seen many problems in the way students are assessed in our current system of education. A big cause of this problem is the No Child Left behind Act that the federal government passed back in 2001. Even though this act was created with good intentions, the repercussions of it have been astounding. Jay McTighe and John L. Brown talk more in-depth about these problems that NCLB has caused in their journal, Theory Into Practice. They say, “In many regions, state and district efforts to meet the NCLB continuous improvement targets have resulted in a variety of instructional practices at odds with what educational research confirms are requirements for promoting genuine student engagement, understanding, and longitudinal achievement progress.”(Brown, McTighe 235) From this we see how NCLB has been very detrimental on student learning in the classroom, as well as how teachers evaluate their students, both of which are pivotal aspects of effectively using BD.
In light of all of these problems that NCLB has caused, I really resonate with what Harold I. Lawrance has to say in his Journal, The Mathematics Teacher. He says, “I am in favor of testing, setting clear objectives based on a state’s standards, and implementing assessments as a tool to measure how well schools are doing in meeting those standards. However, having seen how state tests have compounded problems for some school districts, I wonder if there is a better, more efficient way to achieve these goals.”(Lawrance 13) Like Wiggins said in the video, it is very important when using BD for educators to set clear objectives for learning. However, in order to achieve these objectives that teachers have set for their students, we need to look at what we are trying to make students learn, how we are making them learn, and how we assess for these learning objectives.
Thinking about what we should be teaching students, I am reminded of talking about Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning in one of our lectures. In looking at Bloom’s taxonomy, we see that the end goal of educating students should be to make them creative, critical, and autonomous learners, that can effectively apply the course material outside of the classroom. However, as Grant Wiggins has stated in the video above, teachers are not effectively assessing for the end objective of Bloom’s taxonomy. Instead, most teachers just assess how much of the information from the course their students can reiterate back to them through things like tests. This way of assessing students does not motivate them to become better learners, but instead to just get an A in the class. A quote from Anita Woolfolk’s book, Educational Psychology : Active Learning Edition, really encapsulates how assessments should be utilized. “The assessments you give should support students’ motivation to learn–not their motivation to get a good grade.”(Woolfolk, 626) We clearly see how students are being poorly assessed for what we learning objectives we want them to have. The question that is posed then is, how do teachers properly assess for these learning objectives?
One of the most significant things that I have learned about this semester, is project-based learning(PBL). PBL is a teaching technique that I feel really helps put students in a position to attain the this end objective of Bloom’s Taxonomy that we want students to have. Daniella K. Garran also talks about how effective PBL is in her journal The History Teacher. She says, “Though they can be time-consuming, projects are critical for helping students develop curiosity, enthusiasm, independence, and knowledge.”(Garran 381) Yes even though PBL is time consuming, the learning that comes from it is definitely worth the time spent. Thus, PBL is a really great way in which teachers can assess students for these set learning objectives.
Through looking more in-depth at Backward Design, I feel that I have acquired more knowledge about important pedagogical concepts like Bloom’s Taxonomy and project-based learning. Thus, I hope to bring this knowledge about effective uses of Backward Design, through things like project-based learning, into my classroom one day, so that I can help promote the most amount of learning in my classroom as possible.
Garran, D. K. (may 2008). Implementing Project-Based Learning to Create “Authentic” Sources: The Egyptological Excavation and Imperial Scrapbook Projects at the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School. The History Teacher, 41(3), 379-389. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/30036918
Lawrance, H. I. (august 2010). One Mathematics Teachers Thoughts on Assessment. The Mathematics Teacher, 104(1), 12-13. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20876761
McTighe, J., & Brown, J. L. (Summer 2005). Differentiated Instruction and Educational Standards: Is Détente Possible? Theory Into Practice, 44(3), 234-244. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3497003
Woolfolk, A. (2017). Educational psychology: active learning edition. Boston: Pearson.