Constructive Alignment Approach within Learning Trajectories and the Study Programme

Posted by @natasabrouwer on Nov. 17, 2021, 2:52 p.m.

Jocelyne Vreede, Stefania Grecea, Lotte Schreuders, Bob Pirok, Natasa Brouwer

Faculty of Science, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Challenge and goal

Today's fast-changing world requires a broad range of skills, including critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, analytical reasoning, adaptability etc. To provide students with the foundation and tools to build these skills and competencies whilst acquiring fundamental yet diverse knowledge, modern science curricula include multiple learning trajectories. Aligning the learning goals of these trajectories is pivotal for achieving the intended learning outcomes of the curriculum. In practice, this becomes difficult because the students have the freedom to tailor-design their academic path as to suit their personal development needs. As such, they are free to choose and study topics from different learning trajectories. Whilst learning trajectories are explicitly visualised in the curriculum, there is a lack of awareness on how specific components in a course can function as a pre-knowledge building-block for a different course. Consequently, students follow courses that either overlap too much, or too little both situations causing to students dropping out as they are not satisfied with the program. Moreover, aligning learning outcomes across the curriculum is often problematic due to a lack of communication between lecturers as well as changes in the staff over time. Especially, lecturers teaching courses which are part of cross-curricular learning trajectories are not always aware of other parts that cover the learning trajectory. Therefore, the challenge of lecturers is how to create and organise the content of their courses to guarantee both the alignment with the learning trajectories within curriculum and the achievement of the learning goals of the students.

To tackle this problem, we propose a set of activities aimed to help lecturers in acquiring better knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and how their course is positioned in relation to other courses and the learning trajectories in the curriculum. This set of activities comprises brainstorming sessions and peer-feedback about course design and curriculum. 

Topic of the user case

Curriculum alignment; quality assurance; knowledge transfer

Local context (specific)

The Chemistry Bachelor program at the University of Amsterdam has a new curriculum starting with the academic year 2021-2022. It aims to provide an attractive and challenging multi-disciplinary training centered around chemistry and its application in the real world. The program comprises four themes, namely Chemistry of Life, Synthesis & Sustainability, Analytics & Photonics and Quantum & Computing which combine the core elements of chemistry, with those of molecular biology, physics, mathematics, technology, modeling, data science and artificial intelligence, focusing on the molecular aspects of science.

The program is strongly student-centered as it provides freedom of choice while allowing for focusing on topics of interest along clear and coherent learning lines within the program. Students can approach their favorite focus in streamlined steps, in contrast to committing oneself to one specific direction at an early stage. In the first year, the program offers a solid core of the fundamental concepts and methods of chemistry. This provides the basis for widening the scope and increasing the depth in the second and third year, where also the connection is made to other fields such as life science, physics, technology, forensic science, basic industrial chemistry and computer science. The multidisciplinary scope of the program is realized by a structure that allows for increasing focus on disciplines that are appealing to students and which offer topics they consider of importance for their future career. 

At the same time, lecturers teaching in this program are encountering difficulties to teaching in this new curriculum as they are not familiar with it yet, and also have a high workload balancing research work and education. The risk exists that lecturers continue teaching the course they have taught previously, without adjusting to the new learning goals. This can lead to insufficient or too much overlap between courses within a theme. The mismatch in overlap may cause students to be frustrated, as the course will be too difficult or too easy.

Pre-knowledge / Background of the participating local teaching staff

Most of the lecturers in this user case have achieved the Netherlands nationally recognized University Teaching Qualification certificate after following the UTQ programme organized at the Faculty of Science. Several lecturers are following the UTQ programme during this user case.

Local CPD goals

This user case will help lecturers in the BSc Chemistry program to be able to:

  • improve design of the courses in which they are involved
  • align the learning outcomes of their course to different learning trajectories within the curriculum
  • develop and use a digital tool to explicit and visualize learning trajectories (see manual at:

Needs defined in STEM-CPD Roadmap

1 frame the course in the context of the study programme
2 define intended learning outcomes in every course they teach
14 teach large groups of students
15 teach small groups of students (group's dynamics)
21 use design thinking methods
13 teach about lab safety using digital tools/platform (where appropriate)
8 develop critical thinking by students
2 attending presentations about teaching approaches.
4 attending hands-on workshops on specific continuous professional development (CPD) topics.
11 collaborating with a peer-lecturer on a redesign of a course.
13 collaborating on a teaching innovation project.

CPD activities at the local university


  1. Organize brainstom sessions

Theme-focused meetings will be first organised with lecturers involved in each trajectory to identify their needs and what type of activities suit them best. 

  1. Create inventory of courses that would benefit from improving alignment

A list of courses will be provided using selection criteria.

  1. Definition of alignment procedure

Using the selected courses, a first draft of an alignment procedure will be designed. By incorporating input from the lecturers of the selected courses the alignment procedure is ensured to deliver the requested knowledge and is likely to promote a CPD mindset.

  1. Exploration of the learning trajectories digital tool


The proposed alignment procedure will be presented for review by other STEM-CPD@EUni members. The gained feedback will be incorporated into the alignment procedure before the first pilots start.

Stage 3: PILOT

The University of Amsterdam STEM-CPD@EUni team will track the progress.


The improved procedure as well as the results of the defined test cases will be presented to the STEM-CPD@EUni community for a final iteration of reflection and improvement. The lessons and experience will be processed into a new microMOOC.

Teaching and learning materials

Media platform (e.g. Zoom, Teams, microMOOC) and manual

Sustainable implementation

Feedback from test cases will be used to develop a microMOOC together with an information package.

Expected impact of the CPD User Case

  • improvement of the curriculum and long-lasting alignment of courses with learning trajectories in the bachelor curriculum
  • long-lasting curriculum improvement by providing tools and learning resources that support teaching staff in their CPD 
  • creation of inclusive and supportive community of lecturers
  • understanding of personal learning paths and the role of courses in the curriculum for both teaching staff and students

Experiences of fellow lecturers / Evalution of the microMOOC

Evaluation of how lecturers experienced the alignment procedure.
Evaluation of how students experiended the alignment between courses. 

Plans for eventual continuation of the CPD within the same topic


Constructive alignment, Competence teaching, Problem solving (design and teaching), Engagement and motivation, facilitation discipline specific learning, Deep learning (type P1-1, P1-2a, P1-3a, P1-3b, P1-3c)

This CPD scenario describes a User case in which lecturers develop their competence in sound course design and teaching in higher education and facilitating problem solving and how to engage and motivate students and how to facilitate discipline specific thinking and how to facilitate student’s deep learning and development of higher cognitive skills.
The approximate duration of a User case that follows this scenario is several months.
In this CPD scenario the participants are using a very short open online course, a micro mooc (μmooc) and professionalize in a close connection to their own teaching practice (at their workplace) and meet in person on location with the training staff and with other participants.

Learning environment
Several months

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See also