Backward Design and Why It Matters

Good instructional design begins with the end in mind. Learn why having clear objectives first, and then determining how those objectives are met, is the foundation for all Instructional Design.

How do you determine the content of your course? Why do you do certain activities with your students? What types of assessments do you have and why to you do them that way? What are the overarching outcomes of your course? The use of backward design is focused primarily on student learning and understanding. Backward design is beneficial to instructors because it innately encourages intentionality during the design process. It continually encourages the instructor to establish the purpose of doing something before implementing it into the curriculum. Therefore, backward design is an effective way of providing guidance for instruction and designing lessons, units, and courses.

Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins

The incorporation of backward design also lends itself to transparent and explicit instruction. If the teacher has explicitly defined the learning goals of the course, then they have a better idea of what they want the students to get out of learning activities. Furthermore, if done thoroughly, it eliminates the possibility of doing certain activities and tasks for the sake of doing them. Every task and piece of instruction has a purpose that fits in with the overarching goals and goals of the course.


This section was adapted from Vanderbilt University by St. Norbert College and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License