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 aware 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.

4. Discuss several  curriculum planning methods.

5. Describe the features common to a reasonable curriculum development plan.

6. Describe how an actions-based approach can be used.


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.

Gathering Information

from Audits

There 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 following:
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 Guide at

Other Information

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 directions.

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.

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 the one from New York:
Those in Technology Education with an interest should read a pivotal article by Karen Zuga, though it is dated, with special attention to Table 5:

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 which you might find quite applicable in the USA.

Notice how the process outlined there differs from that of at 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 the following:

  • 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 standards

  • An assessment plan

  • Forms to assist curriculum development

When you look good, we look good.

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 (recommended visit): StrategicPlan2006-2009.pdf

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 resources.

Story Time: Competing Versions

A 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.

Scholarly Work

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 visits):

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

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