Curriculum Development

Curriculum provides guidance and an overall framework for teaching and learning. Teachers and those who work as administrators should have a foundational understanding of curriculum design. The most effective curriculum should account for the needs of every kind of learner and have consistency over time and changes in faculty. Developing curriculum has many steps and is a continuous, cyclical process. In the educational field, standards-based curriculum and testing such as Common Core Curriculum has been accepted in most states. Therefore, the need for cohesive curriculum that addresses these needs and those of similar frameworks are important.

A useful tool in helping an educator with their instruction is a curriculum guide which provides an overview of the process of curriculum development. It is a document structured to spell out the goals, learning experiences, resources, and testing that make up an effective educational course or program. No guide on its own is a perfect or complete project. There are distinct phases that are considered key components of the curriculum development process - planning, content, implementation, and evaluation.

Prior to beginning the planning stage, a committee for the express purpose of curriculum development should be established.  No one person has all the abilities to design curriculum materials independently, therefore it is critical to gather individuals with different skill sets and experience. Faculty who are a part of such a committee should be chosen from a variety of specialization areas, and larger committees should encompass different schools and grade levels. Other types of curriculum teams may have members such as designers, artists, editors, and subject-matter experts.

Research and analysis of district and national trends helps to identify what areas may need further analysis. Some relevant reading materials may include reports from curriculum associations and state and national standards related to the subject. Gaining new perspectives through making connections with local school districts and keeping up to date with new instructional material provides inspiration in developing new curriculum.

Curriculum development as a process should highlight what factors are needed to help each student succeed. Needs assessments assist in determining the nature and scope of a specific issue. Needs assessments frequently include methods such as surveys and interviews. One such example of a popular needs assessment is the KAP (Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices) method. KAP is a method which collects information on a “what is known about a particular topic” with respect to a particular population. The significance of such testing is that it can show what barriers exist to achieving real and lasting change.

Developing content starts the process of targeting the proposed outcomes goals and framework for the new curriculum. A program philosophy gives an introductory, guiding statement to the intent of the program itself. It should be accurate, realistic, and comprehensive. Course objectives are at the center of the curriculum. Target course objectives need to be appropriate to the grade level of the discipline and clearly state what the learner should know when the course is completed.

Implementation is a sometimes-neglected step by curriculum development committees, but it is very important. Introducing any changes to a system should be done gradually and carefully. Teachers as well as students will need to acclimate to new material. Some have recommended a period of about two years for new curriculum to be fully integrated in a classroom. During this time, the committee should be careful examining and evaluating the program for areas of successes or failures. This can provide a basis for changes, omissions, and revisions as needed.

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