California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II

Backward mapping

Backward design or backward mapping is a way for teachers to begin at the end: What are the intended student learning outcomes? How will students demonstrate their achievement [of the standard/lesson]? By knowing learning outcomes at the beginning of lesson planning, teachers can design or select an assessment by which students can demonstrate mastery of the standards. Teachers then work backwards to design the instructional activities that support the intended learning. It is crucial that learning goals (standards) determine assessments, which determine lessons and resources. Assessing the intended learning drives the instruction and is not an afterthought.

The following chart from the original Taking Center Stage illustrates the importance of backward mapping in a standards-based system.

A Comparison of Traditional Practice vs.
a Standards-Based Education System

Traditional Practice
Standards-Based Education System
Select a topic from the curriculum.
Select and then analyze the standard(s) to be met.
Design instructional activities.
Design or select an assessment through which students can demonstrate mastery of the standard(s); determine the required performance level, if it is not already given.
Deliver a lesson.
Identify what students must know and be able to do in order to perform well on the assessment.
Design and administer an assessment.
Plan and deliver instructional activities that include direct instruction and teacher-student interaction. This process helps all students gain the knowledge and skill(s) identified in the standards.
Give a grade or feedback.
Provide all students with adequate opportunities to learn and practice the necessary skills and knowledge.
Move on to a new topic.
Assess students and examine their results to plan further instruction or individual support, if needed. If appropriate, give a grade or other feedback.

Related Links

Curriculum maps

Pacing guides

1Taking Center Stage. Sacramento: California Department of Education, 2001, 64. Adapted from
(a) Kate Jamentz, Standards: From Document to Dialogue. San Francisco: Western Assessment Collaborative, 1998; and (b) Douglas Reeves, Making Standards Work. Denver: Center for Performance Assessment, 1997.

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