Design a learning activity
This page provides more information on designing learning activities that fit your learning objectives.
Constructive alignment is at the heart of solid course design (Biggs, 1996; Cohen, 1987). The constructive alignment principle views the student as the centre of the learning process and considers learning to be efficient when the learning activities (i.e. what the student does) and the assessment are in line with the learning objectives (LO).
How to construct a learning activity
Choosing a learning activity that fits the selected learning objective can be arduous and its fit depends on numerous factors. There have been multiple efforts (e.g. Bonwell & Sutherland, 1996; Conole & Fill, 2005) to provide different frameworks. They do share various similarities, with the principal communality being that the learning objectives make up the foundation of the entire design process. Consulting Blooms Revised Taxonomy Worksheet can help structure the process. Capturing the selected learning objectives, learning activities in a constructive alignment table makes it easier to check the alignment. You could base your choice for a learning activity based on the following topics.
Learning objectives and their cognitive level
Defining the learning objective and its cognitive level is key. The aforementioned Blooms Taxonomy worksheet can help to identify the correct action verbs and allows teachers and students to be much more precise and focused on precisely which cognitive abilities students must demonstrate in a given course activity and how to construct activities accordingly.
Questions based on learning objectives’ action verbs
What type of questions allows students to show that they are working towards the learning objective? A common example of a pitfall is to only have students read or watch examples, when the LO is to design, create. Or to only ask questions that are on a different cognitive level. A good example of a question that allows a student to work on the create-level would be “Can you construct a model that would change X?”
Role of the student, its peers, and the teacher
Consider everyone’s role: is a teacher always needed to transfer knowledge (i.e. covering in a lecture what is covered in a book)? Typically, (s)he is not. Different considerations apply for LOs on different levels. It is key to employ a student-centred approach in answering these types of questions. Occasionally, the reasoning behind the teacher activity and how students work is neglected. Group-work can be valuable for various types of learning objectives, especially when they are rooted in discussion, integration, collaboration, etc. Individual tasks can be just as effective, albeit for different learning objectives and they require less moderation, and allow for each student to provide input. Of course, more deliberations apply, it is about finding the right motives to choose certain learning activities.
Scaffolding towards the learning objective
What type of activities allows a student to optimally showcase the answer to the formulated questions from step 2? If a student is asked to construct a model, that would be observable in physically (or digitally) producing a model. Not by telling someone. Then it is important to consider which intermediary tasks would help the student to reach that task (i.e. scaffolding), which can be from a lower Bloom’s taxonomy level.
Examples of activities related to different levels of Blooms Revised Taxonomy
(Self-study) Lecture, reading, audio/visual, demonstration, question and answer period, memorise and recite, etc.
Asking and answering questions, thinking of examples; peer instruction, reflection, illustrate main idea, etc.
Exercises; peer instruction; case study; lab work, role plays, case studies, construct a model, etc.
Case study; lab work; analysing graphs, data, articles, practice by doing, simulated job settings, write a commercial to sell a product, make a flow chart, plan an event, etc.
Evaluating data, on the job training, write a new language code and write in it, persuasively present an idea, devise a way to solve a problem, argue an approach, debates, etc.
Design assignments, create criteria to judge material, write a half-yearly report, projects, etc.
Deliver a learning activity
There are several logistical matters to consider when you employ the activities that were identified in an earlier stage. The amount of supervision needed will dictate the types of activities that are possible. Second, the amount of moderation or self-paced learning is important to consider. If there’s interaction required, it can be very useful to do this asynchronous, e.g. in case of a report-feedback task. Yet sometimes interaction which is synchronous and immediate is required. This can be the difference between a face-to-face or an online teaching activity.
- Biggs, J. (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher education, 32(3), 347-364.
- Bonwell, C. C., & Sutherland, T. E. (1996). The active learning continuum: Choosing activities to engage students in the classroom. New directions for teaching and learning, 1996(67), 3-16.
- Cohen, S.A. (1987). 'Instructional alignment: Searching for a magic bullet', Educational Researcher 16(8), 16--20.
- Conole, G., & Fill, K. (2005). A learning design toolkit to create pedagogically effective learning activities. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, (1).