Writing backwards

honey&mumfordschematicMy regular readers will know that I am a fan of the 5E instructional method and in particular combining it with Everyday Engineering Examples when teaching introductory engineering courses to undergraduate students. Elsewhere in this blog, there is a catalogue of lesson plans and examples originally published in a series of booklets produced during a couple of projects funded by the US National Science Foundation. Now, I have gone a step further and embedded this pedagogy in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Energy! Thermodynamics in Everyday Life. If you follow the MOOC, you’ll find some new worked examples that I explain while writing ‘backwards’ on a glass board. My film unit are very proud of the ‘backwards’ writing in these examples, which they tell me is an innovation in education filming-making. Our other major innovation is laboratory exercises that MOOC participants can perform in their kitchens. Two of these are based on everyday experiences for most participants: boiling water and waiting for a hot drink to cool down; the third is less everyday because it involves a plumber’s manometer. In each case, I am attempting to move people around Honey and Mumford’s learning cycle, which is illustrated schematically in the figure, i.e. having an experience, reviewing the experience, concluding from the experience and the planning the next steps. The intention is that students progress around the cycle in the taught component, then again in the experiments.

If you want to have a go at the one of experiments, then the instructions for the first one are available here. Alternatively you could sign up for the MOOC – its not too late!  But if you don’t want to follow the course then you can stil watch some excerpts on the University of Liverpool’s Stream website, including the backwards written examples.


Atkin, J.M. and Karplus, R., 1962. Discovery of invention? Science Instructor, 29 (5), 45–47.

Honey P, Mumford A. The Manual of Learning Styles 3rd Ed. Peter Honey Publications Limited, Maidenhead, 1992.

5 thoughts on “Writing backwards

  1. drehack

    Absolutely stunning idea! Watching the teacher’s face while he is writing on the “blackboard” is a new experience for me. Must need quite a bit of rehearsal and skill to write backwards as fluently as you do. Congratulations on this!

  2. Peter Goodhew

    The backward writing in your MOOC was fun, but you don’t make clear in the blog whether this was achieved by technical wizardry or by you actually writing backwards. If the latter, then well done! It must have taken a lot of practice. BTW, your head obscures significant chunks of the text at any time, so maybe more work is needed on line thickness, contrast etc. Also having to shake the marker so frequently was a bit distracting. But never mind, I feel that I might really improve my understanding of TD if I persist.

  3. eann patterson Post author

    There is no way that I am clever enough to write backwards even when not attempting to solve a tutorial problem in Thermodynamics. Its a technical innovation by our film crew at the University of Liverpool, as I have mentioned above, and they have trademarked it as ‘Clear Screen Technology’.

  4. F. Holt

    Yes, it is quite clever tech. However, for the start at least, I found it very distracting. I still can’t completely eliminate the distraction. Perhaps the experience will improve as the course proceeds.

  5. Random Guy-Servant (randomgs) of Bajan13K, `teh

    Reblogged this on Kool Kenatro (Bajan13K) and commented:
    Reblogging this for the cool diagram ;-).

    The original post is worth reading and is short enough that it makes no sense for me to summarize it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.