The process of planning for curriculum
development can make the work that follows efficient and relatively easy, or
difficult and unwieldy. This lesson approaches the process for planning
curriculum development backwards. It starts with the review that occurs
after implementation for one particular school district. The reader should
look at that review, and then think back about how changes in the curriculum
planning process could have alleviated some of the negative points
identified in the review.
is no single, correct procedure for curriculum planning. However, different
school districts may in fact specify such procedures. Accountability of
curriculum planning processes typically occurs during a curriculum
evaluation or audit. This is just one Please visit the Curriculum Audit of
the Kenosha, WI, Unified School District from September 2013, through the
International Curriculum Management Audit Center at Phi Delta Kappa
International (required visit):
You can find some companion documents at
In the audit document, please review the
findings and recommendations. In particular, look for findings and
recommendations related to planning.
Similar curriculum or curriculum
management audits can be found if you search for them, such as the
Fayetteville, AK, Public Schools, February 2010:
For more on curriculum audits, see the
description offered by Curriculum Management Systems at
or the Nevada Comprehensive Curriculum Audit Tool for Schools User's
In addition to information from audits, a
wealth of other information may be available to aid in curriculum planning.
However, some planners may specifically wish to plan curriculum without
regards to some of this information.
For example, if the curriculum is being
planned for a school district, that school likely has both existing
facilities (buildings) and staff (with different expertise) that can greatly
influence curricular decisions. However, some would suggest that maybe these
two factors should not limit curricular possibilities to the extent they
often do, as that would prevent the curriculum from moving in many new
Other information of interest may be
trends in the student population, and the extension of these trends into the
future. Information regarding the community and local businesses may be of
use. Information regarding partners and other academic institutions,
including higher education institutions, might be helpful. Information from
past curriculum development efforts in this school district, and from
similar efforts elsewhere can help avoid some known pitfalls.
Among the other information available are
the parameters and limitations of the curriculum revision/development
venture. Is there a timeline, a budget, a specified review process, or a
certain set of documents that are pre-specified?
Curriculum planners may think they have
either less or more authority than is the case.
Let's say a Technology
Education curriculum development team from South Lyon, MI, was
working on a new curriculum guide and one member noted that it would
help if the curriculum development process used some criteria for
selecting instructional materials, and textbooks, in particular.
After some discussion, the committee of three technology teachers
decided to use the following quality standards:
cost of the textbook
years the textbook
would likely last
number of pages in
committee members knew the authors
whether the textbook
covered what was already being taught
Only too late did
they find out that their decision violated stated district policy.
Their board of education had previously established the following
"IV. Criteria for
selection of Learning Materials...
A3. Care shall be taken to select materials meeting standards of
high quality in:
quality or literary style
that is clear, comprehensible, skillful, convincing, well
organized and unbiased
features, such as useful illustrations, photographs, maps,
charts, graphs, etc.
production/construction that is well crafted, durable,
manageable and attractive"
The curriculum committee
did not have the authority to use a different list of standards, and
the list they developed was riddled with problems.
There should be no ambiguity of the
authority of either the curriculum development team, or of the authority
of individuals on that team. Curriculum development is an important
task; a critical part of the process entails review and decisions to
accept or reject by individuals who were not the ones writing curricular
materials. This review process occurs elsewhere (e.g., journal article
submissions, presentation proposals for conferences, book ideas
presented to publishers), and should be embraced by all. School board
policy should be consulted prior to embarking on any curriculum
If there are national, state, or other
standards that must be followed, or may be followed, it would aid the
curriculum development planning process to identify these. A problem may
arise in distinguishing between standards that must be included in
curricular materials, and those that need not be included. In the end, the
curriculum development team is responsible for their decisions, and it is
hoped that they will choose with the best interests of students in mind.
One group of standards that may be
considered is the International Technology
Education Association's Standards for Technological Literacy:
Various states have developed standards for technology
education programs, or courses, such as the one from
Those in Technology Education with an interest should read a pivotal
article by Karen Zuga, though it is dated, with special attention to Table
Zuga, K. (1989). Relating
technology education goals to curriculum planning. Journal of
Technology Education, 1(1), 1-14. Retrieved from
Common Core academic standards have been
adopted by many states. There are also standards dealing with the
use of educational technology; has your school district specified these? Are
there legal considerations based on the Americans with Disabilities Act or
other federal or state laws that impact curricular decisions? Are there even
standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or the
Environmental Protection Agency that impact what some might want to do in a
technology education laboratory? Teachers are advised to consult with their
district's curriculum coordinator or superintendent's office if there are
questions about these and other limitations.
Keep in mind that we plan policies,
academic programs, and eventually lessons. Along the way we plan
extra-curricular experiences, facilities, schedules, teacher enrichment,
assessment, and much more.
