A Passage in Backward Design & Design a Successful Language Learning Environment

For designing significant learning, to engage students in the classroom, using Fink’s taxonomy which is a backward design model can can help us write a framework of the learning objectives. This model’s goal is to form course activities to increase students’ knowledge and attentiveness in subjects (Fink, 2003).

As I use the model expanding ideas to design and enhance the beginning American Sign Language II classroom, I see the bigger picture with all components; the learning objectives. I hope this will be effective and I have created an engaging learning experiences for the students. Below is the Fink’s taxonomy model. And far below includes the 3 column table of the objective courses for the ASL course (Fink, 2003), and the supporting documents; The Learning Environment-Situational Factors and Questions for Formulating Significant learning Goals.


“A year (or more) after this course is over, I want and hope….” ..that students will continue to build and use their skills in their future professions, and be especially active lively in the target communities.

My Big Harry Audacious Goal (BHAG) as a vision statement for the course is:

The students will be invigorated to increase their sensitivity to the Deaf culture, its values, customs, and traditions, to increase their understanding of ASL and to respect the cultural and linguistic differences that they encounter in the Deaf community.

3 Column Table for my Beginning ASL II course



Learning Environment & Situational Factors to Consider

1. Specific Context of the Teaching/Learning Situation

How many students are in the class?  Is the course primary, secondary, undergraduate, or graduate level?  How long and frequent are the class meetings?  How will the course be delivered: live, online, blended, flipped or in a classroom or lab?  What physical elements of the learning environment will affect the class? What technology, networking and access issues will affect the class?

The class holds 28 students and conducts four 50-minute class periods a week for 16 weeks.

This is for undergraduate students to fulfill the second language requirement.

The class will be combing with mini-lecture, lab activities, group activities, online assignments, discussion, questions, video resources, and conversation.

On the each station in the lab, we currently are troubleshooting the issue with a digital lab language software program that occasionally corrupts video file. Overall, the program is fantastic, but it randomly converts the video files to audio. The issue is that a recording video ended up saved in an audio file automatically. When this happens, students completely lose their expressive recordings. Often their best attempts are corrupted and they have to redo the tests/quizzes.

GoReact App, an online video assessment app, is required for students’ expressive practice skills assignments. Students will need to record and save to GoReact. Regrettably, GoReact is not compatible with all devices especially with some iPhones and iPads. It is the students’ responsibility and they may use the ASL lab station if needed.


2. General Context of the Learning Situation

What learning expectations are placed on this course or curriculum by: the school, district, university, college and/or department?  the profession?  society? 

As the lesson plans are to be conducted through a ‘Signing Naturally’ curriculum, the students will learn and be ability to:

  1. Demonstrate conceptual accuracy in conversation.
  2. Demonstrate expressive language skills.
  3. Increase fluency in fingerspelling as used in ASL.
  4. Demonstrate appropriate cross-cultural interaction.
  5. Demonstrate correct grammatical structure of ASL.



3. Nature of the Subject

Is this subject primarily theoretical, practical, or a combination?  Is the subject primarily convergent or divergent?  Are there important changes or controversies occurring within the field?

This subject is practical. This topic is primarily divergent as ASL users have a very distinct culture and way they interact when talking.


4. Characteristics of the Learners

What is the life situation of the learners (e.g., socio-economic, cultural, personal, family, professional goals)?  What prior knowledge, experiences, and initial feelings do students usually have about this subject?  What are their learning goals and expectations? 

The class is applied to a wide variety of students and their ages mostly range from 17 to 22. Most of them are majoring in, or want to work in the fields of deaf education, interpreting, speech pathology, nursing, social work, children family studies, psychology, etc. They have desires of obtaining their ASL communication skills and abilities to interactive and work with deaf people, and deaf communities in future settings, within the U.S. Indeed, they are interested to learn this unique language rather than other spoken languages.


5. Characteristics of the Teacher

What beliefs and values does the teacher have about teaching and learning?  What is his/her attitude toward:  the subject? students? What level of knowledge or familiarity does s/he have with this subject?  What are his/her strengths in teaching? 

