Backward Design is a method of designing courses that works backwards from the desired end goals of a course rather than beginning with a list of content and activities that will be taught.
To begin the backward design process, you identify what your students need to know and be able to do once they have completed the course. These are your course goals or outcomes.
Next, you identify what evidence you will need to determine if your students are meeting those goals. How will you know they are able to do the necessary tasks you identified as your course goals? Will a test truly tell you if they have mastered a skill or will they need to create a project?
Finally, you design the activities and coursework students will complete to develop the skills and knowledge and result in the evidence you need to assess them.
This backwards process ensures that your students have all the content and activities that they need to achieve the goals of the course. It also helps eliminate extra course content that may not work towards those goals creating a focused and streamlined course and allowing plenty of time for students to practices their new skills in ways that are meaningful and directly relate to the content.
The two videos below will provide you with a couple of examples of backwards design.