Friday, May 6, 2016

An Interview with Grant Wiggins: The Power of Backwards Design

Leslie Fox


Johnson, B. (Nov 19, 2013). An interview with Grant Wiggins: The power of backwards design.


In this interview Ben Johnson talks with Dr. Wiggins, president of Authentic Education, about his thoughts on assessment. Grant Wiggins who co-wrote Understanding by Design with Jay McTighe, asserts that assessment should be central to instruction not an afterthought. The interview focuses on problems teachers face, especially in upper grades, of providing individual feedback  to guide instruction. Formative assessments are key, not just teaching to prepare students for the State tests. Wiggins points out that many teachers are still confused about summative and formative assessments. He claims that formative assessments "do not have to be elaborate." For example, focusing on the present, not looking back at what was taught, but where the student is now and that not everything needs to be graded to be formative assessment. When administrators are looking for evidence of learning success when they observe teachers. Preparing the evaluation first (backward design) may not be as easy for teachers as Wiggins had hoped, apparently, it’s not instinctual, however, teachers can be more effective in planning lessons when they at least think about the evaluation as they plan the lesson. Wiggins offers some examples of ways for teachers to perform simple summative assessment on a daily basis.

This interview gives a refreshing and practical clarification of formative assessment. It also helped me understand more about an administrator’s role in assessing teachers when they observe. Assessments are necessary but can be seen as a tool used to teach, not just an end. Assessment does not have to be the enemy.

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