How to align intended learning outcomes, learning activities and assessment tasks to achieve active knowledge construction
The principle of constructive alignment according to Biggs and Tang (2003) postulates an interplay of intended learning outcomes, teaching and learning methods and assessment methods.
"Constructive alignment is a design for teaching in which what it is intended students should learn and how they should express their learning is clearly stated before teaching takes place. Teaching is then designed to engage students in learning activities that optimise their chances of achieving those outcomes, and assessment tasks are designed to enable clear judgments as to how well those outcomes have been attained" (Biggs, 2014, pp. 5-6).
According to this, in a "properly designed" course, these three factors must be aligned with each other (Baumert & May, 2013). This means that the teaching and learning methods must be designed and used in such a way that the students can also achieve the intended learning outcomes and that the examination really assesses whether these objectives have been achieved.
When planning the course, the intended learning outcomes, the assessment method and the teaching and learning activities must be aligned and coordinated. Alignment is in place when the learning activities that we initiate for students to engage in help them to develop the knowledge, and skills intended for (part of a ) learning venture and measured by our assessment. 
Intended Learning Outcomes
Teaching and learning objectives are an elementary component of curriculum planning. Learning objectives are generated by the learners and address the question of what increase in knowledge the learner would like to achieve. Teaching objectives, on the other hand, are formulated by the teacher and address the question of what goals the teacher wants to achieve through the teaching topics. Both, teaching and learning objectives, address intended learning outcomes, i.e. knowledge and skills we want students to have built by the end of a learning venture (EPIC Missions, courses, service learning experiences, etc.)The use of intended learning outcomes offers clear advantages, as it
- facilitates course planning and structuring. The teacher can use the previously defined objectives as a guide and thus, already during planning, can reflect and check whether the intended structure could be useful for achieving the learning outcomes.
- provides the students with an overview of the course. If the intended learning outcomes are presented to the students at the beginning of the course, they already have an idea of what the central content of the course could be. This already activates them cognitively.
- can increase the learning success.
- facilitates the students' later reflection on the course. If the objectives are presented to the students, they can reflect on whether they have learned and understood the content desired. When they later prepare for an examination, the intended learning outcomes also serve as a guide as to which content was of particular importance.
Learning activities need to designed and stimulated in such a way that learning is facilitated and learning objectives can be reached.Based on the conversational framework of Prof. D. Laurillard (UCL), the ABC Learning Design approach distinguishes six different types of learning activities: Acquisition, Practice, Investigation, Discussion, Collaboration and Discussion, which can be implemented via a variety of either conventional or digitally enhanced methods.
In contrast to commonly used summative assessment tasks such as written or oral exams, presentations or written assignments intended to measure the extent to which the learning objectives defined at the beginning of a course, formative assessment tasks are meant to allow for intermediate self-assessment of a student's learning progress.
Especially when combined with qualitative feedback, either provided automatically via digital tools, or given by peers and/or teachers, formative forms of assessment have proven to facilitate learning and are increasingly integrated in Higher Education learning and teaching.
E-portfolios can be used as way of combining both formative and summative assessment tasks. They offer students the opportunity to continuously gather and reflect their individual learning products, including multimedia artefacts. By creating and assembling selected components in a purposeful and appealing way they do not only enhance their digital skills but can demonstrate competences gained to teachers and/or potential employers in a comprehensive, state-of-the-art format.
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Further use permitted: "Digital Teaching Toolbox" by E-Learning Department, University of Freiburg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
 All information in this section: cf. Department of Higher Education Didactics, University of Freiburg, https://www.hochschuldidaktik.uni-freiburg.de/themenportal/lehrkonzepte/lehrlernziele/constructivealignment/?searchterm=constructive%20alignment
Last edited: 18. Oct. 2022, 11:23, Hutz-Nierhoff, Dorthe [firstname.lastname@example.org]