2.3 Constructive alignment

In the previous section, we explored some foundational aspects associated with learning outcomes. We will now build on this knowledge by looking at the essential concept of constructive alignment as this is fundamental to our teaching and assessment approaches, and ultimately students’ learning.

You have a responsibility to ensure there is alignment between the course learning outcomes, subject learning outcomes, the teaching and learning activity approaches, and the assessment, to assure students’ achievement of the learning outcomes. Constructive alignment of these elements is certainly associated with positive student experience and outcomes, and is embedded within JCU Learning and Teaching Policy and Procedures (Core Principle 3): Assessment design and learning and teaching activities have an overt alignment to subject knowledge and skills, and their application to assure standards.

The work of John Biggs is frequently referred to when discussing constructive alignment in educational settings.

“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).

Essentially, constructive alignment occurs when the learning activities that we ask students to engage with (i.e., they have the opportunity to construct knowledge) help them to develop the knowledge, skills and understandings intended for the subject (i.e., learning outcomes) and measured by the assessment tasks.

This video discusses the basics of constructive alignment.

What is constructive alignment? Blended Learning and Digital Education (BLADE)


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