Constructive Alignment (CA) for Degree Projects - Intended Learning Outcomes, Teaching and Assessment
Paper in proceedings, 2011
Degree projects (DP) are currently intensively focused in Sweden: The future national model for evaluation of higher education will place a major emphasis on the quality of degree projects as an indicator of the quality of the entire education, and their quality will influence the funding of a university. Moreover, DP:s are actively used in program development as a vehicle to develop not only in-depth subject matter knowledge but also professional skills such as planning and communication. Simultaneously, Constructive alignment (CA) is being widely applied as a general approach for improving educational quality. Potentially, CA might also contribute to improving the quality of degree projects. In this paper, we examine how CA can be applied to degree projects. We conclude that CA is indeed applicable to degree projects in the sense that intended learning outcomes as well as teaching and assessment activities can be identified and aligned. But objectives, activities and assessment are less crisp than for a course, and the perspective of objectives or criteria found in the current investigation tends to be suitable for a program manager rather than an individual teacher. If CA is to provide a similar “aha” experience for a teacher as it can do when applied to a course, the intended learning outcomes need to be specialized for the particular degree project. We further identify areas where CA for degree projects can contribute to higher quality, including: supporting the planning of professional skills development in degree projects, guiding a dialogue between teacher and student on what constitutes high/low quality of a thesis, and encouraging students to take more responsibility for their learning, by forcing them to develop contextualized learning outcomes for their project.