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Aligned Course Design


Last Updated:
November 9, 2023

First Published:
May 2, 2022


Aligned course design means that your learning goals, objectives, assessment tools, and teaching strategies all tie together to support student learning. Aligned course design begins with identifying overarching learning goals, developing measurable learning objectives, and then designing assessment tools to evaluate how well learners have met these objectives. Generally, this process of beginning with your desired results is referred to as Backward Design. Aligned course design supports student learning through transparency with expectations and clarity in the organization of information.

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  1. To develop your learning goals, consider the disciplinary aims of your course, the needs of your learners in future courses and professional settings, and the way your course scaffolds into your program’s curriculum.

  2. To write measurable learning objectives, use the CALMS method. The CALMS method asks, are your learning objectives, Clear, Achievable, Learning-Centered, Measurable/Observable and Specific?

  3. To formulate your learning objectives, it is standard to use an action verb from the appropriate level of Bloom’s Taxonomy alongside your subject matter and a qualifier. Here is a sample learning objective: ‘Learners will be able to analyze [action verb] economic stability as a Social Determinant of Health [subject matter] in rural settings [qualifier]’

  4. To design aligned assessments, create one summative assessment for each major learning objective and then design low-stakes formative assessments that will prepare learners to succeed. If, for example, learners are taking a high-stakes multiple choice examination as a summative assessment, create mini-quizzes or practice questions similar to the exam to both prepare students for the material as well as to practice with the question format.