Aligning Outcomes, Assessments, and Activities

Aligning outcomes, activities, and assessments are the most important parts that teachers need to consider when planning lessons. However, doing so in a time period where teachers are inundated with state assessment requirements and scores is not an easy task. Teachers will need to design their lessons with alignment in mind. By using Fink’s Self-Directed Guide to Designing Courses for Significant Learning teachers will be able to develop a broad perspective in order to think deeper about more than just content and test scores. Starting with the end in mind, as Fink demonstrates, can eliminate the traditional failures that teachers experience in their lessons. In the following paragraphs I will be incorporating Fink’s ideas to assist in the implementation of my ePortfolio initiative.

Learning Environment & Situational Factors to Consider

  1. Specific Context of the Teaching/Learning Situation

How many students are in the class?  Is the course primary, secondary, undergraduate, or graduate level?  How long and frequent are the class meetings? How will the course be delivered: live, online, blended, flipped or in a classroom or lab?  What physical elements of the learning environment will affect the class? What technology, networking and access issues will affect the class?

  • Students: about 30 students across three class periods
  • Level: secondary – eleventh grade students
  • Class meetings: anywhere from one to five periods per week (dependent upon the individual student’s IEP recommendation)
  • Delivery: in the classroom with students’ Chromebooks (have 3 desktop computers available if necessary), and individually outside of the classroom
  • Potential issues: students may forget their Chromebooks or they may not be charged; infrequent internet connectivity issues; lack of time to devote to ePortfolios due to core content area tasks which need to be completed during resource time
  1.  General Context of the Learning Situation

What learning expectations are placed on this course or curriculum by: the school, district, university, college and/or department?  the profession? society?

  • High school: grading during 4 marking periods of the school year; documenting assignments through online grading systems (Skyward and Canvas)
  • District: grade marking system of A (92-100) B (83-91) C (74-82) D (65-73) F (0-64)
  • Profession: aligning content with PA Standards for Career Education and Work
  1. Nature of the Subject

Is this subject primarily theoretical, practical, or a combination?  Is the subject primarily convergent or divergent? Are there important changes or controversies occurring within the field?

  • ePortfolios are practical because they relate directly to each individual learner and their interests/passions and learning.
  • The subject of ePortfolios are primarily divergent because the students will have freedom to create their personalized content they want to display in their ePortfolios.
  • Because ePortfolios involve a more hands-off approach from the teacher and students are directing their own learning and sharing of content, there could be controversies initially within the school. ePortfolios are not a traditional way of teaching, so it’s possible there may be some uncomfortability initially.
  1. Characteristics of the Learners

What is the life situation of the learners (e.g., socio-economic, cultural, personal, family, professional goals)?  What prior knowledge, experiences, and initial feelings do students usually have about this subject? What are their learning goals and expectations?

  • My school is in a rural residential, mostly wealthy, suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We lack commercial properties within the district. Most students within the school are caucasian with a very small number of racially and ethnically diverse students attending. We boast a 97% graduation rate and between 70-80% of those students continue on to higher education.
  • Students do not have any prior knowledge of ePortfolios, including what they are, how they are used, and how they can benefit their post-secondary plans and learning.
  • The learning goals for the students will be to appropriately engage in digital discussions, provide appropriate and meaningful feedback to peers, learn how to reflect about their own learning in a meaningful way, and learn how to use technological skills.
  1. Characteristics of the Teacher

What beliefs and values does the teacher have about teaching and learning?  What is his/her attitude toward: the subject? students? What level of knowledge or familiarity does s/he have with this subject?  What are his/her strengths in teaching?

  • The teacher believes in lifelong learning. The teacher believes that teachers should be facilitators and partners with their students to create meaningful learning opportunities.
  • The teacher’s’ attitude toward the subject is positive. The teacher has experienced personal success with ePortfolios.
  • The teacher’s attitude towards students is positive. The teacher values the differences among the students, both academically and personally. The teacher wants the students to experience success on a daily basis and to continue to grow and develop both academically and personally. The teacher holds the students accountable for their actions and for their learning.
  • The teacher’s’ knowledge of ePortfolios is developing. The teacher has experienced both success and failure with ePortfolios and is continuing to learn and gain understanding of implementing successful ePortfolios.
  • The teacher’s strengths are: student-focused, determined, flexible, positive, encouraging, and hardworking.

Questions for Formulating Significant Learning Goals

A  year (or more) after this course is over, I want and hope that students will have developed a resource that they can continue to add to throughout their post-secondary lives. This resource will be available to them to document and reflect upon their learning journey, and serve to foster the practice of being lifelong learners.

My Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for this course is:

Through the use of ePortfolios, learners will use technological skills in order to grow and develop their post-secondary plans, while reflecting on their learning throughout, and in order to promote lifelong learning.

