Instructor Development

Backward Design


Michael Warren

August 4, 2022

August 4, 2022

Jeff Bezos is a rich, rich man. In fact, he’s one of the richest men in all of the world. The man who came up with Amazon has transformed the way that America and the world shops and the way in which the world reads.According to his own story, Amazon worked on the concept of e-books for about 12 years. But even after they were able to accomplish a readable form of a book in electronic format no one was buying. No one. And they couldn’t understand why that was.So they started with the customer and worked backwards. What they found was that while people were not opposed to reading books in electronic format, they didn’t want to read while sitting at a computer. What they wanted was to be able to read a book while laying on the couch, sitting in a chair, or sitting by the pool with their feet up. That wasn’t possible when the book had to be read on a computer.So what Amazon decided to use was backward engineering. They started with the customer, and then found out what they wanted. And then worked back from there. Once they figured this out, the Kindle was born. And once the Kindle was born, sales of e-books took off.Too often when we design training, we design training based upon what we want the student to know. I’m not here to debate the importance of delivering material that we want the student to know. There are often things that we know that they don’t know. That they need to know. And therefore they must be taught.But how often have we gone to the student to see what they want to learn? What interests them? What do they think they need?We here at champion the Socratic Feedback Model. We believe that it is one of the best tools available to trainers for enhancing the learning process. The reason it is so effective is because it puts learning in the hands of the learner. It is about self-discovery.How much easier is that path to travel if the topic, the subject, the class is something that the learner wants from us? And I will say it again, I am not saying that they get to choose everything that is delivered to them in an educational format. Not at all. But why isn’t some of it? Why don’t we take the time to find out what it is they want?The truth of the matter is it may be – no probably will be – enlightening to us what people want and or need to learn. We can become so enamored with our subject matter expertise, our department mandates, the state mandates, that we forget that there are other stakeholders in this game. And those stakeholders are the learners. And often times they will be able to point us in the right direction if we only let them.