From Diversifying Economic Quality: A Wiki for Instructors and Departments
Backward course design is a method of designing educational curriculum by setting learning goals for students and then planning learning activities and appropriate assessment methods. This is contrasted with traditional course design where textbooks and learning activities are chosen first to create a syllabus without identifying learning goals. Backward design was first introduced to curriculum design in 1998 by McTighe and Wiggins.
The central idea in backward course design is to "teach toward the "end point" or learning goals" whereas in traditional course design there is "no formal destination identified before the journey begins."