Looking Back at Tomorrow….A Backward Design for Learning

Stage 1—Our Desired Results

Established Goal:

Learners will use active learning techniques to collaborate with other seminar sites and seek help to use the ActiveCollab program.


Students will understand that…

  • ActiveCollab is a piece of a broader technology program at HOBY
  • Collaboration is important to a technology program
  • Change happens best when everyone is involved
  • Technology can enhance the volunteer experience

Students will know….

  • How to effect change in their seminar sit
  • How to collaborate with others to understand technology
  • How to use the ActiveCollab program
  • How to adapt to new technologies as they become available 

Essential Questions:

Students will ask…..

  • Where can we be more effective in running our seminar site?
  • How do we compare with other sites at HOBY?
  • How can technology make us more efficient?
  • Where do we need to go from here?
  • What will we do with this?

Students will be able to….

  • Ask questions about technology
  • Think critically about technology in their seminar site
  • Use HOBY’s technology software
  • Compare and contrast their standing in the organization

 Stage 2—Assessment Activities 

Other Evidence:

  • Students will demonstrate results through assignments and observations
  • Students will discuss ideas with other seminar groups
  • Students will write reports to reflect upon their learning

Performance Tasks:

  • Reflections on current and future seminar operations
  • Objective lists about needed improvements
  • Discussion with other non-profit organizations about improvements plans
  • Report on technology operations

Grading will be based on rubric looking at: presentation, quality, variety of information, and ideas of thought

Stage 3- Learning Plan

Learning Activities:

Use during a volunteer training seminar….

  1. Course syllabus and guidelines about course material (where and what)
  2. Lecture notes from HOBY for teacher (where)
  3. Discussions with other seminar sites, notes, and outlines for ActiveCollab design (hook and hold)
  4. Ability to ask questions and seek information (equip)
  5. Ability to use technology programs on computer and look to other non-profit organizations for help (experience and explore)
  6. Staff training seminars annually to discuss and see new technologies and their implementation (rethink and revise)
  7. Feedback from national directors on ActiveCollab work done online at the training institute (evaluate)
  8. Training systems that use different formats, e.g. online and on campus, and designed for each seminar site (tailored)
  9. Guidelines for course learning and what each learner should achieve (organized)


As I began to think about this week’s assignment, I realized how important it is to connect with your audience to give a good active learning plan that will connect with the leaners involved in the process. As I look at it though, it is important that when a learning program is designed, it has to be customizable so that the presenters of that training program can tailor it to suit the needs of the audience. In this case, I had the chance to look at two possible designs for a template of learning outcomes for the HOBY organization. I began thinking about how to put this into prospective, but I think the best model may be the one that is the easiest to use at various seminar sites.

The first model that I had the chance to look at was Fink’s Three Column Table that contains all of the ideas for a learning template, while also giving thought to the assessment and learning activities involved. This provides a template for any teacher in the HOBY program to give a good lesson to their students, the volunteers. This model has a three column table with various part mentioned about how a learning system all fits together. The learning goals are outlined with the expect outcomes and the assessment activities that are given with each lesson. This makes it easy for the teachers involved to see what their students are expected to be doing and how to effectively get their students there to achieve the desired results.

The second model that I looked at was the One-Page Template using the Understanding by Design framework that was given to us in the book by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. In this design, the teacher is given the chance to formulate a learning plan by going backward then finishing at the beginning. It begins with the first phase being the desired results, leading the facilitator to list the established goals, questions, and understandings regarding what the students will know, understand and be able to do during the lesson. The second phase involves listing the assessment activities that the learners will perform during the lesson. This includes looking at the performance tasks, how the students will be judged, and other evidence that involves how students will reflect upon and self-assess their learning. The third and final phase in the diagram involves looking at all of the learning activities involved. This process answers the “Whereto” word to decipher what experiences the student has that will produce the desired results in the end. This template design uses a form design to present the entire unit, while also using function to guide the process for the teacher-designer. The key idea here is that the long-term goals are given in a much larger context than usually given in a lesson plan. This is a good plan for all involved.

Upon further examination, I think that both of these ideas for learning design plans are very good, but can be used in different ways. Fink’s Three Column Table is best suited for a training seminar at HOBY that is very short. I also think that the Understanding by Design template would best be suited for a longer-term seminar training program that will be done over multiple sessions. It is important that we use seminar training programs that are easy to understand for all of the learners involved. These plans are both very similar, but they are different in how the material is presented. It can best be summarized, in my opinion, as long-term versus short-term goals that can be used for different training environments. I think that both of these ideas are equally effective at achieving good learning outcomes.

When I think about it now, I think that this assignment allowed me to think critically about how a learning environment can impact the learners involved. It is important that designers of learning environments have a holistic process in mind when they decide to write a lesson plan for a course. We should always think about the leaners involved and look to the “growth mindset” to make sure that all learners are fully engaged in what they are doing. From here, learners can discover new things and become fully immersed in what they are doing. From my perspective, as I move along with my innovation plan, I will be designing it to make sure that backward design is always used to show the desired goals of the HOBY program. I want to make our HOBY technology learning programs as effective as our seminars are when we train our volunteers.

When the HOBY organization was founded, Dr. Albert Schweitzer told Mr. Hugh O’Brian, “The most powerful thing you can do for a young person is to teach them how to think for themselves,” and I want to use this as a model in our staff training. I want to develop creative learning environments that teach our seminar sites and staff how to think for themselves to better run their seminars. This involves developing the best ways to teach the ActiveCollab program so that people find it a pleasure to work with. As I’ve learned form this class, the more creative the learning environment, the more effective the learner is when they achieve the desired outcomes. For all of us HOBY volunteers, a creative learning environment with a “growth mindset” is exactly what Dr. Schweitzer would have wanted. That is exactly what I want to bring to our staff training programs and make him very proud. These two concepts are wonderful tools for active learning. In closing, it is always important that we look backward to create a better learning environment for tomorrow’s leaders.


Brown, J. L., & Wiggins, G. P. (2004). Making the most of Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Design Tips and Forms | Designing Significant Learning Experiences. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.designlearning.org/resource-downloads/helpful-handouts/

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

HOBY – A Life Changing Experience. (2013, July 2). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tNF4iTkhOQ


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