Academic journal article e-Journal of Business Education and Scholarship Teaching

Foundations of University Learning and Teaching: A Reflection on the Curriculum Alignment

Academic journal article e-Journal of Business Education and Scholarship Teaching

Foundations of University Learning and Teaching: A Reflection on the Curriculum Alignment

Article excerpt

Introduction

The university sector in Australia has in more recent times focused on achieving a balance between research and teaching (Kulski & Groombridge, 2004). Where in the past universities were rewarded in terms of funding by the Federal Government for research outputs there has been a move towards recognising and rewarding quality teaching (Kennedy, 1995). The emphasis on teaching quality has arisen from the greater scrutiny that has come to be placed on the universities by the public, government, and the increasing competition for students (Coaldrake & Stedman, 1999). The internet has opened up the higher education sector to a global market and in Australia universities are not only facing competition from overseas universities the traditional boundaries of Australian universities no longer exists. Universities from the UK and USA have opened campuses in Australia and Australian universities have opened satellite campuses across the various states. To this end Universities in Australia have introduced various training programs aimed at better preparing new and existing academics for their role as teachers (Kulski & Groombridge, 2004).

Programs on university learning and teaching have been introduced at universities throughout Australia. The program at the University of Sydney is referred to as "Principles and Practices of University Teaching and Learning Program" unlike the University of Wollongong which refers to their course as "University Learning and Teaching" (ULT). The course that this paper will be focusing on is "The Foundations of Learning and Teaching"(FULT). This course was launched in 2007 and is compulsory for all full time academic staff at Associate Lecturer, Lecturer and Senior Lecturer levels (Malfoy & Thomson, 2010). The educational assumptions which are made in the curriculum design of this program are for the most part implicit rather than explicit. This paper examines the curriculum design, as it relates to the learning objectives and the alignment to assessment tasks.

The education literature is replete with definitions of the approaches to curriculum design (Sheehan, 1986). However, according to Kamali, Liles, Winer, Jiang and Nicolai (2006, p.364) curriculum design is '... analogous to reading a story backwards. You end up defining the conclusion before constructing the plot.' In other words when designing a course one should start by identifying the required outcomes to be achieved and this in turn determines what must be taught. In turn, each of the outcome based learning objectives should be evaluated to determine the level of skill required and this may best be achieved by referring to the Bloom Taxonomy (Anderson, Krathwohl & Bloom, 2001). In effect there needs to be a balance between the learning objectives or aims of the course and the assessment tasks set to achieve these learning objectives. When the assessment tasks achieve the learning objectives constructive alignment is achieved.

The concept of 'constructive alignment' was introduced by Biggs (1996) as a means for checking and ensuring that learning objectives were accurately aligned with both the delivery and assessment in a course. This concept is an amalgamation of two key principles within the pedagogy:

1) That learning results from what the student does (that is student's gain meaning and learn from the activities), and

2) That to be effective teaching has to target the desired learning outcomes through activities that are appropriate to achieve the course's set learning objectives.

This provides a simple but effective framework from which to assess the extent to which a course is constructively aligned (Biggs & Tang, 2007). In effect there should be an "essential link between the learning outcomes and the assessment method chosen" (Armstrong, Chan, Malfoy & Thomson, 2008, p. 37).

In order to better understand the relevant relationships that constructive alignment implies the following Figure 1 is presented. …

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