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Developing a Curriculum Process Guide

Generally, a curriculum process guide is a document that provides educational agencies, such as school districts, regulation and direction concerning the processes of course and program formation, implementation, and alteration. The purpose of this post is to lay out such a guide based on four phases—the development of goals and objectives, curriculum design, curriculum implementation, and curriculum evaluation (Saylor, Alexander, & Lewis, 1981). To be clear, as the word is interpreted in many ways, curriculum is herein defined as “…a plan for providing sets of learning opportunities for persons to be educated.” (Saylor et al., 1981, p. 8). This guide is geared to support curriculum planners and instructors to create, implement, and evaluate programmatic curricula for educational institutions.

As such, this guide will support educators to develop a plan by first requiring that their major educational goals and specific objectives be established. Once these goals and objectives are established, tempered by prior decisions made by local politics and social agencies, the curriculum may then be designed by committee—in this case, aligned with academic disciplines (Saylor et al., 1981). Once the design has been created, instructors take parts of the curriculum and generate instructional plans by choosing modes by which the curriculum will be connected to their learners.

The instructors, in creating these plans, should include suggested resources and media (e.g. textbooks) as well as to devise mechanisms for teachers to be flexible so they may meet their students’ individual needs. The fourth phase of this guide entails steps to evaluate a planned curriculum “…to determine whether or not the goals of the school and the objectives of instruction have been met” (Oliva, 2005, p. 137). Additionally, the fourth phase will guide curriculum planners in determining learner progress. The data compiled throughout this process will be the basis for further augmentations to the curriculum.

Goals and Objectives

As part of the continuous improvement process, the aims of education, curriculum goals, and objectives set the stage for instructional learning to take place. First, aims of education are often equated with goals, and in a lexical sense, of course they are the same. However, a curriculum’s goal is a purpose or end stated in general terms without criteria of achievement (Oliva, 2005). For example, the teacher knows what he/she wants the students to know and be able to do at the end of the lesson. Objectives are clear, specific, and include basic knowledge/skills and central themes/concepts of the discipline. The curriculum objectives refine the curriculum goal and are broad programmatic statements of expected outcomes that apply to students as a group and are often interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary (Oliva). In the aforementioned example, the teacher is able to ascertain where each student is in relation to the learning objective. Assessing student progress, aligning of curriculum objectives and instructional goals help practitioners facilitate the natural flow of curriculum development from general aims of education to precise instructional objectives (Oliva).

Tasks and Resulting Products

Curriculum, goals, and objectives are regularly written at the state school district and individual school level with the exception that they will be followed within the jurisdiction of the respective level (Oliva, 2005). State curriculum goals and objectives take on a broader perspective as the process involves the department of education, leaderships, mission and vision, frameworks, standards, or objectives, descriptors, and benchmarks. When considering goals and objectives from either state school district or individual school level, there are areas of discipline that will cross or connect, as measurable goals are set and the aim of education and philosophy are clarified (Oliva). Table 1 below provides an example of measurable objectives (“How to write measurable goals and objectives“, n.d.).

Table 1 How is progress measured?

table 1.PNG

Effective components of the curriculum guide process contain the who, what, how, when, and proficiency levels of a student’s measured outcome. As the need assessment phase evolves data collection and analysis are used to monitor or revise curricular goals. As a shift in learning takes place, instructional goals and objectives may require reassessment of student achievement. Table 2 below provides an example of consideration for identifying school and school district level goals as well as objectives (“How to write measurable goals and objectives“, n.d.)

Table 2 Measurable Objective Relationships

table 2.PNG

Evaluating the effectiveness of a curriculum guide requires authentic assessment and a continuous improvement plan showing student performance-based tasks, which are measurable. The measurable results used to integrate strategies and activities and reassess the curriculum define the intended goal and the direction the program will take.

