HelpCurriculum Development Plans

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
1. Describe the features common to a reasonable curriculum development plan.

2. Identify the role played by curriculum development plans in assessment of administrators and in curriculum audits.

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


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, such as the following (optional visits):

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 10D called CF-E.pdf.)


Different districts and states have implemented various measures of accountability. Curriculum plans and guides are often used to provide documentation. For example, the "Curriculum Management Audit" for the Salinas, CA, Union High School District can be seen at (optional visit):

It lists a number of harsh findings, such as:

"Finding 1.1: The District lacks strong curriculum and instructional leadership at all levels."

This was elaborated by weaknesses in several areas, including:

"1. The development of written curriculum.

2. Providing training to teachers on how to deliver the curriculum.

Sometimes, teacher advancement is determined based in part on what is specified in a curriculum development plan, as illustrated by, the Farmington, MO, R-& School District Proposal for Career Ladder (formerly available at

"Each Career Ladder Stage will contain specific qualifications application, responsibilities commensurate and adjustable that stage that will be completed by the teacher while responsibilities shall be directly and obviously related Curriculum Development Plan, Professional Development Improvement Plan, or instructional improvement." (p. 1)


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 10D 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 curriclum integration in technology education. Journal of Technology Education, 17(1), 69-82, retrieved October 1, 2008 from

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