Putting it into practice

Constructive alignment can be put into practice at a number of different stages in the curriculum design process. For example, if you are considering a review of your assessments, these can be designed so that they more clearly linked to the learning outcomes of the modules. However, for constructive alignment to be most beneficial it is best used holistically as part of a whole course design/review process. This is described in detail below for a three year undergraduate programme:

  1. The first stage is to write and agree the programme learning outcomes. These should ideally be developed as a whole programme team and are best written considering the “threshold concepts” of the discipline. They should be informed by QAA subject benchmarks, professional bodies and other stakeholders (e.g. employers). A good question to ask “what should all students who graduate this programme be able to know/do”?
  2. Once the programme learning outcomes have been agreed the module leads for level six (final year) can then use these to inform their module learning outcomes. They shouldn’t be the same as the programme learning outcomes, but they should ensure that they are aligned to them.
  3. As you might guess the next stage is for level 5 (year 2) module leads to write their module learning outcomes and should be aligned to the level 6 modules. A good question to ask yourself is “what do the students need to know by the end of level 5 in order to be in a good position to start their level 6 journey”.
  4. Finally, the level 4 (year 1) module team can develop their learning outcomes, using the level 5 modules for alignment.
  5. In turn these learning outcomes then inform the assessments for each module as well as the learning resources, sessions and activities.

This is very much an iterative process and discussions between programme team members will continue throughout, but what is important is that decisions are based on the agreed learning outcomes at all the levels.

The final stage in this process would be to then design an induction process which sufficiently prepares students for the start of their learning journey in the programme, safe in the knowledge that each step they take has been carefully “aligned” to “construct” their learning in a way which makes it more difficult to be a surface learner.

“Students in more ‘constructively aligned courses’ were more likely to adopt deep learning approaches and less likely to use surface learning approaches in their study of a particular course” (Wang, Su, Cheung, Wong, & Kwong, 2013)

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