Foundational Knowledge

What key information (e.g., facts, terms, formulae, concepts, principles, relationships, etc.) is/are important for students to understand and remember in the future?

Learners will:

  • Understanding how to participate in digital spaces
  • Understanding how to collaborate with each other
  • Developing 21st century technological skills

What key ideas (or perspectives) are important for students to understand in this course?

Learners will:

  • Familiarize themselves with their chosen ePortfolio platform
  • Understand that reflection is a part of learning
  • Understand that there is no right or wrong way to deliver their content

Application Goals

What kinds of thinking are important for students to learn?

  • Critical thinking, in which students analyze and evaluate
  • Creative thinking, in which students imagine and create
  • Practical thinking, in which students solve problems and make decisions

What important skills do students need to gain? Do students need to learn how to manage complex projects?

Learners will:

  • Evaluate their learning process
  • Reflect on their growth/development over time
  • Develop/strengthen technological skills
  • Develop appropriate online presences and response to others
  • Design an ePortfolio that showcases their personal style and design, as well as their content and learning

Integration Goals

What connections (similarities and interactions) should students recognize and make: among ideas within this course? Among the information, ideas, and perspectives in this course and those in other courses or areas? Among material in this course and the students’ own personal, social, and/or work life?

Learners will:

  • Relate academic content to their personal interests and post-secondary goals
  • Reflect upon their learning
  • Reflect on their construction of their ePortfolio
  • Connect digital and technological skills to all courses

Human Dimension Goals

What could or should students learn about themselves? What could or should students learn about understanding othersand/or interacting with them?

Learners will:

  • Determine their preferences when presenting information digitally
  • Determine their post-secondary interests and gain insight into developing plans that support their interests
  • Develop positive and effective reflection strategies and practices
  • Develop control and tact when giving and receiving digital feedback

Caring Goals

What changes/values do you hope students will adopt? Feelings? Interests? Values?

Learners will:

  • Discover personal interests and passions through their delivery of content as well as through interaction with peers
  • Develop an understanding of alternative learning (i.e. holistic learning)

“Learning How to Learn” Goals

What would you like for students to learn about: how to be good students in a course like this? How to learn about this particular subject? How to become a self-directed learner of this subject, i.e., having a learning agenda of what they need/want to learn, and a plan for learning it?

Learners will:

  • Become accountable for their learning and won’t rely on the teacher to deliver all information
  • Develop strategies to discover information related to their post-secondary goals and develop an appropriate bank of resources (both digital and in-person resources) to continue to learn further information
  • Understand that a self-directed approach to learning can serve as a greater resource than a teacher delivering all information


3 Column Table

BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)  – Overarching Course Goal: Through the use of ePortfolios, learners will use technological skills in order to grow and develop their post-secondary plans, while reflecting on their learning throughout, and in order to promote lifelong learning.

Learning Goals Learning Activities Assessment Activities
Foundation Goals 

Learners will….

  • Explore how to participate in digital spaces and collaborate with one another through online discussions

  • Review article about how to participate in online discussions
  • Review video about how to participate in online discussions
  • Discussion post
Application Goals

Learners will…

  • Design an ePortfolio that showcases their personal style and design, as well as their content and learning
  • Design their ePortfolio
  • Peer review
Integration Goals

Learners will…

  • Analyze/relate academic content and technological skills to their personal interests and post-secondary goals

  • View post-secondary education video
  • Post-secondary career/school research
  • Reflect on ePortfolio construction
  • Video quiz
  • Blog post
  • Form checklist/writing assignment
Human Dimension Goals

Learners will…

  • Evaluate their post-secondary interests and gain insight into developing plans that support their interests
  • Demonstrate control and tact when giving and receiving digital feedback
  • Blog post
  • Access school naviance accounts
  • Peer discussion post and reply evaluations
Caring Goals

Learners will:

  • Discover personal interests and passions through their delivery of content
  • Blog posts on interests
  • Blog posts and presentation to peers
“Learning How to Learn” Goals

Learners will…

  • Explore post-secondary learning opportunities and become accountable for their self-directed learning
  • End of course connections and reflections
  • Blog post and presentation
  • Teacher check-in


Having a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) has changed my perspective on how I view my innovation plan, but also how I view planning lessons and units overall. Having a large goal and starting at the end, has helped me to develop meaningful connections for my students. My ultimate goal is to have my students continue to add to their ePortfolios after they graduate no matter where they end up going (college, military, work-force, etc). Giving the students the ability to develop their content that they are personally interested in and have personally decided how to demonstrate that knowledge, will help the students determine how they learn best. This BHAG excites me because it will inspire my students to be open to a holistic approach to learning.



Fink, L. D. (2003). A self-directed guide to designing courses for significant learning [PDF]. Retrieved from