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Constructive Alignment

No module manual can get by without learning objectives. In contrast to the specification of which content is to be dealt with within the context of a course, learning goals determine – as specifically as possible – those things that students should be able to do at the end of the semester which they were unable to do at the start of the semester.

There are a number of so-called learning goal taxonomies that can, for example, help you to establish a particular learning level. They furthermore offer extensive lists of verbs that you can use to formulate the learning objectives.

Now, it is one thing to focus on learning objectives rather than solely on course content. However, this alone does not fully constitute the shift from teaching to learning initiated by the Bologna Reform. Only when teaching and learning methods and exam forms are adapted to support learning objectives can we speak of a paradigm shift of this nature.

To accomplish this, Biggs and Tang have developed the constructive alignment model presented below. It consists of three elements that are both inextricably linked and asymmetrically interdependent:

  • The learning objectives: these shape the beginning as well as the goal of your course planning.
  • The teaching and learning methods: only when you know what students should be capable of can you plan the methodology of the course accordingly.
  • The exam: the purpose of the exam is to test whether students have been successful in meeting the learning objectives.

However, planning does not start with the learning objectives, but rather with the analysis of the framework conditions of the course. The formulation of the learning objectives depends on these conditions. The choice of teaching methods and the possibilities for how to design exams are, in some respects, greatly restricted by prescribed course formats. The framework conditions thus asymmetrically influence all three aspects of constructive alignment.