Alignment: making conscious decisions about our teaching.

Why course alignment? 

It’s hard to fit in everything we want our students to learn into one semester’s worth of teaching moments. We usually start with a list of expectations, what we want students to learn, what we want them to know or be able to do when they finish our class. “A starting point for effective curriculum is our clear expectations for students ” (p.160).  These expectations can be called learning outcomes, learning objectives or class goals.

One “focus of a learner-centered approach to curriculum is faculty attention to experiences and activities leading to student learning” (p.160).  We want to make sure students are getting what you planned through various lectures, assignments, projects, discussions and quizzes or tests. How to know it is all coming together? Try course alignment. Click on the link below to see a short video of how it works.

(2 minute) : Assessment through a self-study of our own courses.  
What to look for:

1. Gaps – outcomes that are not covered by activities: no class sessions, no practice opportunities in assignments, and no assessment.
2. Patterns – uneven allocation of time and activities unintentionally over-emphasizing some outcomes.
3. Sequencing – is there a progression or sequencing of outcomes?

Goal: Intentional course design. Check the alignment by asking students which outcome they thought was covered by specific class session, assignment or reading.  Click here for method (2 minutes).

Why program alignment? 

We can check the curriculum for a major or minor degree program to assure intentionality “with potential for improvements in course distribution and program coherence for student learning” (p.170).  Alignment of the curriculum assures that we are teaching a coherent program meeting our expectations. “Students experience a more cohesive curriculum in which important concepts and skills are introduced in a logical sequence and they have opportunities to synthesize, practice, and develop increasingly more complex understandings” (p.170).


Striving to help us “see assessment not as an "occupying force," but "as an organic part of [our] work."  ii

i All quotes on this page are from: Driscoll, A & Wood, S. (2007). Developing Outcomes-based Assessment for Learning-Centered Education, a faculty introduction. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
ii Faculty Role in Assessment