A curriculum of study is only as interesting as its individual units. The design of the curriculum is therefore essential in ensuring its success. Important factors to consider when designing a curriculum are its objectives, what the learning outcomes will be, course outline, general learning, teaching approaches, and review.
Whilst the units that make up a curriculum dictate what a teacher will be teaching over the course of a number of lessons, entire curriculums define what the students will be taught and learn over years.
Irrespective of the field of study, the underlying principles of curriculum design remain the same. These include:
A program needs a purpose if it’s to be included in a curriculum. In planning the curriculum, it needs to be determined whether those purposes are achievable and how they can best be accomplished.
Any study program has to have a pre-defined outcome. This includes what students are expected to have learnt and be able to do as a consequence of the program. All teachers should be intimately familiar with the program-specific goals.
A study program needs to establish how its outcomes will be best achieved. This is the sequence of events that needs to take place in order for students and teachers to reach the goal. It means identifying what the students need to know in order to reach the goals at the end of the curriculum.
How to best facilitate the delivery of the program’s content is critical. The content is normally divided into units making up the entire curriculum. Naming and describing these units is an important element of curriculum design.
Once the content has been determined and the units defined, a realistic schedule needs to be established. How much time is needed for a student to learn content is difficult to determine, but this needs to be estimated with some degree of accuracy in order to meet the goals of the curriculum.
Objectives into units
Once the units of study have been finalised, the objectives of the program are placed into each unit. Where in the curriculum these objectives are placed (their order) is as important as timing.
Once a curriculum has been designed in its entirety, and once it has been implemented, it must be assessed. It needs to be assessed regularly in order to determine whether its goals have been achieved. The fact that content constantly changes and learning tools continue to evolve, means that assessment is an on-going process that, in itself, has to be constantly refined.
There are other factors to take into consideration in curriculum design, one of which is the context in which it is being created. Context is influenced by many elements, some of which include politics, culture, economics, disabilities, students, teachers, and even history.
The needs of adult learners are an important consideration in the creation and delivery of a curriculum. With adult learning, curriculum design always needs to consider that:
Participation is by choice, so it should be interactive as interactive as possible.
The learning outcomes need to be clear.
Opportunity for feedback (teacher to student and student to teacher) and assessment should be provided.
Feedback should be constructive.
Further, there should be a curriculum revision cycle in place whereby the curriculum is reviewed on a continuous basis. According to Nancy J. Mooney and Ann T. Mausbach, the team responsible for developing the curriculum should review it once a year and then undertake a far more in-depth review every six to eight years. However, in light of the fast pace at which everything is evolving these days, it might be a good idea to conduct an in-depth review a couple of years sooner.
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