Constructive alignment diagram, Beale Gurney & Nell Rundle, CC BY-SA
"Constructive alignment is a design for teaching in which what it is intended students should learn and how they should express their learning is clearly stated before teaching takes place. Teaching is then designed to engage students in learning activities that optimise their chances of achieving those outcomes, and assessment tasks are designed to enable clear judgments as to how well those outcomes have been attained" (Biggs, 2014, pp. 5-6).
The constructive alignment approach recognises "knowledge is constructed by the activities of the learner" (Biggs, 2014, p. 9) rather than being directly transferable from teacher to student. "Learning takes place through the active behavior of the student: it is what he does that he learns, not what the teacher does." (Tyler, 1949)
Alignment occurs when the learning activities that we ask students to engage in help them to develop the knowledge, skills and understandings intended for the unit and measured by our assessment. A constructively aligned unit capitalises on the powerful effect of assessment on students' learning experiences. If assessment drives students' learning, then students are most likely to achieve our intended outcomes if the assessment is aligned with our intentions.
The framework of constructive alignment is represented in the University's recommended approach to unit design:
- Identify the intended learning outcomes
- Design assessment tasks to measure attainment of the learning outcomes
- Plan learning activities to enable students to develop the skills, knowledge and understandings described in the intended learning outcomes and measured by assessment
- Choose the content (topics/examples/resources/materials) required to support the learning activities
ELT501 Foundations of University Learning and Teaching provides opportunity to explore constructive alignment and its application to your teaching practice.
Biggs, J. (2014). Constructive alignment in university teaching. HERDSA Review of Higher Education, 1, 5-22.
Tyler, R.W. (1949). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.