Reclaiming constructive alignment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Constructive Alignment (CA) is neither the panacea, nor the unalloyed evil depicted in the majority of higher education discourses. But rather, the theory is a heuristic and accessible representation of commonly agreed upon aspects of modern curriculum and educational theory, designed explicitly to support learning and teaching. However, when imposed top-down for accountability purposes, or used as a quality assurance tool, the seemingly step-by-step simplicity that gives it an administrative potential can also diminish or even destroy its relevance as an educational tool. For these reasons CA and particularly learning outcomes are often vilified amongst academic staff as a pernicious influence on learning and teaching. It has been argued that the mechanistic use of alignment and learning outcomes for validation and audit purposes can create an illusion of quality control which bears little relation to the reality of teaching practice and student learning.

This paper explores the tensions that have been created as constructive alignment has journeyed and expanded from an educational theory into Higher Education teaching policy and practice. The purpose is to reclaim its original perspective as a tool for professional academic teaching.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-136
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Higher Education
Issue number2
Early online date2020 Sept 15
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Pedagogy
  • Educational Sciences

Free keywords

  • Constructive alignment
  • learning outcomes
  • constructivism
  • curriculum theory
  • outcomes based education
  • educational philosophy


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