Constructive alignment is an example of outcomes based teaching and learning. Biggs, in 1994, incorporated portfolio assessment into a subject to assess how students were applying their learning to practice. Rather than having students regurgitate information, he asked them to reflect on their learning and provide evidence of how they were using learning in their practice. Outcomes based teaching and learning is based on meeting set standards of teaching and learning to ensure students meet the requirements for a degree.

In constructive alignment, assessment is aligned to the outcomes and student construct knowledge through teaching and learning experiences. Students show evidence of how they meet the outcomes through assessment where they show construction of knowledge. Teaching provides the opportunities for students to learn and demonstrate their learning. An objective contains a verb to describe what students should perform to achieve the objective. For example, “apply procedures..” or “compare theories...”. Learning activities are what the student undertakes to meet objectives, students construct knowledge based on the activities, and assessment shows how well they have carried out the activities.
They are student centred, active learning activities that provide opportunities to construct new knowledge.

This videovideo TTLL.jpgis a 19 minute demonstration of the different types of students we often encounter in universities and how constructive alignment can help both to learn.

Through identifying clear objectives for a subject and then mapping levels of thinking in a subject, the subject can be analysed and then designed to incorporate clear purposes and structured learning opportunities to develop skills and knowledge throughout a subject and ultimately a course. SOLO taxonomy or Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy are two taxonomies on which to base developing learning activities. This interactive table from Indiana State university is a great way to get some ideas for learning objectives.Pages from RevisedBloomsHandout.jpg

The process of constructive alignment is to align subject objectives with assessment and assessment with learning activities that provide students with an environment that encourages them to demonstrate their proficiency in their learning activities.

Put simply, enter the objectives in a column in a table, align the assessment tasks that are designed to have students show they can meet the objective in the next column and design learning activities in the next column that provide the learning opportunities to meet the assessment to allow students to construct new knowledge.

Subject Learning Outcomes
Assessment meeting the subject learning outcome (description of how the assessment meets the learning objectives)
Learning experiences / activities that meet assessment requirements
Students will be able to understand and explain constructive alignment, and design a subject using the principles of constructive alignment
Students examine and analyse subject learning outcomes for a subject and develop aligned assessment tasks to meet the outcomes and show teaching and learning experiences that students will engage in
Students will learn about constructive alignment through reading information, analysing subject learning outcomes, referring to AQF and taxonomy tables, match outcome terminology and intent with the tables, write sample assessment tasks, match syllabus to outcomes, develop active, student centred learning and teaching experiences to develop student knowledge.


To ensure that students are experiencing structured and developing learning activities, it’s a good idea to insert a column next to the learning objectives to identify whether they first meet the level of learning required by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) and another for the level of thinking required by the objective (refer to Bloom's Revised Taxonomy and Krathwoll and Anderson's table). Ideally, students should experience a range of experience developing from a lower order of thinking to a higher order of thinking across the subject and ultimately, the degree.


Subject Learning Objectives
AQF
Level of thinking
Assessment meeting the subject learning outcome
Learning experiences / activities that meet assessment requirements
Students will be able to understand and explain constructive alignment, and design a subject using the principles of constructive alignment
cognitive, technical and creative skills to investigate, analyse and synthesise complex information, problems, concepts and theories and to apply established theories to different bodies of knowledge or practice
understand concepts, explain concepts. apply concepts to procedures
Students examine and analyse subject learning outcomes for a subject and develop aligned assessment tasks to meet the outcomes and show teaching and learning experiences that students will engage in
Students will learn about constructive alignment through reading information, analysing subject learning outcomes, referring to AQF and taxonomy tables, match outcome terminology and intent with the tables, write sample assessment tasks, match syllabus to outcomes, develop active, student centred learning and teaching experiences to develop student knowledge.

A further column can be added to identify all resources needed to support the learning activities. For example, readings, texts, or online links. By matching all the columns, the subject is adequately assessed, taught and learnt at an appropriate standard for the level of the degree.

Subject Learning Objectives
AQF
Level of thinking
Assessment meeting the subject learning outcome (description of how the assessment meets the learning objectives)
Learning experiences / activities that meet assessment requirements
Resources
Students will be able to understand and explain constructive alignment, and design a subject using the principles of constructive alignment
cognitive, technical and creative skills to investigate, analyse and synthesise complex information, problems, concepts and theories and to apply established theories to different bodies of knowledge or practice
understand concepts, explain concepts. apply concepts to procedures
Students examine and analyse subject learning outcomes for a subject and develop aligned assessment tasks to meet the outcomes and show teaching and learning experiences that students will engage in
Students will learn about constructive alignment through reading information, analysing subject learning outcomes, referring to AQF and taxonomy tables, match outcome terminology and intent with the tables, write sample assessment tasks, match syllabus to outcomes, develop active, student centred learning and teaching experiences to develop student knowledge.
AQF handbook, Taxonomy table, Mapping template, Bigg's Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Assessment 2020, First Year Principles, Threshold Learning Outcomes,

The focus in constructive alignment is on what and how students learn, rather than on the topic the teacher teaches.

References

Biggs, J., 2011, http://www.johnbiggs.com.au/constructive_alignment.html
Biggs, J., 2011, http://www.johnbiggs.com.au/solo_taxonomy.html
Churches, A, 2008, http://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloom%27s+Digital+Taxonomy
DEEWR. (2011). Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency. Retrieved September 28, 2012, from Department of industry, Innovtion, Science, Research and Tertiary Education: http://www.deewr.gov.au/HigherEducation/Policy/teqsa/Documents/Teaching_Learning_Discussion_Paper.pdf
City University of Hong Kong, (2011), What is Outcomes Based Teaching and Learning (OTBL)?, Office of Education Development and General Education, http://www.cityu.edu.hk/edge/obtl/elearn_tool/p3.htm

These pages created by Deb Murdoch, an Academic Lead on the Student Transition and Retention Program at Charles Sturt University and course and subject analyst in the Faculty of Business.


Creative Commons License
Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.