Outstanding Teaching: Teaching Backwards

By: Mark Burns , Andy Griffith


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 182 x 222mm
Pages : 308
ISBN : 9781845909291
Format: Paperback
Published: September 2014

Foreword by Professor John Hattie.

Teaching Backwards is the follow-up to the bestselling Outstanding Teaching: Engaging Learners (click here to view this title). It is based on the analysis of thousands of hours of primary and secondary lessons, part of Osiris Educational's Outstanding Teaching Intervention programme over the last seven years.

Teaching is a demanding job and one which doesn't afford a lot of spare time to devote to reflecting on practice. Teachers need resources that are clear, concise, and practical. Teaching Backwards is just that. It's packed with case studies from primary and secondary teachers, and it's punctuated with reflective questions that invite teachers to slow down and do some thinking about how they currently teach, so that their teaching can have an even more powerful impact on learners. Well-informed by research and with a clear action plan of what to do, and what not to do, Teaching Backwards is a guide to ensuring that learners make outstanding progress, lesson by lesson and year on year. Develop learners' knowledge, attitudes, skills and habits (KASH) and help shape the class any teacher would love to inherit. It is not just about results, but building the resilience and mindsets in learners that will enable them to master any challenge they may face, in the classroom and throughout their lives.

Discover the powerful effects of teaching backwards for yourself. Topics covered include: setting high expectations, starting points, defining and demystifying the destination, looking for proof of learning, challenge, feedback.

For primary and secondary teachers.

Picture for author Mark Burns

Mark Burns

For over ten years, Mark Burns has developed a proven track record in developing teaching and leadership in education. He has co-authored two bestselling books in this field – Engaging Learners and Teaching Backwards – and, more recently, has worked with FTSE 100 retailers and third sector organisations too.

Through his work, Mark has developed a deep understanding of learning design and how to overcome the barriers to learning in organisations – which is the focus of his award-winning co-authored book The Learning Imperative. He is passionate about supporting the development of performance through effective learning, hence his company’s name: Plus One Learning.

Mark’s work has been recognised with a Gold award in the People Development Programme of the Year – Public Sector category at the prestigious Learning Performance Institute Learning Awards 2021. He also won the CPD category in the Teach Secondary Awards 2020.

Click here to read Mark Burns' blog.

Picture for author Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith has a proven track record for creating high impact training courses and interventions with students, teachers and leaders. His major career motivation is for education to be an engine for social justice. In the past seven years, alongside his school development work, Andy has developed programmes for students that have had a positive impact on their academic results as well as building their cultural capital.

Andy's work has been shortlisted in the Best Learning & Development Initiative - Public/Third Sector category of the 2018 CIPD People Management Awards.


  1. The range of strategies within help place emphasis on the learner and helps demystify challenges associated with time management in the busy education sector. The use of images and key critical questions help provoke thoughts and encourages the reader to adapt their teaching in an unintimidating way. In particular, the sections on setting high expectations and starting points provide transferrable examples across all phases of education and I resonated with the author’s work at all times when reading. A recommended read for teacher CPD.

  2. -˜Teaching Backwards' is perfect for the busy classroom teachers eager for practical strategies for improving the planning, delivery and appraisal of their lessons. Helpfully illustrated with plenty of real-life photographs of classroom displays and student work, it is full of useful tips that can be used for immediate inspiration. Not only that, it also contains rigorous discussion about the latest educational thinking that can be considered in quieter staffroom moments and applied more fundamentally to transform classroom practice.
  3. The follow up to Outstanding Teaching: Engaging Learners, and produced by the same authors, this title is similarly practical and engaging, focusing on how teaching and learning can be improved when planning begins with the end in mind - in other words, when educators stop trying to deliver packages of content in a linear fashion, but instead, define a destination, with the highest expectations, then work out how best to help individual learners reach it. Case studies, exercises, analogies and checklists are generously scattered throughout the pages, ensuring that the book is considerably closer to a workshop than a lecture, especially given the relaxed, chatty style in which the advice is delivered. It's possible to dip into Teaching Backwards for ten minutes in the staffroom, then instantly make a small but significant change to the way you present your next lesson; CPO in action, indeed.
  4. The authors have produced a stimulating and thought provoking text for practitioners at all levels. It is overflowing with excellent strategies and ideas to promote learner participation, enjoyment, learning and understanding. The emphasis is upon re-thinking the focus and starting point of lessons from a “clear and well defined destination”. I particularly liked the emphasis on the “Big Four” steps on feedback autonomy, challenge and engagement to ensure that learners achieve to their full potential. The authors effectively draw the readers' attention to effective implementation of techniques within a wide range of schools to promote resilience, and potential the section on feedback enables the learner to focus on their own “personal gap” between their current level of performance and the destination they are working towards. This is an outstanding book which will promote more effective [in schools, colleges of FE, and higher education.
  5. Backwards Teaching does not literally mean standing with your back to your class whilst you waffle on impart your knowledge and wisdom to your pupils. Created by Andy Griffith and Mark Burns, the pedagogical approach advocates to teachers planning and teaching backwards from a clear and well-defined destination.

