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Teaching & Learning



  • content knowledge must be organized into meaningful patterns in order for students to retain what they have learned

  • students must have an ample opportunity to apply their knowledge in a variety of authentic contexts and conditions

  • effective curriculum must focus on providing opportunities for students to transfer their learning to novel situations, within and across content areas, as well as in future learning

  • student learning outcomes must be prioritized so that in-depth learning can take place

  • curriculum based on a backward design process ensures that learning is focused on deeper understandings and transfer of learning

  • student understanding is deepened when the instruction is based on authentic experiences that are not found in textbooks or activity-based learning

  • multiple perspectives and experiences generate better solutions, so educators can develop more powerful curriculum by working collaboratively

  • curriculum should be revised continuously and will be reviewed regularly against design standards and intended outcomes for students

  • evidence of student understanding is revealed through performance

  • teachers are coaches of understanding, not purveyors of content

Branford’s curriculum is developed using backward design, which is based on the idea that planning is best done by starting with the desired results and the transfer tasks that embody the goals. It is a design approach that results in purposeful thinking about curriculum planning from a micro lens, as well as programmatic reform from a macro level. Looking at the outcomes first results in coherently-designed curriculum units, performance assessments, and classroom instruction. Within this framework, understanding is built by identifying the content that students will acquire (important knowledge and skills), make meaning of (big ideas; key principles and concepts), and transfer (application of learning to new situations). The primary goal of backward design is student understanding, which is revealed when students autonomously transfer their learning. There are six indicators of students’ understanding--the capacity to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self assess.


  • Stage 1: Desired Results (Establishing the Goals)

  • Stage 2: Evidence (Determine Acceptable Evidence)

  • Stage 3: Learning Plan (Instructional Activities and Formative Assessments)