Constructive alignment and student motivation: Differential effects on intrinsic motivation and cognitive demand

Year: 2019

Author: Stamov, Roßnagel, Christian, Fitzallen, Noleine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The constructive alignment (CA) of teaching and learning in higher education is seen as an effective approach to improve students’ learning outcomes, yet little research has explored the relationships among CA principles and student motivation and engagement in learning. Previous research found that after CA principles were implemented in a course, students reported higher satisfaction with teaching, greater clarity of assessments, and better grades, relative to the pre-CA cohort. Also, there is evidence that students adjust their learning behaviour to CA, adopting a deep learning approach as opposed to a more surface learning approach, in more constructively aligned courses. Related to this, qualitative findings suggest that students may develop more elaborated epistemic beliefs and higher-level learning strategies. Building on this research, we implemented a quantitative study to investigate: (1) Which CA dimensions contribute to which dimensions of student motivation? (2) How is CA related to the cognitive demands of learning? and (3) Do students’ learning strategies moderate CA effects? Thirty-one students from a unit on Supply Chain Management completed questionnaires in the second (T1), seventh (T2), and the final fourteenth (T3) weeks of the unit. At T1, students reported their use of surface and deep approaches with the Study Process Questionnaire. At T2 and T3, students reported their perceptions of the unit being constructively aligned (Constructive Alignment of Learning Experience Questionnaire), their intrinsic motivation (Intrinsic Motivation Inventory), and how complex and demanding they perceived their learning to be (NASA Task Load Index).

Regression analyses revealed that CA perceptions selectively predicted intrinsic motivation and cognitive demand. For instance, perceiving the intended learning outcomes (ILO) as clear was strongly related to enjoyment of the course (r= .76), whilst perceptions of ILO being aligned with learning activities was associated with feeling competent to master the learning tasks (r= .49). Similarly, perceived ILO clarity went with lower ratings of the course as being demanding and complex (r= -.44), whereas perceived alignment of ILO with assessment tasks was coupled with lower ratings of having had to work hard to accomplish one’s level of performance (r=-.29). Finally, the relationship between ILO clarity and perceptions of competence were stronger in students adopting a deep learning approach. Further research, however, involving larger samples across multiple units is needed to explore the extent to which each of the dimensions of CA contribute to student achievement.