Backwards design is intended to both support the organization of course chunks and also to ensure the chunks are aligned. Alignment refers to the connection between the goals, the assignments by which students will demonstrate new learning, and the lessons by which they will learn what they are expected.
The fundamental assumption of education is that students arrive in a class not knowing what they will study, but that as a result of the work directed by the instructor, they will come to know the curriculum and be able to use that knowledge in other settings. By ensuring their course, and all of the chunks are aligned, instructors can be confident they are teaching what they should and that they are actually teaching it and students are actually demonstrating it.
“Academic freedom” is the idea that instructors should be able to teach what they want and how they want to teach it. While this may seem reasonable approach if we believe instructors to be experts in their field, taken to the extreme insistence on academic freedom can interfere with students’ learning and progress towards their degree or other academic goals.
To align their course (and its chunks), instructors:
- Confirm goals
- Frame diverse assignments
- Refine lessons