Constructive alignment

The framework of constructive alignment (Biggs, 1996) focuses on three key elements of curriculum design:

  • Intended learning outcomes - what should the students know or be able to do?
  • Teaching and learning activities - how will the students learn?
  • Assessment - how will learning be measured?

The three minute video below outlines the arguments that underpin this framework.

As discussed in the video, from the students’ perspective a constructively aligned course or programme ensures that they have every opportunity to learn effectively and achieve the ILOs successfully. 

Biggs (2003) has also discussed how constructive alignment addresses the possibility of students adopting a ‘strategic’ approach to learning i.e. students learning what they think they will be tested on.

In a poorly aligned system, where the assessment does not reflect the ILOs, this may result in inappropriate surface learning. On the other hand if students attempt to adopt a strategic approach in an aligned system where the assessment requirements mirror the ILOs, there is no problem. Students will be learning what they are supposed to be learning.

How do I write effective learning outcomes


New programme and course design - image 5 (resized)

Bloom’s (1956) taxonomy of educational objectives

Also available:

To be effective ILOs should be:

  • Active – they describe what students can do
  • Attractive – students want to achieve them
  • Comprehensible – students know what they means
  • Appropriate – to the student’s current goals and career plans
  • Attainable – most students will mostly meet them, with due effort
  • Assessable – we can see if they have been achieved
  • Visible – in the course guides, on the relevant Moodle sites and reiterated during lectures/seminars.

What types of teaching and learning activities will support students in achieving these learning outcomes?

You will find further information about curriculum enrichment on the home page for this topic

You will find examples of teaching and learning activities, with lessons plans and resources, on the Teaching and Learning Activities topic page. 

How do I design assessment strategies that are valid and reliable?

The LSE Assessment Toolkit contains detailed descriptions of a range of assessment methods.

The most useful starting point in terms of course/programme design will be the sections of the toolkit that focus on mapping assessment across programmes and on selecting assessment methods that support the development of certain skills. The latter section is particularly useful for checking that the methods of assessment you choose are relevant to the intended learning outcomes for the course or programme. Once you have considered the issues discussed in those two sections of the website, you should then explore the individual assessment methods in more detail

Before making any final decisions about your assessment strategy you should familiarise yourself with the issues discussed in the ‘Accessible assessment’ section of the toolkit and consider how these might impact on your course/programme design.

Where can I get further advice and support?

Each academic department at the LSE has its own dedicated Eden Centre departmental advisers, who have a wide range of expertise and are available to work with colleagues on any teaching or learning related matter.


  • Biggs, J (1996) ‘Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment’, Higher Education, Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 347-364
  • Bloom, B.S. (Ed.). Engelhart, M.D., Furst, E.J., Hill, W.H., Krathwohl, D.R. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: The Cognitive Domain. New York: David McKay Co Inc.