Moving towards constructive alignment in first year biology


  • Fiona L. Bird


A change in the assessment scheme of a first semester First year Biology unit in 2007 was made to improve student performance and perceptions. Pass rate of the unit increased by nearly a third in 2007, primarily due to a relatively better performance on the multiple choice section of the theory exam which was not part of the change. The student perception of the assessment scheme did not improve and it was clear that the assessment tasks continued to encourage memorisation of isolated facts rather than assessing higher-order levels of understanding. A critical review of the unit revealed little alignment between the assessment and the learning objectives. The challenge is to develop overall learning objectives for the unit, develop criteria to assess levels of understanding in this unit, align the assessment with the objectives and finally restructure the content of lectures and practical classes to match the objectives. This talk will discuss how we are moving towards constructive alignment in this first year biology unit.