Essay Sample on Backward Design and Adult Learning Theories

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1257 Words
Date:  2022-11-27


Adult learning theories have gone through noticeable change over the years. It is worth noting that no theory explains why grown-ups do learning (Merriam, 2017). The theories adapted either support or do not support the curriculum design using the backward design principles where the aims are focused on first before deciding on the instructional methods that would help in achieving the same.

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Traditional Adult Learning Theories and Models

According to Taylor and Hamdy (2013) the theory of Andragogy explains that the adults are very much aware of the reason why they are learning and that they take responsibility for every decision they take in so far as learning is concerned. Most adults felt encouraged and motivated to learn; otherwise, they would not, and all adults have had past experiences in education, and they can use this to ensure that their learning becomes effective. The theory of Andragogy supports the principles of backward design since it depicts adults as mature people in terms of knowledge and therefore they know what is expected of them. The tutor can go ahead and design his targets, looking at what the adult learners are supposed to achieve at the end of the learning and come to how to accomplish the objectives later and the teaching can still be effective. It is the attitude of the learners that make this very possible.

Self-directed learning which is a characteristic of adult learning process says that the adults are capable of independently do planning, education and assess their performance (Hoban, Lawson, Mazmanian, Best, & Seibel, 2005). This means that the theory does not recognize other forms of learning and therefore needs little or no assistance from a tutor in the learning process. This lowers the importance of backward design where the tutor sets up targets for the learners. The learners themselves conduct the whole process on their own.

Contemporary Adult Learning Theories and Models

Cognitive learning theory bases its arguments that learning is majorly in mind (Gagne, Briggs, & Wagner, 1992). That once an individual decides to do it, it does not matter the instrument that would be used to achieve the objectives. He will still be able to achieve the targets.

Backward Design Can Be Used With Adult Learners in Formal

Backward design can be used in the formal learning environments with much ease because this milieu is characterized by structured learning that has learning materials and what should be done at what level. The teacher can, therefore, look at what should be done at what level and begin by setting goals that should be achieved at the end of every learning session. The teacher should then find out evidence and finally plan on how to achieve the results, i.e., what materials to use and how to approach the learning.

i. When setting up goals, the tutor must be able to clearly outline what he expects his students to understand, what they should be able to know at the end and how they should think at the end. The targets must be listed down to avoid any form of repetition or contradiction. The targets must be set from the materials that are put in place to learn, i.e., textbooks

ii. The tutor follows the first step by determining what evidence will indicate that adult students have understood what is expected of them. This could be in terms of asking questions at the end that is about the subject matter discussed and viewing how the students have responded to the subject matter.

iii. The third bit is figuring out how to reach the target by considering what methods are effective on adult students? What are the materials that need to be used to achieve the objective? What kind of activities must both the teacher and the students engage to achieve the set target?

Backward Design Can Be Used With Adult Learners in an Informal

Back design can as well be used in informal set up where the classroom building is not used. The teacher or trainer begins by setting the target that his learners should be able to do at the end of the session first. The learning could be training sessions of athletes by their coach on the pitch, learning through videos, discussions. Example, a football coach can set his target that at the end of the week all footballers should be able to go round the field 20times without rest.

The evidence that the targets are achieved is when the learners can do the things that are done in the training session or able to answer the questions they are asked of whatever they have learned, be it from videos or through chatting.

Lastly, the tutor must identify the materials and activities that are required to achieve the target. For example, given above, the coach must identify a football pitch where the training can take place and direct his players to go to the field at least 20 times daily may be from a very slow speed as they improve gradually.

Backward Design Can Be Used With Adult Learners in a Non-formal Setting

For a non-formal setting, the learner is involved more in the learning process; hence he or she plays an active role in the learning. Backward design in itself gives attention to the learner and therefore is suitable for the non-formal education (Mosher, Freeman, Field, & Hurburgh, 2009). The teacher can set the targets and then identify the evidence that will show the learner has understood the subject matter. Then He comes up with the materials and ways of achieving the set target but this time around must put the student to participate fully in the learning process. An example is a student being taught carpentry given the tools themselves to use. The tools could be a plane where he is asked to smoothen the wood surface as the tutor is watching and giving directions.

Drawing and Design

The changes that I would make are on the approach and the procedure of teaching the topics in the course. I would start by setting the targets that are to be achieved at the end of each topic and then determine the evidence and finally the tools that are needed to achieve these targets. I would ensure that the learner is involved more like in the case of informal learning and that every student must have the drawing materials where during the teaching, they draw the diagrams themselves. According to Kapur (2015), the theories like andragogy where the learner is independent and experienced allows adult students to quickly bring the pictures without necessarily being shown everything hence making this approach effective. Transformative learning theory supports this approach since it talks about adults being in the right mind with the right attitude to learn and therefore would quickly learn.


Gagne, R.M., Briggs, L. J.,& Wagner, W. W. (1992). Principles of instructional design. Harcourt Brace, Orlando, FL.

Hoban, J. D., Lawson, S. R., Mazmanian, P. E., Best, A. M., & Seibel, H. R. (2005). The selfdirected learning readiness scale: A factor analysis study. Medical Education, 39(4), 370-379.

Kapur, S. (2015). Understanding the characteristics of an adult learner. Jamia Journal of Education, 2(1), 111-121.

Merriam, S. B. (2017). Adult learning theory: Evolution and future directions. In Contemporary theories of learning (pp. 83-96). Routledge.

Mosher, G. A., Freeman, S. A., Field, D. W., & Hurburgh Jr, C. R. (2009). Development of a Quality Management Course for Adult Learners using Backward Design.

Taylor, D. C., & Hamdy, H. (2013). Adult learning theories: Implications for learning and teaching in medical education: AMEE Guide No. 83. Medical teacher, 35(11), e1561-e1572.

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