HelpCurriculum Development Planning

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
1. Identify from a curriculum audit what could be done differently in curriculum development planning to alleviate several negative ratings.

2. Discuss problems that can arise when curriculum development teams are not award of where their authority begins and ends.

3. Identify standards and laws that need to be followed for a particular curriculum development initiative, and distinguish between those that must be followed to the letter, and those that may be followed.


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.


Mount Baker School DistrictThere 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. Please visit the Mount Baker, WA, School District Curriculum Audit (required visit):

While there, you might want to begin with Appendix D, the Sample Curriculum and Instructional Program Evaluation Policy, which lists a number of evaluation criteria related to curriculum.

Also, please visit the findings for Standard 2, which include the following, clicking on and reviewing each of the first four findings listed:

  • "Finding 2.1: Coverage of District Curriculum in Written Guides is Adequate for K-8 Instruction but Inadequate for Grades 9-12.
  • "Finding 2.2: Curriculum Guides Are Not Yet Adequate to Direct the Instructional Program; Use of the Guides Is Not Institutionalized at All Grade Levels.
  • "Finding 2.3: Many Programs Lack Clear Connection to District Curriculum and Are Not Formally Evaluated for Effectiveness.
  • "Finding 2.4: The District Curriculum Management System Is Not Complete, Is Inadequately Documented, and Is Not Understood System-wide."

Other findings and recommendations can be seen in this audit report that may impact how a curriculum planner approaches their tasks.

In particular, Finding 2.4 contains information from the auditors about the district's policy on some curriculum development processes. Noted are the policies for course outlines (Policy 2122), "participatory decision making" (Policy 2010), and the following:

"Considerations to be attended to in planning, development, and implementing the coordinated curricula:

"A. Articulation from grade-to-grade, pre-school to elementary school, elementary school to junior high school, junior high school to high school, and high school to post secondary educational opportunities;

"B. Students’ needs for enrichment and remediation opportunities;

"C. Appropriate inter-disciplinary integration of various curricula;

"D. Assessment of student performance; and

"E. Consistency of implementation."

Mount Baker is not unique in this respect. Similar curriculum development audits can be found for other districts:


Curriculum planners may think they have either less or more authority than is the case.

Fictitious Example

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 the textbook

  • whether the 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 from

"IV. Criteria for selection of Learning Materials...
A3. Care shall be taken to select materials meeting standards of high quality in:

  • presentation

  • physical format

  • educational significance

  • readability

  • authenticity/accuracy

  • artistic quality or literary style

  • factual content

  • treatment that is clear, comprehensible, skillful, convincing, well organized and unbiased

  • special features, such as useful illustrations, photographs, maps, charts, graphs, etc.

  • technical 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 development initiative.

"Following" Standards

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:
New York:

and Tennessee:

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.

"Curriculum Development Planning"
All information is subject to change without notification.
© Jim Flowers
Department of Technology, Ball State University