By Constance Denis, Doctor of Education and Pedagogical Consultant in Technology Integration, Université de Sherbrooke, and Stéphanie Loiselle, Director of Pedagogical Development, Zelexio.
The beginning of the school year means lesson planning for teachers. Have you ever thought about starting with assessment? Backward planning would be appropriate to promote learning (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998). This planning should focus on three main areas: the assessment objectives (learning targets) to be achieved, the assessment methods to be chosen, and the instructional methods to be used.
In pedagogical alignment (Biggs, 1995), we start with the learning targets and move towards the pedagogical methods. We question the objectives to be reached and how to teach so that the learners can reach them. We then ask ourselves about the evaluation methods. How to evaluate in a manner consistent with the pedagogical methods used?
Backward planning mixes up this order by focusing attention on assessment procedures before pedagogical ones. The idea here is to put assessment at the service of learning. We need to think about sustainable learning before anything else. It is essential to think about how to assess content in order to ensure and promote this sustainability.
Imagine a teacher showing learners laboratory techniques in a theoretical manner and the assessment associated with that theory being a manipulative activity. It would be very difficult to argue that this planning is coherent and that the instructional modalities properly prepare learners for the assessment. Assessment is not an end in itself, but a tool for learning. It allows us to establish the strengths and challenges of each individual in relation to their progress. It is trivial that assessment is in line with the instructional modalities.
And how can we ensure such coherence? By planning the evaluation methods before the pedagogical methods. Here are some ideas for backward planning:
Step 1: Identify learning targets
What do you want students to remember about your course? If you were to run into them in 2, 5, or 10 years, what would you like them to remember? What are the essential skills?
If you consider a particular item to be a must-have, it makes sense to include it in your evaluation and teaching activities, which is why it should be planned first. Your essentials should also be linked to the learning objectives. You can add enrichment elements to your courses, but should you necessarily evaluate everything?
Step 2: Determine your evaluation procedures
What evidence do you have that allows you to make a professional judgment about whether training targets have been met? Is this evidence reliable and objective? What choices do you have for assessment (interview, creative project, essay, etc.)? Can you give learners the opportunity to choose their assessment modality from a range to make the assessment enjoyable and effective? In what situation will the student have to implement the learning in an authentic context?
Regardless of the decisions made regarding assessment modalities, it is fundamental to construct descriptive assessment rubrics before planning instructional modalities (Leroux & Mastracci, 2015). How do we distinguish between acceptable and excellent achievement? What are the essential elements and those that distinguish a marked competence?
By constructing your grids in advance, it will be easier to make the evaluation criteria and observable indicators known to the learners. They will have a greater sense of control over their evaluation and will be more motivated (Viau, 1997). While you are building your descriptive grids, start thinking about the feedback associated with this evaluation. How can you suggest ways to take them further? By thinking about these last aspects in advance, your teaching will be influenced by your reflection and your pedagogical alignment will be more coherent.
Step 3: Determine the teaching methods
How do we consciously divide the teaching time and weighting of each essential element? What could be seen at home as a prerequisite? How do we implement instructional differentiation to include the whole class? What elements should be taught because of relevance but not necessarily assessed? What activities should be selected to promote the best possible learning?
As a result of the first two planning steps, your instructional vision is clearer. You know exactly where to take learners and how to check their progress. All that remains is to think about how to get there. The important thing is consistency in teaching. If you have determined that the assessment will be a case study, it is essential to include learning activities involving case studies. Each activity should have a purpose and if it doesn't, why keep it in your planning? Cut out the extraneous and focus on the relevance of each instructional modality.
Now that you've started thinking about your planning, get the tools you need to make your job easier. The platform Zelexio allows the construction of dynamic evaluation grids adapted to your needs, sharing them with learners, self-assessment and more.
Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (1998). What is backward design? In Understanding by Design (1 ed., pp. 7-19). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20160721163755/http://www.fitnyc.edu/files/pdfs/Backward_design.pdf
La planification à rebours, Virtuose Éducation, https://virtuoseeducation.com/blog/2021/04/10/planification-a-rebours/
In addition :
- View the replay of the CréaCamp Discovery on backward planningwith Valérie Bédard, high school science teacher.