University of Alberta, Department of Biological Sciences

Course Review Information


One major method of evaluating the success of a curriculum is to examine the fit between the stated learning objectives and the methods of assessing student learning. John Biggs model of 'Constructive Alignment' provides an especially good way of doing that.

If an objective requires the student to analyze something and the assessment method involves a multiple choice question at the 'Comprehension' level of Bloom's Taxonomy, there is obviously no match between the objective and assessment method. This is not to condemn multiple choice tests which can be designed to assess the ability of students to analyze a situation. Biggs 'SOLO Taxonomy' provides a more holistic way of evaluating students written or portfolio work.

The following references provide background on curricula and assessment practices. Not all assessment has to be done for grading purposes. Angelo and Cross give a very useful collection of assessment methods that can be used in the classroom to help students monitor their own learning.


  1. Angelo,T.A.; Cross,K.P. 1993. Classroom Assessment Techniques. Jossey-Bass. ISBN 1-55542-500-3.

  2. Exercises that can be used for non grading purposes to facilitate learner self-evaluation as well as to give rapid feedback to an instructor on the success of the student's learning.
  3. Biggs,J. 1996. Enhancing Teaching through Constructive Alignment. Higher Education 32: 347-364.

  4. A paper, by a former U of A faculty member, that emphasizes the importance of aligning curriculum objectives, teaching/learning activities and assessment methods.
  5. Biggs,J. 2003. Teaching for Quality Learning at University. 2nd Edition, Open University Press, Buckingham, UK. ISBN 0-335-21168-2

  6. This book gives a good overview of university teaching and summarizes Biggs work on 'constructive alignment to promote deep learning with assessment using his SOLO Taxonomy.
  7. Boud,D.; Feletti, G. 1991. The Challenge of Problem Based Learning. Kogan Page Ltd. ISBN 0-74940-249-0.

  8. A collection of articles on PBL, including the introduction of the PBL curriculum at Harvard Medical School.
  9. Cheser Jacobs,L.; Chase,C.I. 1992. Developing and Using Tests Effectively. Jossey-Bass. ISBN 1-55542-481-3.

  10. A good compendium of different methods both objective and subjective.
  11. Diamond,R.M. 1989. Designing and Improving Courses and Curricula in Higher Education. Jossey-Bass. ISBN 1-55542-129-6.

  12. This text emphasizes the importance of linking the learning objectives to the assessment methods used.
  13. Everingham,F. 1996. Curriculum Mapping. Centre for Teaching and Learning, University of Sydney. ISBN 1-86451-266-0.

  14. A computer-assisted curriculum mapping model to promote dimensions of student learning, such as generic attributes, in complex curricula.
  15. Fraser,K. 1996. Student Centred Teaching: The Development and Use of Conceptual Frameworks. HERDSA Green Guide No. 18. ISBN 0-908557-37-X.

  16. A primer on the use of concept maps for, amongst other things, course review.
  17. Hazel, E.; Baillie, C. 1998. Improving Teaching and Learning in Laboratories HERDSA Gold Guide No. 4. ISBN 0-908557-43-4

  18. This guide has chapters on assessing laboratory work and evaluating laboratory exercises.
  19. LaSere Erickson,B.; Weltner Strommer,D. 1991. Teaching College Freshmen (sic). Jossey-Bass. ISBN 1-55542-310-8.

  20. A review of the particular needs of first year students and ways of addressing them.
  21. Manning,M.; Harris,J..; Maher,W.; McQueen,K.  1998.  Learning in the Field: a Manual for Conducting Field Classes.  HERDSA Gold Guide No. 4.  ISSN 1323-4021.

  23. National Research Council. 2001. Knowing what Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment. Washington, DC. National Academy Press.

  24. Emphasizes the importance of aligning assessment with learning objectives and learning experiences.
  25. Nightingale,P.; Te Wiata,I.; Toohey,S.; Ryan,G.; Hughes,C.; Magin,D. 1996. Assessing Learning in Universities. University of New South Wales Press. ISBN 0-86840-408-X.

  26. A compendium of case histories of assessment methods applied to a wide diversity of curricular situations.


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Further information on this topic can be obtained by contacting John Hoddinott.

University of Alberta, Jun 3, 2004.