Noddings and Backward Design

 “That is, given a problematic intellectual situation, people ought to seek knowledge that will clear up their confusion and allow them to move on to new problems. Hence, in planning, teachers need to know something about the intellectual predicaments of their students and the questions that logically arise in such predicaments. Teachers, then, create lesson plans that will answer these questions.

Macmillan and Garrison say that erotetic teaching can be powerful in motivating students to learn. Instead of promising rewards for good work or punishment for poor work, teachers can motivate students by addressing their intellectual predicaments and helping to extricate students from them by answering the questions students should ask” (Noddings, 2016, p. 55).

The preceding passage from Noddings’ Chapter 3 about Analytic Philosophy reminds me of the “backward design” process in teacher planning. Among the many hats we wear as educators, “designer” is a big one considering our entire profession relies on taking content knowledge, dissecting it into digestible pieces, and then planning how we will present these pieces to our students in a logical manner. 

In the “backward design,” a teacher identifies the desired learning outcomes of his students (i.e. the questions the students ought to know the answers to), determines acceptable evidence of student learning (i.e. forms of assessment that will prove student learning), and then plans learning experiences/instruction as the final step (i.e. create lesson plans that will effectively answer the questions the students ought to ask). 

Here is an example of a backward approach to curriculum delivery: The teacher starts with a general topic (e.g. dehuminization of Jews in Nazi Germany), picks a particular resource to transmit the topic (e.g. Night by Elie Wiesel), chooses specific instructional methods (e.g. reading checkpoints, whole-class discussions, journal entries, and creation of presentations about historical context) that generate learning of a particular standard (e.g. the student will understand the injustices faced by Jews in Nazi Germany and the historical context in which this occured).

Needing to identify the desired learning outcomes of his students, the teacher must address their intellectual predicaments. To do so, he must gauge what the students already know and what they need to know to move forward in the curriculum. The issue here becomes the variety of intellectual predicaments in which the students find themselves. Each student enters the classroom with different backgrounds and general knowledge, therefore a teacher cannot assume that they are at the same level in their learning.

This all being said, I am curious about whether my peers have had any success in implementing this backward approach to content delivery or if it is a design they would consider using in their future practice. Also, in such an approach, how do we compensate for the different learning styles and readiness of our students?



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