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We propose that answering two common teaching questions

  • “How can we make sure our students learn what we want them to?”
  • "How can I create courses that will provide significant learning experiences for my students?"

begins with attention to how we design our university-level courses – and extends to regular redesign of courses with heightened attention to how we (1) name student learning outcomes, (2) incorporate appropriate assessments, and (3) structure in provocative learning and teaching strategies to meet the range of goals and high expectations of a given environment.

We have built this tutorial on principles of Integrated Aligned Course Design drawn primarily from the works cited below. At its core, this approach to course design includes four elements displayed in the diagram below: Environment, Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction.

Triangular graphic showing classroom environment being made up of three related elements: curriculum, instruction, and assessment

Integrated Aligned Course Design is a “fully criterion-referenced system, where the objectives [learning outcomes] define what we should be teaching, how we should be teaching it, and how we could know how well students have learned it” (Biggs and Tang, 1999, 2007). Teachers’ responsibilities include aligning – joining, linking, scaffolding – learning and teaching activities to the outcomes and structuring assessments appropriate to the level of learning expected. Students’ responsibilities include constructing meaning from course assignments and instruction by engaging themselves in mindful processes of learning, and displaying the efforts of that learning in varieties of assessments. 

The Tutorial divides the process of course design into distinct parts; the process is iterative with taking time to analyze the distinct segments heightening overall awareness and reflection in the design process:

  1. Introduction & Noting the Environmental Factors (Environment)
  2. Establishing Student Learning Outcomes (Curriculum)
  3. Assessing Student Learning Outcomes (Assessment)
  4. Class Session Planning for Enhanced Learning and Effective Teaching (Instruction)
  5. Reviewing Your Course Design (a return to Environment with new information)

Each part of the tutorial includes an on-screen process- and question-oriented narrative with links to a working guide that mirrors and expands upon the narrative, offering templates and other tools for use in your individual (re)design of courses.

Assessing Environmental Factors

The working guide for this section will provide course (re)designers with a template for assessing community, institutional, disciplinary, teacher and student contexts that can impact course design and delivery, situate learning climate and commitments, and reveal implicit and explicit expectations for learning outcomes.


  • Biggs, John and Tang, Catherine. Teaching for Quality Learning at University (3rd ed). Buckingham: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press, 2007. (First edition: 1999.)
  • Fink, L. Dee. Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, 2003.
  • University of Connecticut Universal Design for Instruction in Postsecondary Education. “The Nine Principles of UDI.”
  • Wlodkowski, Raymond. J. & Ginsberg, Margery. B. Diversity and Motivation: Culturally Responsive Teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1995.


Consultants are available to faculty members, instructional staff, and TAs who wish to discuss course design or other teaching issues.


Working Guide

We have provided a working guide to accompany the material for this section of the tutorial. It will allow you to apply your own course information as you read through and think about the material on this page. We hope you'll find it useful.

Environmental Factors Working Guide (Word)