OTL101 – POST 3 – Constructive Alignment – “Teaching so that Robert behaves like Susan.”
“Transmission is not the way that students learn.” (Jensen, Open Learning).
“Learning takes place through the active behaviour of the student: it is what he does that he learns, not what the teacher does.” (Ralph, W. Tayler, 1949).
- What are the intended learning outcomes of the course? Do the learning outcomes reflect high-level cognitive skills or low-level skills (pay attention to the verbs)?
The course I will discuss is CRIM 241 – Introduction to Corrections, which I taught at Vancouver Island University, an open blended course where students had access to the course online and in the classroom.
The following learning outcomes were stated for the course.
Course Learning Outcomes
Through instruction, reading and study, you will:
- Examine and describe the nature, history, and objectives of corrections.
- Assess the strengths and limitations of various correctional theories and practices.
- Critically assess the theoretical and practical dimensions of correctional research.
- Develop critical thinking and research skills for writing effective research papers.
- Develop speaking and writing skills to clearly communicate correctional concepts, research and theory. This includes using the conventions of the American Psychological Association (APA) for academic writing.
- Engage in collaborative problem-solving exercises and critical reflections with colleagues.
- Participate in an optional field trip to B.C. mainland correctional facilities.
- How is student learning assessed in the course (essays, quizzes, journals, machine-gradable tests, portfolios)?
The following requirements were stated in the CRIM 241 course outline. Students were assessed through quizzes, written assignments, weekly in-class and online participation, group presentation assignment, and final exam. Included in the course was an optional Field Trip to four correctional facilities, reflective self assessment of participation, and attendance at guest lectures.
Assignments/Papers/Exams Due Date Mark Distribution
- Quizzes: 3×10% (drop lowest grade) – Worth 30%
- Book Review & Analysis – Worth 25%
- Participation & Reflections: And Self Assessment — Worth 10%
- Group Presentation – On a chapter from the Cullen text. Worth 10%
- Final Exam TBA (Final Exam Period) – Worth 25%
- In what ways are the intended learning outcomes and the assessments aligned or not?
Biggs’ Constructive Alignment Model posits that there needs to be alignment between objectives and practice. The Model also promotes the view that knowledge is constructed rather than transmitted. According to Biggs, course objectives should be clearly stated; exams should measure the intentions of the course; and, appropriate teaching activities should be implemented to reach these goals. Given this approach, I think that some of the intended learning outcomes and assessments are aligned and some are not. I think that the course did a good job of constructing knowledge based on student activity in a Community of Learning COL. From the beginning of the course I stressed that students need to be actively engaged and this meant students needed to arrive willing to participate having completed the assigned reading materials. Students received a grade for participation at the end of the course which rewarded them for doing so.
In retrospect, there is some alignment between the course learning objectives, however, there is an emphasis on memorization in the quiz exam requirement for this course that I would re-assess in future given Jensen’s research which shows that humans are poor at memorizing information and humans learn by building information from the past to the present.
Goal 1: Examine and describe the nature, history, and objectives of corrections.
This learning outcome was aligned with the assessment in the following way. Students were expected to read the weekly assigned readings in the textbook which provided an overview of the nature, history and objectives of corrections. I then engaged students in discussion about the topic in small group gatherings. Students were also required to memorize information for the course exams.
Goal 2: Assess the strengths and limitations of various correctional theories and practices.
Again, in relying on the reading material, guest lectures, and in class discussion, students were asked to be actively engaged in assessing the strengths and limitations of correctional theories and practices. I continuously presented case studies which had been presented in media and documented in the textbook and asked students to critically examine the link between theory and praxis. In questioning correctional theories we explored the gaps in application of theory in practice. This process enlightened students and allowed them to more critically analyze media presentations of correctional practice. The Field Trip to four correctional facilities in the mainland also assisted students in comparing correctional theories with practice.
Goal 3: Critically assess the theoretical and practical dimensions of correctional research.
Part of the goal of the course was to consider the theoretical and practical dimensions of correctional research. In answering this goal we explored research as presented in the course text and discussed the research findings in class. This was mainly in a face-to-face format but I also engaged students in an online chat forum on Moodle through with they could obtain participation grades and explore each other’s feedback. This enhanced active engagement with the course material.
Goal 4. Develop critical thinking and research skills for writing effective research papers.
The course required students to read a corrections book and write a book review. The book review questions required students to assess the research conducted as well as the theoretical perspectives utilized in the book. In writing the book review, my aim was to enhance students’ critical thinking and research skills. The book review also helped students to develop effective writing skills.
Goal 5. Develop speaking and writing skills to clearly communicate correctional concepts, research and theory.
