In brief:

Course alignment is the key to good course design and aligning your assessments with your learning outcomes is central to effective assessment design. In this way, you ensure that your assessment tasks match and measure the most essential knowledge, skills, and values you intend for your students to develop in your course.

Assessment is an important and influential factor in shaping the student’s learning focus. As Instructor, you probably often get questions like “Will this be on the exam?”. Students tend to make decisions on what to learn, when to learn, and how much time to spend on certain topics based on how they will be assessed. Therefore, your assessments should convey the most important areas you want students to focus on, and the way to achieve this is to ensure they are directly aligned with your course learning outcomes.

Course Alignment

In an aligned course, all learning outcomes have at least one (but preferably more) ways of assessing student learning. This process of alignment also helps focus the design of assessments so that you are measuring exactly what you intend to measure and that there are no unnecessary assessment tasks.

Figure 1 is an example alignment table from a Business Information Technologies Course where students have to explore the role of information technology in business organizations. This table exemplifies how each learning outcome is assessed with each of the course assignments and final exam. Note that, as a best practice, each learning outcome should be evaluated a minimum of two times in a course. In this example, we can see that each assessment evaluates at least one course outcome. Depending on how many learning outcomes your course has and how specific they are, each assessment can evaluate a single outcome or multiple outcomes, as you see fit.

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Figure 1 Course alignment table showing how each outcome will be assessed.
Source: COMM 226: Business Technology Management (Supply Chain & Business Technology Management Department, Concordia University)
Download Course Alignment table in pdf

The next section will:

  • help you plan your assessment method.