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Best Practice in Writing Learning Outcomes – Rule Number 4

Ensure all outcomes match what is taught, how it is taught, what work is set for students and how this work is marked.

This rule can also be written as:

"You haven’t finished writing the outcomes until you have made sure that they are constructively aligned to the rest of the curriculum."

Constructive alignment has two aspects:

Learning is “constructive” in the sense that students learn best when they build up their own knowledge and skills through experiences that are followed by deliberate reflection on these experiences. In other words, cognitive and skill development takes place through a continually adaptive process of assimilation, accommodation, and correction.

“Alignment” between outcomes and (a) teaching and learning activities, (b) assessment tasks and criteria, means that the experiences from which students construct their learning are appropriate to achieving the desired learning.

To start learning about constructive alignment go to the Open Educational Resources of Teaching and Learning where you can find out about using Biggs' Model of Constructive Alignment in Curriculum Design.

A study at UCD, McMahon & O’Riodan (2006) found that the known benefits of introducing an outcomes-based curriculum (viz. coherence, transparency, increased student motivation, better quality student work) were not inevitable. They appeared with far more frequency where teachers ensured constructive alignment and, having done this, made it obvious to students how the learning outcomes determined what they did in class and how they would be examined. Where students discussed, in the classroom, what the outcomes meant and how they could be demonstrated, there was a measurable increase in the quality of student work. Of course, the students, in their turn, had to choose to take advantage of this focused guidance to study more strategically and effectively.

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