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Finis Origine Pendet: The End Depends Upon the Beginning.

I read this article on backward planning for professional development with interest. The author challenges us to consider the activity trap. He states, "Those who plan professional learning experiences often do exactly the same thing. They plan for processes, not for results. They ensure that the activities in which participating teachers will engage are job-embedded, contextually relevant, and perhaps based on results from the most recent teacher-needs survey. What's lacking is a clear notion of the purpose of those activities. Why are we doing this? What do we hope to accomplish?"

His suggestion is planing backwards. 1) Think about the desired learning outcomes, 2) determine which instructional practices are likely to produce the intended outcomes, 3) identify necessary organizational support, 4) evaluate current educator knowledge and skills, 5) determine the optimal professional learning activity. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts about backward planning. How do you develop your PD? 

Kathy Tracey



Stefanny Chaisson's picture

I have been doing backward design for around 7 years. I love it! It is so much easier to say "What do I want the outcome to be? Now how do I get there?" And work backwards! With PD, I sometimes present the "problem" we need solved. Then we can work towards it together, or work backwards from it to come to a solution. As far as planning PD, for instance. My next one is that "students are people, too" It is customer service. I thought, why does our program have success? (answer) What might other programs be missing? (answer) How can I show them the benefits of this? And the way to implement it? (answer) How can I introduce these ideas? Can I model? (answer) What is a catchy title for the session?

Kathy_Tracey's picture
One hundred

Hi Stefanny, 

Thanks for your insight! I agree that backwards design works. Can you share any outcomes? How are they different, or improved, since you've been using this process? 

Does anyone else have ideas or experiences with background design? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  



For years I have taught career colleges, and volunteered to teach citizenship classes and GED  here in El Paso, Texas. 

 What I was taught at teacher college, University of Texas at El Paso, is


1--- assess where the student is

2--- know what curriculum must be delivered , demonstrated, mastered and proven

3---know how the students learn best, according to an informal narrative which they write... they choose to share or not to share with the class....

4--- make sure I know what is required by the State and Federal government regarding the content of the field of discipline( the class name/citizenship, English composition/ College Algebra.. etc.)

5- also I like to create a weekly sheet for each student  in which they write in 'What I learned this week", in their handwriting....I am sure this can be used in electronic form, again a document I create... 

I do this for   a---documentation of completion of course content-- this protects me as an educator

                     b-  this serves as reinforcement for the student, they get to see their progress as it is measured in their eyes

Please note this is a subjective exercise and rate of learning or demonstrating mastery by students will vary from student to student... and that's okay.

 6--- I also include group projects to increase dialogue and discussion, that way students collaborate and strengthen one another... also they may enjoy the class more when they make friends

7---I also encourage study groups, just in case one student misses a day due to work, illness, or family issues... that way everyone can keep up... again this strategy is voluntary not mandatory at all...

 8--- part of my culture, and the culture here on the US/Mexican border is music and food. 

 Often whatever class I teach  the sharing of music and food as it can be related to a particular class... cultural diversity and sharing increases comfort, trust and lowers negative emotional affect, and increases positive emotional affect, which according to brain research, increases learning, retention, recall, demonstration and mastery...

1-------Front Psychol. 2017; 8: 1454.
Published online 2017 Aug 24. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01454
PMCID: PMC5573739
PMID: 28883804

The Influences of Emotion on Learning and Memory

2----- From Corradino and Fogarty, they reference:

Aronson, J. (2002). Improving academic achievement: Impact of psychological factors on education. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Broderick, P. C., & Metz, S. (2009). Learning to BREATHE: A pilot trial of a mindfulness curriculum for adolescents. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 2(1), 35-46.

Caprara, G. V., Barbaranelli, C., Pastorelli, C., Bandura, A., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2000). Prosocial foundations of children’s academic achievement. Psychological Science, 11, 302-306.

Cohn, M. A., Fredrickson, B. L., Brown, S. L., Mikels, J. A., & Conway, A. M. (2009). Happiness unpacked: Positive emotions increase life satisfaction by building resilience. Emotion, 9(3), 361.


Jeri Gue's picture
One hundred

Thank you for sharing this article!

While this is a new term for me, I have always planned PD around an end goal, with objectives that lead to the goal.  I have also occasionally borrowed the LINCS Learning to Achieve model of beginning with Guiding Questions, then building my PD around answering these questions.  Whenever possible, I like to end with an activity in which a "product" is developed.  This provides participants with a tangible "take-away" and provides me with feedback on how well the information was received.

Thank you Kathy,