Students were asked to work with a group to present material from the course textbook. This requirement assessed students’ speaking and communication skills as well as their ability to critically assess correctional concepts, research and theory. Students were required to develop a powerpoint presentation in collaboration with their group. This presentation was posted to Moodle so that all students could critically engage with the material.
Goal 6. Engage in collaborative problem-solving exercises and critical reflections with colleagues.
Keeping in mind that knowledge is structured via activity and that transmission is not the way learning takes place, I engaged students in active experiential learning. In order to obtain deep learning I emphasized that it is what the student does that she learns through active learning. In order to accomplish the aim of engaging in collaborative problem-solving exercises and critical reflections there were weekly in class group problem solving activities requiring students to engage with a problem or a question based on an issue raised in a course reading or video or guest lecture or field trip. Students received a grade for their in-class activities. I believed that in doing so I would encourage students to do the things which would lead them to attain the intended learning outcomes. Rather than focusing on learning styles (the ‘good’ student and ‘bad’ student) I hoped that the group work activity would provide a level playing field where more and less motivated students could work together to solve a problem. In this way I emphasized student-centered learning and in grading their weekly group work submissions. I provided weekly feedback which motivated students to achieve (Hattie and Timperley note that feedback is the top 10 influence on student achievement, either positive or negative). Students were also given the opportunity to present their findings online and in-class.
- Goal 7. Participate in an optional field trip to B.C. mainland correctional facilities.
Students were given an option to participate in a field trip to four correctional facilities in the lower mainland. This was a two day event facilitated and led by myself and a colleague. This experiential learning activity allowed students to participate in active knowledge construction through doing. Students were given questions to answer during the field trip and students were actively engage with the questions after they returned from the field trip.
Field trips are an effective teaching/learning strategy for students to experience the core functions of corrections. In the Fall of 2016 I took my Chemainus High School/VIU students in CRIM 131 Introduction to the Criminal Justice System on a field trip to the Duncan Courthouse where we observed the functions of the court and integrated the knowledge obtained from our fieldtrip into our classroom discussions. During the 2016 Spring term at Vancouver Island University I engaged students in my Introduction to Corrections classes (three sections of CRIM 241) in an experiential learning experience by coordinating a field trip to four Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) facilities in the lower mainland: Kent Institution for men (maximum security), Matsqui institution for men (medium security), Fraser Valley Institution for Women (multi-level security) and Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village (minimum level security institution for Aboriginal men). The field trip took place over a two day period (February 23-24, 2016). Nineteen students and 2 faculty members from the Department of Criminology attended. The purpose of including a field trip to four correctional facilities in the lower mainland was to create an experiential learning environment as a means for students to gain insight into the core Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) mission and values. My aim was to expand the role of the field trip from just learning about the operation of correctional facilities to a broader understanding of the uniqueness of each security level, the relationship of politics and policy to programming and inmate/correctional officer relationships, and the connection with the populations CSC serves. While many see inmates through the limited lens of the label ‘criminal’, field trips can engage students intimately in the challenges and struggles of a variety of inmate populations from Aboriginal men affected by the residential school experience, clients receiving educational upgrading, to inmates identifying substances as an issue and obtaining services such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (Behaviour Modification).
Upon return we engaged in a ‘fish bowl’ exercise in the classroom which allowed those who attended the trip to share their experiences and respond to questions from those who were unable to participate. A field trip evaluation allowed us to assess major themes and assist in organizing future field trips.
- Identify 2-3 items or assessments that are worded in such a way that they limit students to a unistructural or multistructural response at best and re-write them so that they require a relational response at worst and include the results in your post.
The aspects of this course which utilize unistructural and multistructural responses are the three quizzes and final exam requiring memorization. There were three in-class multiple choice exams and a final exam at the end of the course. This unistructural teaching/learning approach is problematic because it requires students to memorize material and regurgitate it back to the teacher. According to Jensen, humans are poor at memorizing material and the best practice is to allow students to learn by building information based on past experience. Most students who are required to memorize information for an exam will do so, and then forget the material after the exam, which raises the question of why this approach to measuring learning is used? I prefer to allow students to conduct research and write essays however the reality of the present academic situation. where teachers in teaching intensive post-secondary institutions have no teaching assistants, is that more and more instructors rely on the quick and easy multiple choice exam approach to evaluating student success.
In order to emphasize a relational learning process in this course I would delete the emphasis on multiple choice exams and implement a relational assignment such as an essay which would allow students to conduct research on a topic of their choice related to corrections. This would allow them to identify several relevant aspects, but also enhance the ability to to relate those aspects into a coherent model that is more comprehensive and fulfilling.
- Once you have published your post, search for posts from others who have completed this activity and leave a comment or two.
October 7, 2018
Biggs, J., & Collis, K. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning: The SOLO taxonomy. New York: Academic Press.