Backwards Design and Forward Thinking

Concurrent Session 3

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

During this presentation, an explanation of the backwards design process will be explored. Educators will learn to design comprehensive and effective courses and curriculum that benefit the diverse needs of the learners in their classrooms. Participants will leave with practical strategies to use immediately to develop comprehensive courses and curriculum.


Dr. Amy Johnson is a Core Faculty member for the Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education degree program in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC). She earned a Doctorate of Early Childhood Development and Education from Texas Woman’s University, a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from San Diego State University. Dr. Johnson began her career teaching elementary grades in the Cajon Valley School District. She transitioned into higher education in 2010 and enjoys the diversity of University of Arizona Global Campus students. Dr. Johnson lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas, area with her husband and two daughters.
Jennifer Zaur is an assistant professor in the Department of Education and Liberal Arts at the University of Arizona Global Campus. She has a BA in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Language and Literacy, both from Arizona State University. She been an elementary school teacher, a reading interventionist, teacher mentor, and an instructor of professional development workshops. For the last eight years she has worked in higher education focusing on student retention, curriculum development and best practices in online learning.
Dr. Allison Rief is an Associate Professor and Associate Director in the Academic Engagement Center at the University of Arizona Global Campus. Allison earned a Doctorate of Education with a specialization in Teacher Education in Multicultural Societies from the University of Southern California; a Master of Education from the University of California, Los Angeles; and a Bachelor of Arts in Literatures in English at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Rief began her career as an elementary and preschool teacher. She maintains a National Board Certification and was awarded the Teacher of the Year for both the Los Angeles Unified School District and Los Angeles County. Within higher education, she has had experience launching new programs and revising existing programs, developing courses, providing professional development, and working with collaborative teams across the university. Currently, Dr. Rief is a member of the Change Advisory Group, Student Conduct and Community Standards Committee, Forbes Center for Women’s Leadership, Turn the Tide, and oversees the partnership with No Excuses University schools. Beyond the programs she leads, she also serves on Doctoral committees and teaches the Doctoral In-Residence.

Extended Abstract

During this presentation, a detailed explanation of the backwards design process to design comprehensive and effective courses and curriculum, which will benefit the diverse needs of the learners in classrooms, will be explored. Teacher educators will explore practical ways to strengthen student learning in a variety of disciplines. Creating strong and engaging courses will determine the success of their students and in turn, their programs. Participants will learn about each step of the process as well as various approaches that can be used in order to ensure the process aligns with the individual course design requirements of various institutions and schools. A connection to the importance of the assessment process and how this information can and should be used to inform curriculum decisions will be included as well. A critical part of this process is making sure that the design of the course supports mastery of the course learning outcomes. Therefore, exploring the connection between program learning outcomes, course learning outcomes and weekly learning outcomes will be an area of focus. Examples and opportunities to practice alignment of the backwards design process to course learning outcomes will be integrated into the presentation. Engagement is critical as it leads to stronger mastery and takeaways of learning outcomes for students. Therefore, along with making sure alignment is in place, ensuring that the content of the course is engaging is another element that will be discussed during the presentation. Various examples of engagement strategies will be shared. Participants will engage in conversations and hands-on opportunities with their peers and presenters to learn about making the content in courses engaging. Finally, the various ways in which collaboration contributes to the course design process will be discussed. Participants will leave the session with practical strategies that can be used immediately to develop comprehensive and effective courses and curriculum.