Constructive Alignment/OG

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Constructive Alignment
Contributors Joseph Bergin, Christian Kohls, Christian Köppe, Yishay Mor, Michel Portier, Till Schümmer, Steven Warburton
Last modification May 17, 2017
Source Bergin et al. (2015)[1]; Warburton et al. (2016)[2][3]
Pattern formats OPR Alexandrian
Learning domain

Also Known As: Matched Assessment (Matched Assessment), Backwards Driven Course Design (Backwards Driven Course Design), Clear Pathway (Clear Pathway)

Create authentic assessment activities by first defining your Learning Outcomes (Learning Outcomes) and then creating your assessment method in relation to them.


As a course designer you understand that assessment drives learning and that you should provide a measure of the expected future state of the knowledge, skills and abilities of the learner. As a designer you are starting to design a new course or module or perhaps redesigning a course from the ground up and want to ensure that it is coherent and robust with assessments that match the learning and teaching objectives.


Learners become demotivated and perform less well when they got the feeling that assessment is being applied for assessment’s sake or mismatched to what they are learning. Teachers may be unhappy with their own achievements since they did not have enough time to get to some of the higher level skills.


There is an intuitive drive to start course design with the content. Students will focus on what you test for. Successful course validation will require evidence that your assessment methods are appropriate and relate to the described set of Learning Outcomes (Learning Outcomes).


Therefore, design your whole course by addressing the Learning Outcomes (Learning Outcomes) first and then develop your assessment criteria in direct relation to these. Coupling the assessment with the learning objectives will ensure that the assessment activities and methods are relevant, authentic and motivating for your learners and match with the learning activities.

Solution Details

These expectations should be formalized and documented in the Learning Outcomes (Learning Outcomes) of the course to drive the learning and teaching approach in a robust manner.

Use this pattern when you start. This pattern will work with all course sizes being independent from student numbers. This pattern will be harder to apply when retrofitted to a preexisting course, as there might be the tendency to stick too much with the old material already developed.

Start by defining your Learning Outcomes (Learning Outcomes) and then map the assessment method and criteria to each individual Learning Outcomes (Learning Outcomes). Use Storyboard (Storyboard) to highlight the specific timing as to when these are applied. Outline the activity that learners will undertake and thus be assessed on. Finally, define and build the content that the learner needs to have access to so they can complete the activity. Focus on the essential parts in learning activities.

Positive Consequences

It increases the potential for creativity in the assessment mechanisms chosen. There should be better student evaluations of your teaching practice. Clarity and understanding about the direction of a course for learners can be achieved. It forces teachers to pay attention to writing good Learning Outcomes (Learning Outcomes). It also highlights course design as nonlinear. The "performances of understanding" are used to systematically align the teaching methods and the assessment[4][5].

Negative Consequences

Inexperienced course designers may require guidance and scaffolding (e.g. the provision of a supporting structure to identify and describe the learning outcomes). Working in course teams requires extra care, they should develop learning outcomes together to ensure consistency in language and that the Learning Outcomes (Learning Outcomes) are appropriate to the level of study.


See “OLDSMOOC”[6] for the course storyboarding example.

At HAN University, the lecturer will first deliver an overview of the course containing a written version of the learning objectives and some general assessment criteria.

Teachers in compulsory education are ‘trained’ to tell students the Learning Outcomes (Learning Outcomes) at the beginning of a lesson.

In a programming course at TH Köln, the professor had defined the exam goals in the very first lecture: “Students should be able to understand and apply object oriented thinking, principles and methods to develop algorithms as well as the basic structure and functionality of the Java library”. This was further specified to exam goals: “Students can develop small software projects with OOP techniques, understand and implement problem specifications and tasks, identify and describe object oriented data structures, develop simple algorithms on their own, implement standard algorithms and data structures, and know what software quality is”. These goals were tested in the written exams. But they were also the guide to develop the course content (lectures, screencasts, programming assignments, handouts etc.)

Related patterns

This pattern uses Learning Outcomes (Learning Outcomes) and applies Storyboard (Storyboard) to map out the course flow (for an example, see OLDSMOOC[6])


  1. Pattern published in Bergin, J., Kohls, C., Köppe, C., Mor, Y., Portier, M., Schümmer, T., & Warburton, S. (2015). Assessment-driven course design foundational patterns. In Proceedings of the 20th European Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (EuroPLoP 2015) (p. 31). New York:ACM.
  2. Patlet published in Warburton, S., Mor, Y., Kohls, C., Köppe, C., & Bergin, J. (2016). Assessment driven course design: a pattern validation workshop. Presented at 8th Biennial Conference of EARLI SIG 1: Assessment & Evaluation. Munich, Germany.
  3. Patlet also published in Warburton, S., Bergin, J., Kohls, C., Köppe, C., & Mor, Y. (2016). Dialogical Assessment Patterns for Learning from Others. In Proceedings of the 10th Travelling Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (VikingPLoP 2016). New York:ACM.
  4. Biggs, J. (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher Education, 32(3), 347-364.
  5. Biggs, J. & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university: What the student does. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill and Open University Press.
  6. 6.0 6.1