    At the heart of this approach is a philosophy that four main ingredients are key in the teaching and learning process: feedback; autonomy; challenge; and engagement. Teachers are asked to have high expectations, to plan, to watch for where students might go off route and where they may misunderstand, and to provide multiple opportunities for the learning process.

    The book provides the methods, the meat and vegetables, for the journey and lots of practical advice about how to understand success, work backwards from success to where the students are now, and then plan how to navigate (with all the usual twists and occasional wrong turns) the route to this success. The book looks at each point with chapters on Setting High Expectations, Starting Points, Defining and Demystifying the Destination, Looking for Proof of Learning, Challenge, and Feedback.

    Who is this book aimed at? There is a lot of detail in this book, with plenty of ideas which will suit primary or secondary teachers. If you're looking for a new pedagogical approach to implement within your classroom, department or school, then Teaching Backwards gives you the foundations and confidence. Newly Qualified Teachers and Student Teachers will also find the ideas of use.

    See the full review here: https://ukedchat.com/2014/12/05/book-review-teaching-backwards-by-oteaching/
  6. All teachers want to improve their practice and this book is essential reading. It is Practical! Practical! Practical! And packed with ideas you can immediately implement in the classroom alongside little pearls of wisdom in the form of memorable stories. Based in evidence, Teaching Backwards will make a difference to school leaders and teachers alike. A must read.
  7. Griffith and Burns have provided classroom teachers with a thought-provoking insight into "teaching backwards". They have achieved a highly accessible balance of philosophy and practical approaches, which are totally credible since they are based on years of fieldwork with outstanding and improving practitioners. This variety of fieldwork in a variety of settings means their thesis is clear, coherent and credible and will make sense to all teachers looking to improve their pedagogy. Their practical suggestions range from quick fix templates and techniques to deeper approaches, but all are explained in a down to earth, real-life fashion, which makes them all the more appealing to a time poor practitioner. Their prose is good humoured and has the learner at the centre. Teachers are encouraged to see learning from the perspective of the learner, and, by developing the techniques outlined in the book, provide them with the clearest support possible in how to succeed. The graphics and layout help make the ideas accessible and of practical use, especially through the summaries at the end of each section. References to works and ideas by other writers offer the opportunity for the reader to explore concepts in greater depth.

    The accessible, real-life nature of "Teaching Backwards" will undoubtedly encourage many practitioners to experiment with its techniques and produce better crafted and more stimulating lessons.
  8. Vintage Griffith & Burns: an impressive melding of anecdote and outstanding classroom practice, which provides countless strategies for ensuring that busy teachers see learning through their pupils' eyes. Simultaneously compellingly readable and rigorously research-informed, this book is the unlikely but deeply attractive love-child of Wilbur Smith and Hilary Mantel.
  9. 'Teaching backwards' is another superb demystification of exactly what outstanding teaching looks like.

    Mark and Andy have the clearest vision of how to describe outstanding teaching that I have yet come across and the book is littered with practical tools to use in the classroom the next day.

    To suggest to a teacher that they "start with the end in mind" is the easy bit. The book goes on to give a step by step approach to how to do it.

    I particularly like the use of humour and metaphor and I will be looking for more hob nob teachers and more black belt assessors

    Enjoyed it and still learned things. Always a great sign.

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