Backwards Planning and Curriculum Design
Backwards Planning from
PEF STEM Innovation Hub
Backwards planning is the methodology used by our faculty in
designing STEM curriculum units of study for our students.
The faculty began the process of backwards planning by
seeking out STEM issues and problems that are current and relevant
in our world. Our school consistently seeks out business,
industry, and higher education partners in this process so that we
are connected to what is happening in the real world.
Our backwards planning process focuses on the below curriculum
design format. For our teachers, this is the guidelines for
how we design and plan each unit prior to the unit implementation.
This process provides a road map for both the teachers and
students of what is essential to learn and be able to do by the end
of the unit.
Step 1: Define the Essential Question or Problem
for the Unit
This is the theme or central idea for the unit.
- Question: How do we __central
- Problem: Design/solve __central
Step 2: Establish the Learning Targets
These are statements that list what a student will learn in the
unit. It should begin with "I can" and state the knowledge
and/or skill. It should be written so that students can
understand the statement.
- I can ___knowledge and/or
Step 3: Create the Performance Task
This is the task or product the student will do for the PBL to
show they have learned the knowledge and/or skill. This
statement should begin with "I will," state the task, say "in order
to," and briefly re-state the learning targets.
- I will __task___ in order to
Step 4: Craft the PBL Rubric
This is where you differentiate between a proficient and advanced
student submission for the PBL. You are scoring the
performance task. The best PBL rubrics are where the criteria
for basic, proficient, and advanced are so clear that students can
Step 5: Generate the Summative Assessment
This assessment should be broken down into sections so that there
is a different grade for each learning target. If you are
testing three learning targets, then the summative assessment will
have three grades. Each section should be broken down by
proficient and advanced, and include the requirements for meeting
each level of proficiency.
Step 6: Generate the Placement Assessment
This assessment should assess learning target knowledge and
comprehension. Students should be scored as either proficient
or non-proficient on the placement assessment. Placement
assessments are used prior to each unit so that students can sign
up for the appropriately placed class in the upcoming unit.
For example, any student who scores proficient on the
placement assessment in science class for the upcoming unit will
have the opportunity to sign up for the advanced section of the
science class in the upcoming unit. These assessments should
be short and relatively quick to administer and score.
Step 7: Collect Digital Curriculum
There are two parts to the digital curriculum.
- Part 1: Curriculum posted to Edmodo for students to do prior to a placement
assessment. Videos are the most frequently used digital items for
this purpose, but you can use other items beyond video.
- Part 2: Curriculum posted to Edmodo for students to do for
practice. These are posted once students have been scheduled into
their classes after the placement
assessment. This is the digital curriculum students will need
throughout the unit.