Understanding backwards by design is actually understanding by design. It is a technique taught in schools, by teachers that like to think out of the box. I like the idea of being able to take a subject apart from the finished product, and learn it from the top down, so to speak. If someone wants to learn how clocks work, they may take the clock apart in order to understand the mechanism.
Understanding and learning other things can be as straightforward as taking the clock apart. If you want to learn origami, forexample, unfold a completed piece and start from the last step and move forward. Teachers use understanding by design to deepen student learning and improve performance and assessments, and there is no reason other people can’t use it to learn something new.
For instance, I want to teach my students in my remedial reading class how to ask questions. This may seem like a very simple quest, but think about the last time you were asked to ask a question. Perhaps you were in a seminar, or a class listening to a guest lecturer, and you were expected to come up with something to ask. You could ask all kinds of ‘ho-hum’ questions; or you could find a fact about which you have a question because it is a ‘really? that’s very interesting’ question. My hubby always complains about my questioning; he’ll tell me a story about someone, and I have questions about the details: why did they do that? what does their family think about it? This is pretty typical of the female mind; that is why we always have so many more details about friends and acquaintances stored away in our brains than men do.
Questioning will improve students’ writing skills, because when required to write a research paper they will have better questions to ask, write with more purpose, and enjoy the process more. They will also remember the subject and facts for a longer period of time, because they enjoyed learning and writing about it. In order to teach the students about questioning, I am going to hold a press conference in class. Each student will take turns being the president, or resident expert in some subject. The other students will have to ask leading questions in order to find out what this student knows about a subject. The difference between this and a real press conference, is that the class will not be primed to ask only the questions for which the politician is prepared!
The students hopefully will learn to see the value of questions, and how to ask good ones. This can absolutely work on your dates, too. Better questions lead to more interesting conversations. Leave the ‘where are you from?’ questions for later. Start with something really good- ‘how do you get your shirt to stay tucked in that way?’ That should make your date stop and think for a minute, anyway.
Decide what you want to know and plan the activities around the goal. What are the essential questions you want to know and what is the outcome you want to achieve? This may not work if you want to learn the tango; learning the tango requires hours of practice with a partner. However, with other, more brain-centered activities, this is an effective way to learn.
Seeing the big idea and the essential questions are required to learn by design backward.