There are several descriptions of
curriculum planning processes. Please visit the guidelines from the Irish
School Development Planning Initiative at
http://www.sdpi.ie/guidelines/PDF/Unit09.pdf which you might find quite
applicable in the USA.
Notice how the process outlined there
differs from that of CoreKnowledge.org at
http://www.coreknowledge.org/curriculum-planning-tools where we are
told, "The first step in the curriculum planning process is to define for
each grade level, which Core Knowledge domains will be taught and when." It
sounds like they already have identified the extent of what students will
learn, regardless of local and individual needs.
Please also see "Chapter 3: The Process
of Designing the Curriculum" from
Rink, J. (2009).
Designing the Physical Education Curriculum. Columbus, OH:
McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from
The term, "curriculum development plan,"
can be used to refer to any plan involving curriculum development. It might
be a plan to revise a program, a course, or even just an instructional unit.
However, this term is also used to refer to plans at stipulated levels, such
as plans at a district level for which a superintendent of schools is
responsible. Thus, literature about "curriculum development plans" and
planning may sometimes apply to district-level planning more than to
planning at smaller levels. Furthermore, schools, districts, states, and
countries have different goals and standards, so some examples of a good
plan for one setting would be insufficient in other settings (as the plan
might not address local goals). The reader is cautioned to evaluate each
source of information for relevance and credibility.
A Good Example
One of the best examples found of a plan
that outlines the development of curriculum at a school district level comes
from East Haddam, CT, Public Schools (2000). This document is called
plan.pdf and can be found in Blackboard under Assignments,
Readings. It is a required reading, so please stop now and download
this document through Blackboard. You'll notice there is also a copy of the
technology education curriculum from East Haddam.
Among the good features of this plan are
A mission statement
A statement of goals
A description of the curriculum
council, noting the purpose, function, and diverse membership categories
Subject areas committee membership
that is not limited to those teachers in the subject area
Subject area committees' purpose and
tasks (but unfortunately no clear timeline)
The format and review process for the
documents to be produced by subject area committees
Previously developed curriculum
An assessment plan
Forms to assist curriculum
When you look good, we
A curriculum development plan at the
program level can be part of a larger school or district plan. Often, school
and district level administrators are charged with and evaluated in part
based on curriculum development, as seen in the job descriptions and
responsibilities of superintendents and assistant superintendents for
curriculum. For example, one of the criteria by which
the Superintendent of Schools in WI:
"Facilitate and guide a content
area team, as a co-chairperson in terms of curriculum development,
implementation and evaluation." (The source of this
is the document you can see under Blackboard, Assignments, Readings for
Lesson 10C called CF-E.pdf.)
Plans should note the different actions
to be taken. In previous years, the plan for Milwaukee, WI, listed both
areas of concern, and then particular strategies, though this version lists
goals rather than areas of concern, along with strategies.
You can find this document in
Blackboard under Assignments, Readings, Lesson 10C MPSActionPlan.pdf and
it is a recommended visit.
However, at the end of that plan, there
is only a vague indication about when different strategies are to occur,
with percentages indicated by year. Compare this to the month/year
organization of the action plan for North Smithfield, RI, Public Schools
Notice how some actions include a duration,
with starting and ending months. Further, notice that the specified action
is listed along with an identification of the responsible party, an
indicator of accountability or expected outcome, and budgetary and other
technology education program in one school was revising its
curriculum. There were two teachers in the materials processing
area, and they did not agree on most issues. A request was made for
a common syllabus for the materials processing course, so each one
independently developed their own version and then tried to have it
accepted by the committee as the common syllabus. They were
radically different in content, level, approach, educational theory,
and just about every other way. After a shouting match, they were
told by their chair to stop acting like children and work together.
If the "plan" specified this level of collaboration at the outset,
or if either of the teachers had exhibited more open-mindedness and
valued collaboration, this unfortunate outburst could have been
avoided and time saved.
It is not uncommon for authors of
scholarly articles (such as those listed below) to report on the results of
curriculum development planning, or on the work of curriculum development
teams. Those considering authoring scholarly work in this area may wish to
engage in studies that go beyond the bounds of the current curriculum
project, and inform the field of lessons learned in the narrow context of
the project that have broader, generalizable implications. (Optional
Jurowski, C. & Liburd, J.J.
(2002). A multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary approach to integrating the
principles of sustainable development into human resource management
curriculums in hospitality and tourism. Hospitality and Tourism Educator,
13 (5):36-50, retrieved October 1, 2008 from
Zinser, R., & Poledink, P.
(2005). The Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies: A new case for curriculum
integration in technology education. Journal of Technology Education, 17(1),
69-82, retrieved October 1, 2008 from