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Constructive alignment is based on developing an approach to programme and module design that is influenced by an outcomes-based teaching and learning model. This is achieved by ensuring that that learning outcomes, assessment and course content are all headed in the same direction. Every learning outcome is assessed, everything that is assessed is included in the module resources and learning activities. This overarching curriculum design philosophy underpins the work we do.

Using Learning Outcomes to Design Courses and Assess Learning
Course designs which set out intentions for learning can be formed using frameworks that include: 

Aim: The aim should outline a broad purpose of the learning, or goals to be achieved. Aims are generally aspirational at programme level, but more specific and attainable at the level of modules/ courses.

Objectives: Objectives are specific steps to take us from where we are now, to the point at which, we can meet our goals. These can be considered in three categories:

  • Teacher objectives – what the teacher does to promote learning
  • Curriculum objectives – how the curriculum supports the achievement of the intended learning
  • Student objectives – what the student needs to do to learn

Intended learning outcome: Learning outcomes relate to what students will come to know as a result of engaging in the learning process. These represent statements of achievement, expressed from the learner perspective.

Constructive alignment
Designing effective and appropriate learning outcomes is key to constructive alignment, as these are used to ‘align’ assessment tasks, learning resources, teaching activities and marking criteria within the module or programme and are in support of students achieving the learning outcomes.

Constructive alignment as proposed by Biggs (2005) recognises that students construct meaning through appropriate learning activities. 

This ‘outcomes’ model consists of three elements:

  • Intended learning outcome: Explicit statement/s of learning intent expressed in a format that enables their achievement to be measured and demonstrated
  • Learning activities and resources: Resources and processes that are created which enable outcomes to be achieved and demonstrated (can include: curriculum structure, teaching, learning methods, learning materials, support and guidance materials and assessment materials)
  • Assessment tasks: Criteria for assessing whether the outcomes have been achieved and for differentiating the performance of students

The best learning outcomes are clear descriptions of what students will be able to do as a result of studying on the course or module. They can be checked for effectiveness with the simple question ‘and how would this be assessed?’ if an assessment method is clear and has straightforward differences between poor and excellent standards, you’ve got a usable learning outcome.

In constructive alignment, this abstract idea of an outcome is connected to the things teachers actually do to help the students learn and contain assessment tasks that mirror the learning outcomes. Outcomes refer to qualities of performance – this is what students actual learning outcomes are judged against.

Teachers role:

  • Be a catalyst for learning
  • Design activities for the students to engage with that lead them to the completion of learning outcomes
  • Set up an environment that supports learning activities and is appropriate for the students to achieve the outcomes identified 
  • Create assessment tasks that allow students to try out what they are learning and get feedback on it (formative assessment) and that tell us how well students attained the outcomes they were set (summative assessment)

To do this we need to:

  • Start with a clear idea of what we want students to learn
  • Stipulate how well each topic needs to be understood
  • State objectives in terms that require students to demonstrate their understanding
  • Be clear about how much understanding we want from students and in what topics
  • Be clear about how we can recognise that students have understood and/ or attained the knowledge we are expecting them too

The rationale for this being that the outcomes determine what you want the students to be able to do by the end of the course, and the marking criteria grade how well they have demonstrated these abilities. Ideally you would then follow this by designing an assessment that provides the students with the opportunity to display the abilities you are measuring. By making detailed marking criteria available, the students then know precisely how well they need to display these skills in order to achieve a particular standard.


Biggs, J.B. (2005) Aligning teaching for constructing learning. Higher Education Academy Discussion Paper. Available at:

You should have a programme specification that details graduate outcomes, learning outcomes and an assessment strategy. Where does the module fit into the programme overall.