Friday, September 5, 2008

Constructive alignment and assessment - Activity 1

Our next two posts will provide you with two activities in constructive alignment and assessment that have been prepared for you by Catherine Tang, co-keynote with John Biggs. If you haven't heard about constructive alignment then the following video "Teaching teaching & understanding understanding" is a good investment of 19 minutes. Many thanks for this, Catherine!

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

At the course (unit/subject) level, intended learning outcomes are statements clarifying what students should be able to perform after engaging in a teaching and learning experience. Each intended learning outcome statement should clearly specify the content or topic to be learned and the level of understanding (performance), expressed in the form of an action verb, desirable for students to achieve. (Refer to Biggs & Tang, 2007, Chapter 5 for details of Intended Learning Outcomes)

Activity 1: Writing course (unit/subject) intended learning outcomes (ILOs)

(Adapted from Task 5.2, Biggs & Tang, 2007, p.84)

Take a course (unit/subject) that you are teaching. Consider the course aim and write the course ILOs by identifying the

  1. content or topic to be learned; and
  2. level of understanding or performance to be achieved.

The following may provide a helpful framework.

Content or topic

Level of understanding or performance (outcome verb)

Now go across the rows and write out the course ILOs by stating the intended level of understanding or performance (outcome verb) and the content or topic in which the verb is to be enacted.

Constructive Alignment

Teaching and learning should focus on the intended learning outcomes. In Constructive Alignment (CA), the teaching and learning activities (TLAs) and assessment tasks (ATs) are designed to align to the intended learning outcomes of the particular learning experience. There are four stages in a constructively aligned curriculum (Biggs & Tang, 2007, pp. 54-55).

  1. Describe the intended learning outcomes in the form of a verb (learning activity), its object (the content), and specify the context and a standard the students are to attain.
  2. Create a learning environment using teaching/learning activities that address that verb and therefore are likely to bring about the intended outcomes.
  3. Use assessment tasks that also contain that verb, thus enabling you to judge with the help of rubrics if and how well students’ performances meet the criteria.
  4. Transform these judgments into standard grading criteria.

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