Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment


Two lines of thinking are becoming increasingly important in higher educational practice. The first derives from constructivist learning theory, and the second from the instructional design literature. Constructivism comprises a family of theories but all have in common the centrality of the learner's activities in creating meaning. These and related ideas have important implications for teaching and assessment. Instructional designers for their part have emphasised alignment between the objectives of a course or unit and the targets for assessing student performance. "Constructive alignment" represents a marriage of the two thrusts, constructivism being used as a framework to guide decision-making at all stages in instructional design: in deriving curriculum objectives in terms of performances that represent a suitably high cognitive level, in deciding teaching/learning activities judged to elicit those performances, and to assess and summatively report student performance. The "performances of understanding" nominated in the objectives are thus used to systematically align the teaching methods and the assessment. The process is illustrated with reference to a professional development unit in educational psychology for teachers, but the model may be generalized to most units or programs in higher education. Thinking about teaching and learning Teachers generally enact their teaching decisions in line with some kind of explicit or, more usually, implicit theory of teaching and learning (Argyris 1976, Ramsden 1992). Argyris (1976) distinguishes between espoused theories, that are held to be those underlying professional practice, and theoriesin-use, that guide practice in the event; professionalism requires the espoused theory to be the theory-in-use. Espoused theories as they apply to higher education are broad, encompassing not only theories of teaching and learning, but also theories of the nature of knowledge. Two broad theoretical traditions can be distinguished. The first, objectivist, tradition is based on a dualism between knower and known; knowledge exists independently of the knower, and understanding is coming to know that which already exists (Duffy 1992, Marton in press). Knowledge is seen as decontextualised, so that it can be learned, tested, and applied more or less independently of particular contexts (Brown, Collins & Duguid 1989). Teaching is a matter of transmitting this knowledge, learning of receiving it accurately, storing it, and using it appropriately. This view comprised the

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@inproceedings{Biggs2004EnhancingTT, title={Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment}, author={John Biggs}, year={2004} }