Alignment in teaching

At Tampere higher education community, curriculum design is based on competency-based thinking, which means that the planning of teaching starts with conceiving the academic and general competences specific to different disciplines, as well as understanding generic competence. In competency-based education, the main emphasis is on the student and his or her learning and capacity/competency development. The focus is on the student’s own active doing and knowledge building. The students utilise their existing understanding and skills to integrate new knowledge and skills and, through a dialogue of the two, they modify their previous understanding as well as construct new knowledge, acting both individually and in groups. Thus, the student is an active constructor of knowledge, which raises the question of how to engage students in active knowledge building.

One central way to do this is to ensure alignment in teaching, also called constructive alignment. Constructiveness refers to the way a student learns and builds knowledge, and linearity to the design of teaching in a way that supports students in their process of constructors of knowledge. When an aligned whole can be built in the learning process, deep learning is supported instead of surface learning, and the learner is actively committed to building knowledge. (Ruhalahti 2019; Biggs & Tang 2011)

Alignment means that the

  1. identified competence needs, and the learning outcomes derived from them,
  2. competence assessment methods and criteria,
  3. teaching and learning methods used in teaching and various activities that support teaching,
  4. and the atmosphere for studying

form a coherent whole. The atmosphere for studying plays a key role in, among other things, how the teacher or the wider university community can support psychological safety, which is a prerequisite for all learning, and how interaction between the teacher and students is built.

When a clear and linear, mutually supportive and coherent whole is built with the learning outcomes, assessment methods, learning activities and atmosphere for studying, it is easier for the student to guide his or her learning and attain the learning outcomes.

In addition to ensuring alignment in an individual course, alignment must also be ensured at the level of study modules and degree programmes. This ensures that the degree as a whole is not built from separate pieces but learning and competence development forms a logical continuum throughout the studies. Here, collaborative and jointly planned curriculum design plays a key role.

Through joint planning, it becomes widely known what kind of competences the study modules and degree programme are intended to produce as a whole and how the individual study units support the attainment of the degree programme’s learning outcomes (both subject-specific and common learning outcomes of the Tampere higher education community ) and how the course units are connected to one another. Joint planning also ensures that studies are not duplicated or that the studies do not become too burdensome for the student or teachers (comprehensive review of workloads). Ensuring constructive alignment, eliminating duplication and considering workloads have a strong impact on students’ motivation and commitment to studies, thus also playing a significant role in supporting students’ well-being.

Links checked 23.2.2021