Constructive Alignment

I was obsessed by Lego as a child, playing with it for days on end. I suspect this experience has been a guiding factor in my choice of career.

When my mother gave my sister and I our first Lego set, had she told us, ‘We would like to judge which of you is best at building Lego castles.’ By way of teaching she read the instructions aloud and asked us to repeat these instructions back to her. To assess our Castle building prowess they then quizzed us on our knowledge of the memorised instructions. This would be Criterion Referenced Assessment.

If she had alternatively shown us the picture of the castle on the box and said ‘I would like to build something that resembles this’ (intended learning outcome). Then informed us that ‘I would like you to experiment with putting blocks together’ (teacher managed, teaching and learning activity.) If she had then asked us to build our castles (assessment task) with my outcome being a 4 turreted structure and my sisters being a large round creation with a moat.  Following this feedback was given on our efforts and then we were asked  ‘What do you think you have learnt and how do you do you think you could improve next time’ this would have been Constructive Alignment.

Thankfully she opted for something closer to the second scenario.

There are 4 key elements to the designing a Constructive Aligned assessment.
1: The student needs to know they are going to get out of the activity
2: The student needs to have the capacity to be able complete the activity
3: The teaching and learning activity needs to be relevant to the assessment.
4: The feedback needs to be formative so the learner can reflect and improve upon
their practise.

This teaching methodology is more inclusive as it focuses less on competition and accommodates for a range of learning outcomes. The learner is in charge of there own education; the teacher role is to moderate and ensure that their TLAs, ALOs and ATs are all aligned.

In my own teaching practise I do not use a pure constructively aligned model but I do practise something similar that does adhere to some of the principles.

In the final year on the BA Fashion Womenwear the students first two terms are taken up with their Final Major Project, that involves them creating 6 complete outfits for the internal runway show, this is supported by a portfolio. For the final term they have to do A Negotiated Personal Development Brief, which is supposed to give further breadth to the students skill set to hopefully improve future employability.

They first pick which 1 of 5 groups they want to be a part of; each of the separate groups has a different specialisms. I am the tutor for the Fashion Image Making group.

The students are briefed to research an area of interest over the Easter Break. For the first session after they return we discuss as a group what each students specific area of interest is as a group and what their intended learning outcomes may be. These ILOs can be anything from a film, to a series of drawing or performance. They are informed that they need to document both their research and design development over the course of the 6-week project.  Each week the group reconvenes and discusses the development in an informal seminar environment and feedback is given.

By the end of the project the intended learning outcomes are often radically different to what was initially stated. In many instance the documentation of the process is the most exciting facet of the projects.

This project is perhaps the most unpredictable in regards to marking. We often find student shifting by 2 grade bands either way, whilst some students who may of felt that they had a skill which they could not directly apply to there strictly Fashion Design based projects relish the chance to explore their potential in a new area. In contrast some students who have been consistently strong throughout (when working in a more structured environment with clearly defined project requirements and assessment criteria) can become paralysed by the freedom, however the overall outcome is that the mean of grades is improved from the previous unit.

I watched the Brabrand and Anderson film, ‘Teaching teaching & understanding understanding’ on YouTube. This film did help clarify my understanding of the area. I think the reason for the films effectiveness (receiving 56 likes to 4 dislikes) is that it wraps up the ideas into a story. The use of narratives is often the most engaging way of conveying cognitively complex systems. I also really enjoyed the bubbling sexual tension between Robert and Susan.