Learning design in higher education

roseville bridge

Photo by James Norton

In the courses I teach for academics at Sydney Uni, we approach learning design using constructive alignment, developed by John Biggs in 1996, and explained by him here.

We provide some resources and suggestions on how to develop learning outcomes, we point to Bloom’s taxonomy (which I know some people really dislike!), and also the SOLO taxonomy, which was developed by Biggs and Collis, and seems a more natural fit with constructive alignment than Bloom’s.

One of the good things about constructive alignment is that it’s been around long enough for people to have done some research on it. Wang and colleagues in 2013 found that ‘students in more constructively aligned courses were more likely to adopt deep learning approaches and less likely to use surface learning approaches in their study of a particular course.’ Larkin and Richardson found ‘evidence of improvement in student satisfaction and academic grades as a result of implementing constructive alignment.’

I’m currently doing the SEDA course Online Introduction to Educational Change, and one of the objectives is to gain a ‘sense of learning design from our own perspective and from the perspective of your fellow learners’. To prompt our thinking, we watched a video on the 7Cs of Learning Design, presented by Professor Gráinne Conole. Conole’s 2013 book, Designing for Learning in an Open World, looks interesting – I’ll have to add it to my reading list! I can see from the chapter titles that Conole has considered learning design from the viewpoints of different disciplines – and naturally learning design will mean different things for different disciplines – e.g. architects vs engineers vs  mathematicians.

One of things I like about the 7Cs model is the emphasis on getting feedback from your peers, and on reflection. These aspects aren’t obvious within the constructive alignment model.

I’m curious to hear from others about what models you use for learning design. Are there any fans of constructive alignment out there? Is there something about ‘blended learning’ that requires a different approach to learning design?

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