Using Biggs' Model of Constructive Alignment in Curriculum Design/Introduction

The main theoretical underpinning of the outcomes-based curriculum is provided by Biggs (2003). He calls the model constructive alignment which he defines as:

…coherence between assessment, teaching strategies and intended learning outcomes in an educational programme. (McMahon & Thakore 2006)

As currently articulated, the model is attributed to Biggs (2003, 1999) but the essentials were formulated by Tyler (1949) some 50 years earlier - and elaborated in the 1980s by Shuell (1986). At its most basic, the model requires alignment between the three key areas of the curriculum, namely, the intended learning outcomes, what the student does in order to learn, how the student is assessed. This is expressed in Figure 1 with a concrete example given as Figure 2.

Figure 1: A Basic Model of an Aligned Curriculum.

"Figure 1: A Basic Model of an Aligned Curriculum."

Figure 2: An Example of Constructive Alignment in a Curriculum

(Further examples are given in Appendix 1)

Title of Module: Evaluating and Reflecting on your Teaching.
On completion of this module you should be able to:
Critically reflective written report containing the following:
Teaching / Learning Activities
Monitor, evaluate and reflect on your teaching and the learning of your students Evidence of having completed the prescribed mentoring – observation cycle

A reflective statement of personal and professional gains made from the peer observation process

Introductory Group Tutorial – Revision of critical reflection theory (from previous modules).

Seminar: Introduction to Peer Observation and the use of a Learning Contract.

Peer mentor sessions.

Use a range of methods to gather student feedback. Evidence of having received and responded to student feedback

A reflective statement of what has been achieved as a result of gathering feedback from students.


Methods of Gathering Student Feedback

Project: Collecting Student Feedback (using a variety of methods)

Contribute to the debate on the links between research and teaching. Formatively assessed by tutor comments in forum. (In preparation for formal assessment of this outcome in a future module.) On line forum

Biggs actually suggests that teaching and learning activities are designed second and the assessment regime third (page 30). If this sequence is adopted, it is important that activities are designed which enable students to learn how to demonstrate achievement at the highest level described by the outcomes. This can be done by focusing on the verbs within the outcomes that express "the very best understanding that could reasonably be expected" (page 28). (See Figure 3)

Appropriate verbs can be discovered or derived by relating the model to a learning taxonomy. The two most commonly used are that devised by Bloom (1956) as revised by Anderson et al (2001) and that devised by Biggs & Collis (1982). (See Figure 4)

Figure 3: Adapting the Model to Allow for Differential Levels of Achievement.

"Figure 3: Adapting the Model to Allow for Differential Levels of Achievement."

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