Constructive Alignment

Posted by Natasa Brouwer, on Oct. 5, 2021, 3:04 p.m.
EC2E2N PedagogicalIssues


Past examination papers are often referred to as ‘the hidden curriculum’  because, regardless of what is being taught, students see the content of these papers as defining what they need to know to succeed in passing their exams. Such strategic thinking, to meet the demands of the assessment regime, leads students to adopt a shallow or surface approach to their learning rather than the deep approach that their lecturers seek to promote. John Biggs has suggested that it is vital to align assessment tasks with required learning outcomes and teaching and learning activities, if we are to encourage deep rather than surface approaches to learning. He referred to this approach as Constructive Alignment. In practical terms the approach involves taking the following three key linked steps:

  1. Defining the required learning outcomes.
  2. Selecting teaching and learning activities that will best enable the students to achieve these outcomes.
  3. Selecting appropriate assessment activities to allow students to demonstrate the extent to which the required learning outcomes have been achieved.

Further information and discussion can be found in the following reference.
Biggs, J., (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education, 32, 347-364.

Original author: Bill Byers
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