Designing Curriculum

Curriculum planning takes place on several levels, with several types of workers simultaneously. Curriculum planning development committees should include administrators, students, teachers, parents, professionals, and individuals from the community, state, and federal levels (Oliva, 2005). Curriculum planning requires several levels of planning that often start in the classroom and proceeds through several steps including the individual school, the school district, the community, the state, the region, the nation, and the world. The purpose of the planning phase of curriculum development is to identify the needs and goals of the learner or student, society, and academic disciplines, or the subject matter (Oliva). Conducting a need assessment will assist the planners in achieving this goal. A need assessment helps to discover and identify areas of the curriculum that require improvement, those that do not require improvement as well as the financial implications for developing, implementing, and evaluating a curriculum guide. A need assessment answers questions like what kind of staffing is needed, what type of curriculum change is needed, what areas in the curriculum are presently working, and what has not worked in the past are discussed. The need assessment also helps to identify the needs of society, the local, state, and federal guidelines that need to be considered, and the needs of the students, parents, and community (Oliva).

Tasks and Resulting Products

The task of curriculum planning phase is to develop a curriculum guide that is functional, financially sound, provides focus in the use of academic disciplines, promotes a cohesive relationship between the teachers and the students during the application and instruction of the subject matter, provides specific guidelines for the implementation and evaluation of the curriculum development guide, and addresses the academic issues of the students, the parents, the community, the state, regional, and federal stakeholders (English, 2000).

The resulting product of the planning phase of curriculum development is a “user friendly” curriculum guide. User friendly curriculum guides are small stand-alone documents, well indexed with references. User friendly curriculum guides do not require a particular text, they are easy to read and interpret, well organized, responsive to the needs, goals, and compliance initiatives of the stakeholders, relevant to the classroom, society, real life issues, and events according to English (2000).

Curriculum Implementation

One of the most important steps in the process of curriculum development is the execution, application, and implementation of the curriculum. This process of curriculum implementation includes the detailed translation and operation of the plans developed during planning. Similar to the other steps of curriculum development, successful curriculum implementation must include a specific purpose and corresponding tasks. Specifically, curriculum implementation includes the development of instructional documents, professional development, and realization of instructional methodology, observations, and data collection. When the purpose is clear and these tasks are completed, the educational organization is one step closer to successful curriculum development.

The general purpose for curriculum review and reform is to address the interests of teachers and students, meet the expectations of educational administrators, and to honor the traditions and financial resources of the community (O'Sullivan, Carroll & Cavanagh, 2008). However, in recent years, curriculum reform and development has occurred as a result of national efforts to increase effective education and to address the mandates of legislation such as the No Child Left Behind Act (Penuel, Fishman, Yamaguchi, & Gallagher, 2007; Soslau & Yost, 2007). Therefore, the purpose of curriculum implementation within this reform is to enact the plans developed to reach these goals. Sufficient curriculum planning will outline appropriate benchmarks within the implementation process to indicate levels of progress and ensure the development of appropriate results.

Tasks and Resulting Products

According to Oliva (2005), one of the first tasks in preparing for successful curriculum development is to determine the structure of the implementation process. However, the decision of the structure used typically takes place within the curriculum planning process. During the curriculum planning, developers decide on a structure for execution based on patterns of past implementation, current practices, and possibilities for future implementation. Additionally, this process includes the development of instructional documents such as curriculum review cycles and instructional maps (O'Sullivan, Carroll & Cavanagh, 2008). Nevertheless, the final decisions on structure and instructional development must include input from the teachers and other faculty present within the educational institution.

Effective teachers are critical to the process of curriculum implementation. Leung Wai Lun (2008) asserted that teachers must not only have the skills necessary for effective instruction, they must be concerned and invested in the process of curriculum implementation. One method to develop staff investment and knowledge of the curriculum reform is to provide opportunities for professional development and collaboration (O'Sullivan, Carroll & Cavanagh, 2008). The professional development provided must include an orientation of the curriculum reform and address the corresponding changes within the curriculum scope and sequence. At this point, teachers will also collaborate to finalize the curriculum documents expected for use during instruction. Furthermore, as the professional development outlines the new guidelines for instructional methodology, training must include in-depth engagement, authentic leadership, and the opportunity for teachers to share concerns (Penuel, Fishman, Yamaguchi, & Gallagher, 2007; Leung Wai Lun, 2008; O'Sullivan, Carroll & Cavanagh, 2008). This level of support encourages the participation fundamental to proper implementation.

Successful curriculum implementation also requires consistent observation and data collection. While practicing the new curriculum, instructors should have a clear understanding of the proposed changes as evident in the use of the new curricular documents and application of instructional methodology (O'Sullivan, Carroll & Cavanagh, 2008). Data collection must include formal and informal observations of teachers and students as well as qualitative and quantitative data available for analysis during the curriculum evaluation period (Oliva, 2005). This task is crucial during the curriculum implementation as it is the only opportunity to provide a foundation for the evaluation and subsequent modifications.

