In brief:

Conducting a course alignment exercise

  • allows Instructors to create a curriculum blueprint;
  • helps Instructors validate that the assessment activities evaluate the right knowledge, skills, and attributes and at the right level of complexity;
  • confirms if teaching resources are optimal for promoting a quality learning experience that supports student success.

Course Alignment Exercise

Meyers and Nulty (2009) identify five design principles that are key to effective course design in higher education. They require teaching and learning materials and experiences that: (1) are authentic and relevant; (2) are constructive, sequential, and scaffolded; (3) require students to engage in higher-order thinking; (4) are aligned with each other and the course outcomes; and (5) are challenging, interesting, and provide motivation to learn. While an alignment exercise won’t address all of these principles, it is a crucial step to help you optimize the teaching, learning and evaluation activities in a course.

When all of the critical components of a course are in alignment, you can be sure that your course is designed to prepare students for learning success. In other words, an alignment exercise helps uncover any problem spots in the course plan.

Some examples of common problem spots that emerge from alignment exercises are:

  • a learning outcome that doesn’t accurately reflect the type or level of learning it should (eg: identify vs. compare vs. produce);
  • an evaluation activity that doesn’t effectively measure the intended learning (eg: is designed for a lower or higher level of learning complexity);
  • resource material that does not adequately address the essential knowledge, skills or attributes the course is targeting (eg: missing a core concept – especially threshold concepts – or foundational knowledge that is necessary to support key learning);
  • instructional activities that do not reflect the course evaluation methods;
  • course content that is superfluous (eg: knowledge and concepts that are need-to-know vs nice-to-know);
  • too many learning outcomes covered on a single assessment;
  • and more…

The next section will:

  • explain how to conduct a course alignment exercise.