Early this year I was presented with a DE package for a subject and asked for my opinion of its contents from a teaching & learning point of view. I needed to have a framework for deconstructing the material that was based soundly upon educational principles. I used the approach that I’m going outline briefly in this presentation and have incorporated it into a package that I use to review a subject.I hope there are some practical things that you can take away from this presentation and apply to reflections in your own context.
The three fundamentals of curriculum are objectives, activities and assessments, ,which can be considered to be the three vertices of a triangle.If they are the vertices, then the sides represent the connection between these three fundamentals:A: Content validity – how well does assessment measure the objectives?B: How well do the activities fit the objectives?C: Are we teaching what is being tested? Are we testing what is being taught?Curriculum alignment requires a strong link between objectives, instructional activities and materials, and assessment.
But first we need to refresh our familiarity with Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. It was developed from about 1949 to 1956 in an attempt to have a framework for classifying test items to measure educational objectives to be able to form a common bank of questions for US universities.Each of these categories was broken into a subcategory; the order runs from simple to complex and from concrete to abstract.The taxonomy has been used throughout the world to classify educational objectives and to demonstrate their spread, or lack of it, across the spectrum of categories.
We hear the term “constructive alignment” of the curriculum used often and quite freely. The term was coined by John Biggs in a constructivist context – activities and assessment are aligned to support student learning.Biggs uses his SOLO taxonomy (Structure of the Observed Learning Outcomes) to define curriculum objectives (where students should be operating) and learning outcomes (where students are actually operating). I’ve not used this taxonomy, but have included it here because I thought I needed to explain where the term “constructive alignment” comes from & means.
The tool that I used to evaluate my first DE subject package is based on a revision of Bloom’s taxonomy, that moves it from a 1-dimensional list to a 2-dimensional table. David Krathwohl was one of the original members of Bloom’s team & contributed to the revision of the taxonomy in 2001.Like the original, there is a hierarchy of categories that increases as we go down and across the table.Give an example: remembering a date in history; determine whether a scientific conclusion follows from observed data.The next slide – which is also on a handout – gives more detail about each category.
Once armed with such a tool, how can we use it to examine if the curriculum is aligned?Place objectives into the appropriate cell by looking at the verbs and nouns used in the objective, activities and assessmentsRepeat for activities, assessments
Once we have done this for objectives, activities and assessments we can make some decisions about the degree of alignment of the curriculum in terms of the spread of the subject’s cognitive demands. This says little or nothing about content.Also make judgements about where gaps might be.
Would this be appropriate for one of your subjects? Alignment on its own is not the only goal – need to consider spread across the table & consider demands made of students that are appropriate for the subject. Eg, if part of a Masters course you would expect to find alignment clustered more towards bottom right of the table.
Now time to examine the three sides of the triangle…
Aligning The Curriculum
Educational Designer – Division of Learning & Teaching
School of Community Health
School of Environmental Sciences
To what extent do the
To what extent does instructional
the assessment activities fit the
measure the objectives?
Is what we are teaching
Are we teaching what is
Bloom’s taxonomy of Educational Objectives
Knowledge Recall data or information.
Comprehension Understand the meaning, translation, interpolation, and
interpretation of instructions and problems. State a problem in one's
Application Use a concept in a new situation or unprompted use of an
abstraction. Applies what was learned in the classroom into novel
situations in the work place.
Analysis Separates material or concepts into component parts so that its
organizational structure may be understood. Distinguishes between
facts and inferences.
Synthesis Builds a structure or pattern from diverse elements. Put parts
together to form a whole, with emphasis on creating a new meaning
Evaluation Make judgments about the value of ideas or materials.
Adapted from Bloom et al (1956)
John Biggs (2002, 2003): “constructive alignment” of the curriculum
“Constructive” = the learner constructs meaning through learning
“Alignment” = learning activities & assessments appropriate to
achieve learning outcomes
Hierarchy of verbs that may be used to form curriculum objectives
How can curriculum alignment be
Analysis using the taxonomy table:
Each objective is placed in its appropriate cell of the table;
Each instructional activity is classified;
Each assessment task is classified;
The three completed tables are compared for alignment.
Why conduct this form of analysis?
To gauge the degree of spread of objectives, activities and
assessment across the cognitive dimensions. Are higher-order
demands being made of students?
To gauge the extent of alignment of the curriculum. Is the spread
of objectives, activities and assessment similar, or for example, are
higher level objectives being assessed by lower level tasks?
1. have a general understanding of the structure and function of the organs in
2. apply the principles and techniques of statistics and modelling;
3. demonstrate knowledge of the more significant organisational reforms in
4. be able to critically reflect on their own process as a pastoral counsellor
Look for key words in tasks and assessment criteria
Task Assessment criteria include
Reflectively critique your Critical reflective analysis of the
application of evidence-based contribution of own experience to
practice in the management of a decision-making
client you have treated.
Clear implications for own
practice as a result of reflection
To what extent does
measure the To what extent do
objectives? (Content the instructional
validity) activities fit the
Is what we are teaching
Are we teaching what is
What makes a “good” learning objective?
How do we write effective learning objectives?
Do we need to re-visit our subjects’ objectives?
We need to choose assessments and learning
activities that are outcome-appropriate (Airasian &
How best to developing curriculum for alignment?
Biggs (2002) suggests
Objectives Assessment Activities
Regularly remind students of the connection
between the three components of the aligned
curriculum to assist learning (McMahon & Thakore)
Airasian, P. W., & Miranda, H. (2002). The Role of Assessment in the
Revised Taxonomy. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 249.
Anderson, L. W. (2002). Curricular Alignment: A Re-Examination. Theory
Into Practice, 41(4), 255.
Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds.). (2001). A Taxonomy for
Learning, Teaching, and Assessing. A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of
Educational Objectives: Addison Wesley Longman.
Biggs, J. (2002). Aligning the curriculum to promote good learning. Paper
presented at the Constructive Alignment in Action: Imaginative Curriculum
Biggs, J. B. (2003). Teaching for quality learning at university: what the student
does (2nd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press.
Bloom, B. S., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, F. J., Hill, W. H., & Krathwohl, D. R.
(1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Cognitive Domain (New
York, David McKay).
Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy: An Overview.
Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212.
McMahon, T., & Thakore, H. (2006). Achieving constructive alignment:
putting outcomes first. The Quality of Higher Education(3).