The successful completion of the curriculum implementation process will include specific products of achievement. One such example is the development of effective curriculum documents. Through the process of professional development and authentication during implementation, the teachers will produce curricular documents such as syllabi, lesson plans, and student assessments (O'Sullivan, Carroll & Cavanagh, 2008). These documents will be available for future use and revision as the curriculum review cycle continues.

Yet perhaps the greatest product of achievement from implementation is an increase in student learning and demonstrated levels of academic success. Through the implementation of the new instructional methodology, teachers will update lessons to include more technology and increase in real-world applications to learning (Soslau & Yost, 2007). Furthermore, teachers will use innovative methods to prepare students for both formative and summative assessments. These changes will increase student performance on standardized exams and will be evident in the collection of student achievement data (Oliva, 2005).

Curriculum Evaluation

The purpose of curriculum evaluation phase is to determine the success of the learner and the program as a whole. Evaluation should be used to determine future plans and changes to the proposed educational program. The feedback received from the process should allow for adjustment or modifications of the curriculum as deemed necessary (Oliva, 2005). Before the evaluation process takes place a plan to complete the task should be devised. A needs assessment allows the evaluators to determine areas needing improvement before the task of creating change in the curriculum begins (Oliva).

Task and Resulting Products

The task of curricula evaluation remains a continuous process that occurs before, during, and after the planning stage of a new curriculum. The evaluation process that curriculum goes through does not directly relate to instruction. While instruction of students may be going as it should with students being successful, the students may not be receiving instruction in the areas in which they should. The assessment of programs and related areas is what the curriculum should address (Oliva, 2005). However, data gathered through continuous evaluation should address all components of the curriculum process that involves planning, deciding on goals and objectives, and the implementation stage. The goals and objectives set forth in the curriculum process guide must be assessed for achievement. Tools such as observation surveys, portfolios, and test results help to measure curricula appropriateness.

The accomplishment of goals leads to new objectives and priorities being set by those responsible for planning the curriculum. Stakeholders such as teachers, administrators, community members, just to name a few who take part in curricula planning must decide if the goals and objectives meet needed requirements in the various discipline areas. A summative evaluation involves the gathering of data from such sources as the SAT or state standardized tests. Data should be gathered and maintained so that any changes made to the curriculum over time can be validated. Overall the entire must be evaluating. The resulting product addresses the needs of society and students (Oliva, 2005).


The phases and tasks outlined in this curriculum process guide are intended to give direction to curriculum developers in developing programs to meet the needs of their pupils. However, this guide is incomplete—as are all curriculum process guides (Oliva, 2005). The details and nuances of curriculum development are complex. This post is intended to provide the necessary features of a robust and thorough curriculum design process which will guide developers in establishing the major components of their curricula. This will include their reciprocal relationships, outlining the link between curriculum and instruction, the inclusion of an internal consistency and logic to their curricula, as well as a plan for feasible implementation (Oliva, 2005). Ultimately, this guide is intended to support educators in conceptualizing their curriculum developmental process and create a program that will meet the needs of their particular population of learners.


English, F. W. (2000). Deciding what to teach and test: Developing, aligning, and auditing. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

How to write measurable goals and objectives. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Leung Wai Lun, A. (2008). Teacher concerns about curriculum reform: The case of project learning. Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 17(1), 75-97.

Oliva, P. F. (2005). Developing the curriculum (6th. ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

O’Sullivan, K., Carroll, K., & Cavanagh, M. (2008). Changing teachers: Syllabuses, subjects, and selves. Issues in Educational Research, 18(2), 167-182.

Penuel, W., Fishman, B., Yamaguchi, R., & Gallagher, L. (2007). What makes professional development effective? Strategies that foster curriculum implementation. American Educational Research Journal, 44(4), 921-958. doi: 1393979981

Saylor, J. G., Alexander, W. M., & Lewis, A. J. (1981). Curriculum planning for better teaching and learning (4th ed.). New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Soslau, E., & Yost, D. (2007). Urban service-learning: An authentic teaching strategy to deliver a standards-driven curriculum. Journal of Experiential Education, 30(1), 36-53.

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