How to Develop a Curriculum

The word curriculum generally refers to a series of courses that help learners achieve specific academic or occupational goals. A curriculum often consists of general learning objectives and a list of courses and resources. Some curricula are more like lesson plans, containing detailed information about how to teach a course, complete with discussion questions and specific activities for learners. Here are some strategies for developing a curriculum.

  1. Define the objective of the curriculum. The goal may be to help adults prepare for the General Education Development (GED) exam. In a university program, the main objective might be to provide specific skills or knowledge necessary for completion of a degree. Being specific about the curriculum objective will assist with its development.

  1. Choose an appropriate title. Depending on the learning objective, titling the curriculum may be a straightforward process or one that requires greater thought. A curriculum for GED students can be called "GED Preparation Curriculum." A program designed to assist adolescents with eating disorders might require a carefully thought-out title that is attractive to teenagers and sensitive to their needs.
  1. Create a scope and sequence. This is an outline of key skills and information that students need to achieve the main curriculum objective. For a bachelor's degree curriculum, the scope and sequence might be a list of courses that a student must complete. The outline for a software training curriculum might be a more detailed list of software operations, such as creating new records, saving information, deleting records and merging files.
  1. Determine the teaching approach. Depending on the topic and objective, information might best be conveyed in a lecture format. In other cases, providing written materials, holding discussion sessions and offering hands-on practice might be the most appropriate teaching methods. National or regional development limitations and available teaching staff and graduate fields of opportunities are considered.
    • Include discussion questions. In a curriculum that serves more as a script for teachers, detailed discussion questions provide greater direction. In a human rights curriculum, for example, students might be asked to share their understanding of what constitutes fundamental human rights.
    • Allow room for flexibility to meet learners' needs. Curriculum development must prioritize the needs of learners. Sometimes needs are indiscernible until a teacher has worked closely with a group of students across a period of time. In some cases, it is better to provide general directions and allow teachers to fill in the details and revise the curriculum as needed.
5  Build in an assessment component. Determining how to assess the knowledge of learners is dependent on the main curriculum objective. If students are preparing for a standardized exam, implementing practice tests is an effective way to simultaneously prepare students for the testing process and identify weaker skills and knowledge areas. If the learning objective is enrichment or life skills development, assessments may be more informal, consisting of class discussions, essays or one-on-one meetings.
  1. Establish a system of curriculum evaluation. When preparing learners for exams, gathering statistics of passing rates is helpful for gauging overall effectiveness. In more subjective subjects, such as the arts or personal development, observe patterns of student attendance and participation. Special attention to participant engagement and empowerment also can reveal curriculum efficacy.

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