As teacher and native signer, I have passion serving as a guide and facilitator for frequent interaction in the target language, develop students’ language proficiency as they use the language in relevant and meaningful situations through the use of simulations, small group work, technology, and authentic materials. Likewise, I have great networks with Deaf community and other native signers I can use to engage the students in the classroom to enhance the learning environment.


Questions for Formulating Significant learning Goals

Foundational Knowledge

  • What key information (e.g., facts, terms, formulae, concepts, principles, relationships, etc.) is/are important for students to understand and remember in the future? What key ideas (or perspectives) are important for students to understand in this course?Students’ abilities to express linguistic features of ASL and identify cultural aspects of deafness will be assessed using an ASL interview. The students are required to earn a score of “C” or better to continue to the next level course.

This course will be a continuation of the development of linguistic and communication skills in American Sign Language, including vocabulary, grammar, non-manual markers, fingerspelling, and numbers. In addition to expanding their conversational range, students will continue to be introduced to Deaf culture and the Deaf community.

Performance skills assessments are based on the student’s production of vocabulary, grammar, and pragmatic structures to the situations presented. The skills will be judged by the instructor according to standards for students at the second-semester level. Clarity and fluency are valued above speed of production.


Application Goals

  • What kinds of thinking are important for students to learn?
  • Critical thinking, in which students analyze and evaluate

Students will be required to analyze and evaluate videos of their and others’ signed performances for the aspects of ASL.

  •  Creative thinking, in which students imagine and create    

Students will use imagination and work on projects/assignments producing stories/narrators/facts in ASL.

  • Practical thinking, in which students solve problems and make decision 

Students will manage through group work, and self-evaluate to correct their production of vocabulary, grammar, and pragmatic structures.

  • What important skills do students need to gain?

Performance Skills – its assessments are based on the student’s production of vocabulary, grammar, and pragmatic structures to the situations presented. Vocabulary: use of correct parameters to form signs and appropriate choices according to meaning. Grammar: includes word order, and non-manual markers (eyebrows, mouth, eyes, body language). Pragmatics: geared to perform the intended functions (asking, answering, getting attention, opening/closing conversations, etc.) The emphasis is on communication which can be clearly understood by Deaf persons, and will be judged by the instructor according to standards for students at the second-semester level. Clarity and fluency are valued above speed of production.

  •  Do students need to learn how to manage complex projects?

Students having a group project and will be able to manage complex project themselves as they should have learned and understood the elements/aspects of ASL and be able to categorize them by viewing videos of the signings of native signers.


Integration Goals

  • What connections (similarities and interactions) should students recognize and make…:
  • Among ideas within this course?

Through socializing with the Deaf people or attending Deaf events, they should be able to recognize that the language and culture are interrelated.

  •  Among the information, ideas, and perspectives in this course and those in other courses or areas?

As the students are learning the language and its culture, students should be able to understand and view this in a cultural perspective, not the pathologic (medical) perspective which focuses on the amount of hearing loss and how to correct it.

  •  Among material in this course and the students’ own personal, social, and/or work life?  

 Students will learn the appropriate actions for a crosscultural interaction and to communicate with Deaf people, native signers through online or at Deaf events.

Human Dimensions Goals

  • What could or should students learn about themselves? 

Students should respect the cultural and linguistic differences that they encounter in the classroom and the Deaf community, being that ASL is a culture, rather than just a language.

  • What could or should students learn about understanding others and/or interacting with them?

The students should as they are encouraged to increase their sensitivity to the Deaf culture, its values, customs, and traditions, to increase their understanding of ASL.


Caring Goals

  • What changes/values do you hope students will adopt? 

I hope students to expand their conversational range, and will continue socializing with Deaf people respectfully and be part of or become member of the Deaf community.


“Learning-How-to-Learn” Goals

  • What would you like for students to learn about: 

I’d like the students to recognize what benefits they can receive from community and language and explore how they can keep growing with outside resources to enhance their future learning.


Fink, L.D. (2003) A Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from http://www.bu.edu/sph/files/2011/06/selfdirected1.pdf



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