Constructive alignment in the PDHPE classroom

I have enjoyed reading about constructive alignment recently and from what I gather is used extensively in higher education. It also underpins a lot of what happens in schools but I have never heard it referred to before in a school setting.

Put simply constructive alignment involves 3 key steps which must ‘align’.
1. What you want your students to learn (outcomes or objectives / goals etc)
2. What activities students need to complete to achieve the learning goals? (learning activities)
3. How you know when they get there and can do what you want? (assessment)

“The teacher makes a deliberate alignment between the planned learning activities and the learning outcomes. This is a conscious effort to provide the learner with a clearly specified goal, a well designed learning activity or activities that are appropriate for the task, and well designed assessment criteria for giving feedback to the learner”. wikipedia

A simple concept but very powerful for learning if you can align your assessment, learning activities and learning outcomes. A common thing I see for assessment tasks is where students are given a task to be completed out of class time that vaguely relates to what is covered in class. In a range of cases when looking at the unit of work it is clear that there is no alignment between the intended learning outcomes, teaching activities and the assessment activities and this is something I look forward to using as a framework for evaluating units of work.

Working from workbooks makes it easy to take an approach where learning goals are overlooked and activities are simply completed in order without thinking through exactly what it is I want students to learn. I think this approach is  dangerous if we want to ensure our students are learning what we intend. If we are not clear on what we want students to learn it makes it easy to overlook checking for understanding and is difficult to know whether they have learned what we intended or not.

So this year I hope to do a few things to improve my lessons using constructive alignment.

1. This year my goal is to start every unit/lesson with some intended learning outcomes or goals for the lesson that I want students to be aware of and take time talking through this. This will allow us to work out where they are currently at a little better and give them some say in the progress of the lesson and potentially the activities of the unit/lesson. I always try to link previous lessons with what we will be looking at in the current lesson but I think from my reading that clearly stating learning goals and talking through these with students will provide greater opportunity to explore where students are currently at and use this to ensure we are not simply repeating things they already know and build on their current understandings. I am hoping it will also allow me to give the students the opportunity to provide input into how they would like to meet the goals for the unit/lesson and if they have suggestions other than the ones I put forward.

Giving over a little control in some ways but if my reading and research proves correct should also lead to improved learning outcomes. It feels a little messy already for me but I am going to give this a shot.

2. Use ‘constructive alignment’ as a framework for evaluating lessons and units of work and assessment activities in particular whether they be assessment of, for or as learning tasks.

Lesson Reflection Questions

Did I clearly state and discuss intended learning outcomes with students?

How well did my intended learning outcomes, learning activities & assessment align in that lesson.




One Response

  1. Nice thoughts Brad. I’m constantly struggling with how to make what I do better, but haven’t ever settled on the best way to do it! I’ll be interested to follow how your process unfolds.

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