At its core, backward design is about how to craft a learning pathway that takes students from where they are to where they need to be. One way to think about that is by the concept of scaffolding, which means that we structure assessments in such a way that students are able to incrementally achieve a course objective. Students do not jump from not knowing any Hebrew to being able to read passages in a single leap. They take a series of incremental steps over the course of the first year class in order to get there. Good design involves thinking about each of those smaller steps and scaffolding the learning experience to continually advance them toward the end goal.
We also want to keep alignment in mind, making sure the assessments connect with the course goals and objectives. If we find we have an assessment that is not aligned with our course objectives, we should pause and ask ourselves why it is important to assess that topic? It may be that checking alignment with our course objectives helps us see that this particular assessment is unnecessary. Or it may be that we realize that we need to modify our course objectives to include a skill we had inadvertently left out.
One final concept to keep in mind when designing courses is to make sure that the weekly workload is steadily and evenly distributed throughout the duration of the course. Distribution is about looking at the overall workload of a course and making sure we do not frustrate students with unpredictable course workload demands. The goal is to spread the work out as evenly as possible so students can plan on spending a consistent amount of time each week.