What is Alignment?

Alignment is a practice of building cohesion between the course learning goals, the learning activity,  and the mode of assessment. When the goals, the assignment and assessment are in line with each other, the conditions for learning and producing meaningful work in the classroom is made possible. 

You should have the course learning goals on your syllabus. These can also be called outcomes and objectives. Being aware of where your course falls within the curriculum is also beneficial to figuring out what skills and knowledge students are meant to have by the time they come to your course. Check with your department about the goals and where your course falls in the curriculum.

When you are designing an assignment, consider how many of those learning goals you want to address in a single assignment. You have an entire course to instruct, support and assess students, so it may be beneficial to spread the goals over several different assignments. There can be anywhere from as few as one learning goal for an assignment to as many as 6 or 7 learning goals for the semester. It helps to chart down those goals, noting whether there is a hierarchy of difficulty or a relevant order they need to be addressed. This way you can properly scaffold the assignments. 

Once you are clear on what you want the students to learn, you can choose what the best way for those students to engage and demonstrate learning. Choosing an assignment that is aligned with those goals is essential. You can check out the video on assignment ideas to explore the many ways students can meet learning goals. 

Finally, consider how you will assess that these goals have been met. Knowing the strategy you will take for evaluating and providing feedback is an important part of assignment design. Building that in from the beginning ensures that you have a well thought out plan about how your students will practice and demonstrate that they have met the learning goals.

Aligning your learning objectives with the learning activity and the mode of assessment makes overall instruction more effective and student learning possible. Additionally, providing students with the learning goals and rubric offers clarity and transparency in the classroom.