TWT Assignment 2
Identifying Desired Results
and Developing Essential Questions

You will be using an instructional design model by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe referred to as backward design. The design process starts with identifying standards, then goals and objectives, then moves to assessment and finally to the development of student activities. The outcome of this assignment will be the identification of your unit of instruction, the content standards, the essential questions, and the unit goals and student objectives.

Key Questions

1. What is backward design?
2. “What do I want the students to understand long after they leave my classroom?” (Enduring Understanding)
3. How are essential questions used to frame the unit and engage students?
4. How do I write the instructional goal(s) and objectives?


1. What is backward design?

Backward design, a researched process, was created to help educators "teach for understanding." The backward design model focuses on standards-based instruction with strong student assessment components. Development begins with the identification of standards and then goals and objectives. Next, educators determine what will be acceptable evidence for student assessment. Finally, student-learning activities are aligned to assist students in achieving the goals and objectives.

As you review the backward design process you may want to print the Indicators of Teaching for Understanding, (Wiggins and McTighe) which examines the observable indicators for "teaching for understanding."

Identify Desired Results (standards, essential questions, goals and objectives)
In Assignment 1 (Activity 1E) you determined the rationale for why you are implementing your specific unit of instruction. Your next step is to identify the content standards for the unit of instruction. Content standards are public statements about what all students should know and be able to do in a curriculum area. These standards are not universal but are published by school districts, state education departments, and national entities. The North Dakota state standards are located at Often times, standards are associated with benchmarks. Benchmarks are statements of knowledge and skill that define a standard at a given developmental level (e.g., 4th grade, 8th grade, 12th grade).

From the content standards educators formulate some essential questions on which their educational goals and objectives are based. Educators determine what students will know and be able to do. Typically, there is much more content than can be reasonably addressed within a unit. In the backward design model educators go through a process of prioritizing curriculum by determining what is worth being familiar with; what is important to know and do; and those things that require an "enduring" understanding. Enduring understandings go beyond discrete facts or skills to focus on larger concepts, principles, or processes (Wiggins and McTighe, 1998). A teacher may think, "What do I want my students to know and remember years after they have left my classroom?" Finally, educators write essential questions that are communicated to students at the beginning of the unit. These essential questions capture the knowledge and skills deemed most critical for student understanding (enduring).

Determine Acceptable Evidence (student assessment)
After writing the goals and objectives, educators determine what will be acceptable as evidence of student understanding and proficiency. Educators plan and/or design a variety of assessments needed to document and validate that the desired learning has occurred. Educators consider a continuum of assessment methods including questioning, observations, quizzes, tests, open-ended questions, and performance tasks or projects. The anchor of assessment is performance tasks or projects. These types of assessments have a greater potential to be authentic and are the best for assessing the types of knowledge and skills that constitute enduring understandings.

Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction
Educators now begin to plan student-learning activities that are clearly aligned with the identified enduring understandings and assist students in providing evidence of their understanding. It is at this stage that the educator chooses appropriate teaching and learning strategies, sequences lessons, and determines resource materials.

The activities in this assignment focus on identifying desired results (standards, goals, and learning objectives) as you begin designing your unit of instruction.

2. “What do I want the students to understand long after they leave my classroom?” (Enduring Understanding)

Educators today are concerned that their instructional units are driven by content standards (national, state, or district) and curriculum expectations. With that as the foundation, the next step is to formulate the enduring understanding. Focusing on the question “What do I want the students to understand long after they leave my classroom?” sets that into action.

"What is worth learning?"

  1. Start with knowledge that is worth being familiar with.

  2. Narrow this to specific prerequisite knowledge (facts, concepts, and principles) and skills (processes, strategies, and methods) needed for student success-important to know and do.

  3. Finally, enduring understanding -- what we want our students to "get inside of" and retain after they've forgotten many of the details. “What do I want the students to understand long after they leave my classroom?

Worth being familiar

Important to know

Enduring Understanding

3. How are essential questions used to frame the unit and engage students?

Essential questions are used to guide the students during implementation of the unit. They can guide, intrigue, and keep them focused on the important issues at hand. No matter what the age or grade level, essential questions spark curiosity and a sense of wonder.

When writing essential questions, there are some things to consider: Can the question be addressed in many subjects? Is the question too broad or too narrow? Does it generate a personalized interest that will "hook" the students? Does it lend itself to real world applications?

In order to remain focused on the important issues that align with the standards, the essential questions are posted in the classroom. While implementing the unit of instruction the teacher and students will continuously re-visit the essential questions.

4. How do I write the instructional goal(s) and objectives?

Writing your goal(s) and objectives builds on the previous steps of identifying the standards and writing the essential questions. Instructional goals and objectives are often confused. The following paragraphs highlight the differences:

GOALS are general statements of intent and may not be the subject of measurement. Goals are broad, generalized statements about what is to be learned. Think of them as a target to be reached.

OBJECTIVES are more specific and should be stated with sufficient precision to be measurable. The objectives are clearer statements of the specific activities required to achieve the goals. Good objectives clearly address the following four questions:




Goals are broad.

Objectives are narrow.

Goals are general intentions.

Objectives are precise.

Goals are intangible.

Objectives are tangible.

Goals are abstract.

Objectives are concrete.

Goals can't be validated as is.

Objectives can be validated.


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