Constructive alignment is an idea developed by Professor John B. Biggs to ensure effective curriculum design.
John B. Biggs
Biggs is an Australian educational psychologist who is best known for developing both the ‘SOLO taxonomy‘ for assessing the quality of learning outcomes and the idea of ‘constructive alignment’ for curriculum design.
Constructive alignment requires that your learning outcomes are aligned to a learning activity, and that the learning activity is appropriately reflected in the assessment. This means that students learning is tightly anchored to the necessary learning to be acquired during the lesson or course, and that the students are therefore assessed on this same learning. In this way, learning potential is maximised.
Why ‘constructive’ alignment?
The concept is called ‘constructive’ alignment because it draws on the psychological concept of constructivism. This is to say that learners construct meaning from what they actually do in order to learn. This concept derives from cognitive psychology and constructivist theory. It also recognises that students will build on their prior learning, and will be able to abstract this new learning to future learning challenges. There is a deliberate effort to provide the learner with a clearly specified goal, a well designed learning activity or activities that are appropriate for the task, and well designed assessment criteria for giving feedback to the learner.
References and further reading
Biggs, J. (1996) Enhancing Teaching Through Constructive Alignment. Higher Education, 32, 347-364.
Biggs. J. (2003) Teaching for Quality Learning at University – What the Student Does. 2nd Edition. Buckingham: SRHE / Open University Press.