A guiding principle of course design

Constructive alignment is an underlying principle behind quality course design in Outcomes-based Teaching and Learning (OBTL). This idea was conceptualised by John Biggs (1996) based on earlier work by Ralph Tyler (1949) and Thomas Shuell (1986). It suggests that course design should start by defining the learning outcomes. Thereafter, the teaching and assessment activities are designed to enable students to achieve those outcomes and to assess the standard at which they have been achieved (Biggs, 2014).

We start this process first by defining what are the learning outcomes that we intend students to learn and align both teaching and assessment activities to these outcomes. The figure below illustrates the interrelated processes involved in constructive alignment.  

How does a constructively aligned course look?

Humanities

To illustrate the constructive alignment process we will discuss an example written by one of our colleague in the History Department where the learning outcome, assessment and teaching activities have been articulated showing the relationship between the various activities. 


In this example, one of the outcomes is that students are able to “analyze and interpret gendered languages and images in primary historical sources”. In order to measure this outcome, students will have to produce an essay that demonstrates their skills in research and critical analysis. In order to help students achieve this learning outcome, the instructor elaborated these activities and mapped them accordingly as shown in the table below.

Intended Learning Outcomes (LO) Assessment Teaching & Learning Activity
LO3: Analyze and interpret gendered languages and images in primary historical sources. Continous Assessment 4 (CA4) - Major essay – 40%:
The major essay should be a polished piece of writing that demonstrates your skills in research and critical analysis. The research essay should include interpretation of several primary sources.  An excellent essay will also position the argument of the essay in relation to different approaches to the study of gender (which we read about in week 2).  The essay question you have developed should appear at the beginning of the first page of the essay.  Please use the Chicago referencing style (outlined in the Course Style Guide). 
3-10% will be deducted for incorrect referencing style
Primary Source Analysis
In-class activities will help to build your skills in primary source analysis and prepare you for the primary source analysis assignment (CA2).  CA2 is designed to build a key skill that is required for the major essay (CA4), and more generally for historical research, contributing to LO3.

Essay Writing

The major essay (CA4) brings together the competencies in primary source analysis, developing a research topic and constructing a convincing argument from CA1, CA2, and CA3.  Students will investigate historical processes (LO1), compare scholarly approaches to gender history (LO2), analyse primary sources (LO3) and formulate and articulate an historical argument (LO4).

Engineering

To illustrate the constructive alignment process we will discuss an example written by one of our colleague in the Aeroscape Engineering where the learning outcome, assessment and teaching activities have been articulated showing the relationship between the various activities. 

 
In this example, one of the outcomes is that students are able to “apply theory and knowledge of Air Traffic Management (ATM) to develop solutions for practical ATM problems”. In order to measure this outcome, students will have to produce a laboratory report as part of their assessment which involves conducting simulation, modelling and evaluation of real-world problems in a team. The instructor elaborated these activities and mapped them accordingly as shown in the table below.

Intended Learning Outcomes (LO) Assessment Teaching & Learning Activity
Apply theory and knowledge of Air Traffic Management (ATM) to develop solutions for practical ATM problems Laboratory Report (20%)
During laboratory session, you will conduct simulation, modelling and evaluation of a real-world problem and/or of various concepts that you have learned during the lecture. This is a team based activity where a team of two/three students carries out laboratory work and document their findings. This report is a part of the formative assessment for the course.
Computer-Based Simulations
This will allow you to develop realistic solutions to complex problems and will facilitate creative problem-solving

Group Work

This will provide the opportunity for you to learn from one another and to become active participants in their learning. With group based work helps students will develop skills valued by employers (such as problem-solving, negotiation, conflict resolution, leadership, critical thinking and time management)
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