When planning a curriculum, we first have to be clear about what we want our students to learn, and then teach and assess accordingly in an aligned system of instruction (Biggs, 1996)
This phase is about ensuring that your teaching practice is responsive to the context. This is about yourself as a teacher, understanding your students, the SU environment, the national HE context, South Africa and beyond.1 of 6
Outcomes are the end goals of the learning process. They are formulated to describe the result of student learning at the end of the learning opportunities. This is not about content but rather about the concepts and underlying principles of the field of study.2 of 6
Assessment is about how well your students achieve the intended learning outcomes. This is not about them reporting back what you have taught them, but rather about how well they demonstrate their understanding of the key concepts and underlying principles of their field of study.3 of 6
Learning is about what the students do, not about what you do as the teacher. Your role is to design learning opportunities that engage students and enable them to access disciplinary knowledge.4 of 6
This is where you consider whether you have achieved what you had set out to achieve with your module.5 of 6 YOU ARE HERE 6 of 6
An Introduction to Constructive Alignment
When planning a curriculum, we first have to be clear about what we want our students to learn, and then teach and assess accordingly in an aligned system of instruction (Biggs, 1996). Such a system is fully criterion referenced as the outcomes define what we should be teaching; how we should be teaching it; and how we could know how well students have learned it. In aligned teaching, there is maximum consistency throughout the system.
The curriculum is stated in the form of clear outcomes which state the level of understanding required rather than simply listing the topics to be covered. The teaching methods chosen are those that are likely to realise those outcomes; you get students to do the things that the outcomes nominate.
Finally, the assessment tasks address the outcomes, so that you can test to see if, and how well the students have learned what the outcomes state they should be learning. Assessment is about how well students achieve the intended outcomes, not about how well they report back to us what we have told them.
All components in such an aligned system thus address the same agenda and support each other. The students are “entrapped” in this web of consistency, optimising the likelihood that they will engage the appropriate learning activities. Biggs (1999) calls this network ‘constructive alignment’.
The writing of outcomes will inform what you teach
Teaching Teaching & Understanding Understanding, an award-winning video from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, written and directed by Claus Brabrand. To view the 19-minute short film or to order the DVD, click on the icon.
A South African version of the Teaching teaching and Understanding understanding video was created at CPUT. Contact Prof James Garraway at GarrawayJ@cput.ac.za if you are interested in a copy.