Biggs & Tang (2011) argue that constructive alignment supports deep learning for all students. They explore the learning experiences from the perspective of two students: Susan and Robert.

Susan is “academically committed”, bright and focussed on her studies. She has a strong commitment to her academic studies and “what she learns is important to her”. She prepares in advance for her taught sessions and reads widely around the subject area and reflects on that learning. (Biggs, 1999).

Susan therefore takes a deep approach to her learning (Marton & Säaliö, 1976) regardless of how the curriculum has been designed or developed. Susan is at University for the love of her discipline and for the love of learning.

Robert on the other hand has a more strategic approach to his learning. His ultimate aim is to pass the programme in order to be able to get a job, he’s not even studying his favourite subject but has picked a programme because it has been suggested to him based on the job he might want in the future.

In stark contrast to Susan he does not prepare for lectures, does not read around the subject and is seeking to do the bare minimum to pass the programme, thus adopting a “surface” approach to his learning. (Biggs, 1999)

Constructive alignment is designed to engage surface learners through effective alignment of learning activities.

Whilst this example focusses particularly on surface learners there are in fact benefits for all students when we use constructive alignment effectively for programme development. After all "Learning takes place through the active behaviour of the student: it is what she does that she learns, not what the teacher does." (Tyler, 1949)

  • Aligning tasks to outcomes can help ensure that our students “learn what we really want them to” (Brabrand, 2008). Designing learning tasks and activities that are aligned with our learning outcomes helps ensure task suitability and relevance.
  • Using programme learning outcomes to inform module learning outcomes can ensure that our modules are contributing to the overall aims and outcomes of the programme.
  • In addition, it gives all academic staff a deeper understanding of how their module fits within the programme and also a clearer sense of the student experience as they journey through it.
  • Vertical and Horizontal integration of modules builds a sense of connectedness between modules and thus a more holistic design of the programme (Thomson, 2020)
  • Formative and Summative assessment tasks clearly aligned to learning outcomes can be more clearly articulated to students who will see direct value and purpose of the task for their learning.
  • The teaching resources and activities are more aligned to the required knowledge acquisition for the intended learning outcomes.

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