Constructive alignment is an example of outcome-based education, proposed by Prof. John Biggs and Dr. Catherine Tang. One day, in early summer of 2015, Professor Dai Hounsell interviewed Professor John Biggs and Doctor Catherine Tang about constructive alignment at the University of Hong Kong. In this module, you can watch this interview, and hear what John and Catherine want to say about constructive alignment. - [Interviewer] There are some people like me who came across your ideas quite a few years ago, but I think there's still a very strong feeling that they still have great relevance today, so I wonder if, in a fairly crisp way, you could tell us really, what's the big thing about constructive alignment, and why is it important for assessment? - Well, it actually started with assessment. It was in a B.Ed. class in Hong Kong, in '94/'5 academic year, and I thought that I'd get the students to present me with evidence as to how they'd actually achieved the intended outcome of the course, which was about psychology, and applying psychology to teaching. So, that made them think very hard about what they were doing, and how they were using the theory that had been taught. So, they put their evidence in a portfolio and explained to me what had happened, and not to be too immodest. I got the best teacher ratings that I'd ever had, despite the fact that there was uproar at first, because it was something they hadn't been used to. So, anyway, it worked, the students were, almost all of them, very enthusiastic, and at last, they could see why they were being taught psychology, which is something that had puzzled them a lot before. Then I retired officially, but I wanted to follow this lead up, and generalise it, and it occurred to me, following a quotation from Thomas Shuell, who's a psychologist, who, I think it was 1994, something like that, he said, "The important thing is what the student does, not what the teacher does, and what the teacher's job is to do, is to help the student attain the desired outcomes to an acceptable level." Well that sums it all up. You don't just lecture to students, you've got to help them in a relevant way to attain the outcomes that we want them to attain. - [Interviewer] And how does that then tie in with assessment? - Oh, well, interestingly, the whole thing was assessment-driven. The fact that they had to do this, that was the assessment. So, it forced them to work, otherwise they wouldn't pass the course. - In my later teaching, I started to think the other way around, so I started to, once I know what sort of things I would like my students to learn, I think that, you know, in order to help them learn, how should I assess them, and let them know, right from the beginning, very clearly, and also how they're going to be judged, and so I find the students find it more comfortable that way, because they are not going into a programme blind. They are going into a programme or a course knowing exactly what pathway they should take in order to arrive at the goal. So, I think constructive alignment, back to your very first question, bears a very important meaning to learning, all because of the fact that we make learning outcomes the core of the whole teaching and learning experience, and then we align assessment to it. - [Interviewer] Isn't there though a degree of spoon-feeding in-- - No, no, not exactly, it's not spoon-feeding. What we provide them is the guidelines, the signposts, and then provide them, facilitate them, down the path of attaining those goals. It's not spoon-feeding at all, because, active learning we're talking about, we don't spoon feed them. They don't swallow and regurgitate, they have actually to find their own food in the first place. We just tell them, "Here is where you can find the food, which is the knowledge," and they go and find it. They assimilate, and then they construct their own learning. - [Interviewer] There's supposed to be an old proverb which I've heard is an old Chinese proverb, but then people often say that and it could be anything, it could be an old African proverb-- - Yes, what's that? - [Interviewer] Went something like, "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day, teach a man how to fish and he can feed himself for a lifetime." - Exactly, exactly, that's exactly-- - Yes, that, sorry, that depends entirely on the outcomes that you've got. The term spoon-feeding suggests you've got very low-level outcomes that you're letting them get by with, but if you use some sort of framework, well, of course, I use SOLO (structure of observed learning outcomes) taxonomy, if you set extended abstract outcomes, then the students are really striving to achieve that, to be able to generalise to as yet unseen problems, as opposed to being able to solve given taught problems-- - [Interviewer] So, your SOLO taxonomy is, what, an aid to your own thinking about what kind of outcomes you want to achieve? - Yes, it's widely applicable to almost any ongoing learning situation. We acquire a few bits and pieces, here and there, that gradually come together, and if we really understand something we can project it to a new situation that we haven't come across before, and that last step, is I think what university education is about, and one of the whole points about setting your intended learning outcomes, as in constructive alignment, is you consciously set those higher level goals, which is the very opposite of spoon-feeding. - [Interviewer] New knowledge is appearing, is accelerating, and you go into a professional job now, some sort of demanding graduate job, and whatever it is you learned at university, by way of preparation, within a few years, that starts to become a bit obsolete. - Oh yes, well, that's why such things as independent learning... - Lifelong learning. - [Interviewer] Learning how to learn? - Yes, yes, yeah. - I think another sector of the society that will need to be bring into the action circle is the professional bodies and employers, because I haven't got first-hand knowledge, but I believe, from talking to colleagues, that many of these professional bodies, particularly those who grant licence for practising are still in the previous mode. So, what they expect of the students, probably, would not be inline with the students that we would like to see graduating from universities. At least these bodies would need to be brought into the discussion of formulating the ILOs (Intended Learning Outcomes), for example. Back to your point, knowledge is increasing so fast, so we have to make sure that the ILOs of our programme courses will be inline with what is required, in the real world outside, with this fast pace of moving.