Monthly Archives: September 2016

Backward Design

This week we were to find an article that discussed an instructional design model that was unfamiliar to us. I decided to choose the Backward Design model. This model centers around achieving results-focused student-centered learning. The steps as stated by Wiggins & McTighe (n.d, para. 11-13) are to “identify desired results . . . determine acceptable evidence . . .  [and] plan learning experiences and instruction.” Reynolds and Kearns (2016) rephrase them by stating that instructors and instructional designers should begin by creating the learning outcomes, then transition to choosing the most appropriate assessments, and finish by developing the learning activities.

Some critics of this model have said that it is essentially teaching to the test (Culetta, 2013) but I propose that all standardized educational efforts are ultimately teaching to the test, and using Backward Design actually increases instructional design responsibility and accountability by clearly linking the elements of course design to the learning expectations (aka the test). We have standardized testing in elementary and secondary schools, entrance exams for higher education, and certification exams for professional and technical jobs. This model simply asks instructors and instructional designers to think about what they expect students to learn and why as well as design the instruction to meet those expectations.

The instructional design model that I am most familiar with is ADDIE. With ADDIE, you start by determining the needs of the client, move to designing and developing the product, transition to the implementation stage to receive feedback, and then based on the feedback, evaluate the design. With Backward Design, you literally start the design process in reverse. You begin with what you want your learners to accomplish and why. The instructional design is built with the end results in mind, the learning outcomes. The assessments and learning activities align with the learning outcomes because they are developed later and designed around them (Reynolds & Kearns, 2016; Wiggins & McTighe, n.d.). Backward design is similar to ADDIE in that it still requires the instructional designer to use the ADDIE stages. It’s just how you go about that process that’s changed.

I could see myself using the Backward Design method in the future. Pausing to think about what do I really expect students to learn from my instruction and why is useful. Doing so, could save me design time in the long run. By starting my design with solid learning outcomes and developing assessments and activities that fulfill those outcomes, the process should be easier than trying to reverse-fit the outcomes with already planned activities. Those pre-planned activities may or may not result in students learning what I really want them to.

Theories and models are different. A theory is based on principles or ideas (Merriam-Webster, n.d.) and is intangible. A model gives you an example or a pattern to follow and tends to be concrete. In addition, models incorporate or use theories as their foundation. Think of policy and procedure. A policy (theory) gives you the rules, and possibly even the assumptions and reasoning for establishing the rules. A procedure (model) gives you the steps to take action and create something. It’s the same with instructional design. Our models are built around the different learning theories. I believe that the differences between a theory and a model should matter to clients. When the instructional designer can show the client that the design or model for the end product is built using a sound learning theory, it should add weight and validity to the design. As instructional designers, we want our clients to have confidence in our work.


Culetta, R. (2013). Backward Design. Instructional Design. Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Theory. Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary. Retrieved from

Reynolds, H. L., & Kearns, K. D. (2016). A planning tool for incorporating backward design, active learning, and authentic assessment in the college classroom. College Teaching, 1-11. doi:10.1080/87567555.2016.1222575

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (n.d). Understanding by design. Edutopia. Retrieved from

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Instructional design, learning theories, and instruction…oh my!

Thinking - Please wait

(M., 2008)

This week we were required to read three articles. An article provided by our professor, one of our own choosing and one that a peer chose. All of the articles pertained to instructional design, a learning theory, and instruction, whether it was online or blended.

What resonated the most for me from the Savery and Duffy (2001) article, which focused on problem based learning and constructivism, were the concepts of how learning is socially constructed and how important it is that students take ownership of their learning. In their article, they discuss how facts are not facts because of some universal truth but are facts because there is overwhelming agreement about that information (Savery & Duffy, 2001). Until I read this explicitly stated in black and white, I had not fully considered, or understood, how social constructivism truly functions as well as the weight that shared knowledge holds. Knowledge and understanding is based on a give and take and it does require more than one person for this to occur. I see it and experience it daily in my job. In addition, they stress the importance of giving the student ownership of the problem, the solutions, and the entire learning process (Savery & Duffy, 2001). I really like this concept but I think that I need to learn more about the delivery and implementation of it. How do you design learning so that this is possible and that it occurs?

The article by Artemchik (2016) was right up my alley. It focused on a librarian who developed online information literacy tutorials to use in a business course. As I am a business librarian who is interested in learning more about creating online tutorials, I was ecstatic to happen upon this gem. While this article did not explicitly state any theories, it most closely aligned with ADDIE for instructional design and cognitive constructivism for the learning theory. Her tutorials allowed the students to be self-directed learners but still required them to be active participants to construct their knowledge. What stood out the most for me with this article were the authors best practices, i.e., her lessons learned. Artemchik (2016) recommends working closely with the course faculty member to ensure that the tutorials are relevant and relate to course content, that the tutorials are embedded at a point of need for the students so they will use them, that the tutorials contain learning outcomes that are targeted to students so that they can relate to them and will clearly understand the purpose of the activity, and ensure that the tutorials are easy to navigate and use. I would like to learn more about writing learning outcomes that students can easily relate to and internalize.

The article by Loftus, Stavraky & Urquhart (2014) focused on designing multimedia instruction for a nursing course. The authors relied on Merrill’s five principles of instruction and Mayer’s principles for multimedia instruction (Loftus et al., 2014). In this article I was happy that they shared both Merrill’s and Mayer’ principles. I especially like Merrill’s (2002) principles which state that learning should be problem-centered, activate prior knowledge, use demonstration, allow application, and promote reflection and exploration. I plan on reviewing this article throughout this semester as the information will be helpful and relevant for my course design. The main takeaways I have from this article are that multimedia learning needs to incorporate multiple modalities, such as text, images and sound, and that the design of the instruction should help not hinder the learner. For this to occur, extraneous information should be excluded, outlines and headings should be used, placement of images and text should be considered, information should be presented in multiple formats, and the delivery of the content should not overwhelm the student, i.e. cognitive load theory (Mayer, 2014). I have read about this information before in previous classes; however, reading about it again with a different mindset of applying this knowledge brings about new insights and reflections for me about how to design instruction to incorporate these concepts.

All of the articles will impact my design. For my course, I want to create an online information literacy course that focuses on business library resources. To deliver the information, I want to create a series of online tutorials. I want the course and its content to be engaging, interactive, hands-on, easy to navigate and that teaches the students concepts that they will be able to use throughout their entire undergraduate career. It all sounds a bit overwhelming to me at this point, but I know that all I need to do is complete each assignment to the best of my ability. I am excited to embark on this journey.


Artemchik, T. (2016). Using the instructional design process in tutorial development. Reference Services Review, 44, 309-323. doi:10.1108/RSR-12-2015-0050

Loftus, J., Stavraky, T., & Urquhart, B. L. (2014). Design it yourself (DIY): In-house instructional design for online pharmacology. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 19, 645-659. doi:10.1007/s10459-013-9492-2

M., W. (2008). Thinking [Digital image]. Retrieved from

Mayer, R. (2014, July 8). Principles for multimedia learning with Richard E. Mayer. Retrieved from

Merrill, M. D. (2002). First principles of instruction. Educational Technology Research and Development, 50, 43-59.

Savery, J. R., & Duffy, T. M. (2001). Problem based learning: An instructional model and its constructivist framework. (Center for Research on Learning and Technology Technical Report 16-01). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University.

Categories: LTEC 5510 | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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