Backward Chaining in ISD Isn’t New

Backward Chaining is very much WOINA – What’s Old Is New Again

I started in ISD in August 1979. I was exposed to the work and teaching of Robert F. Mager starting on Day 1.

I was given 3 items to read on my first day, including 1 book from the Mager 6 Pack.

One of the other books in that 6 Pack, Making Instruction Work (1988), addressed design and development in a backward manner (as it was known in the NSPI (now ISPI) circles I ran with back in the day.

From Analysis – to Design where one would start with Tests, then to Practice, and then to Content, and finally to the selection of Mode/Media – to Development following the same pattern in Design.

That’s the approach I learned to take.

I wrote about that in my firm’s newsletter Spring of 1991 about a 1990 project with Illinois Bell. The Design Document for that can be reviewed – here.

That was my first use of what became my Lesson Map (format) – as I was attempting to employ a Group Process in both Analysis and Design at the MCD – Modular Curriculum Development level (ADDIE) versus the CAD – Curriculum Architecture level of ISD.

In Understanding by Design, the authors, Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, acknowledge the long history of Backward Design – by Tyler (1949) on page 20 – so by 1998 when their book first came out it was almost 50 years old.

Transfer was always emphasized in some quarters (including Mager 1988), if the focus was Performance Impact and Measured Results.

I was also taught in 1979 to use Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation “backward” too – from 4 to 3 to 2 to 1. See this post from 2010:

Although few seemed to really practice a performance orientation in Instructional Experience Design & Development, in my experience.

The focus on Topics versus Tasks & Outputs in WOINA too. Sadly.


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