Constructive Alignment


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

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.


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  • […] Constructive alignment is the process by which care is taken to ensure that every learning activity is responding to a particular learning outcome or set of outcomes, and that the learning is appropriately assessed. These three elements of learning design (learning outcome, learning activity, assessment) must be directly connected, such that you could draw a diagram showing the links or alignment. This might seem to be common sense, but is often overlooked when curricula evolve over time. It must also be noted that this is assuming that formal assessment is taking place – in many instances this might not be appropriate, but another mechanism of reflecting the learning that has taken place should be employed. […]

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