To stand apart from other schools and competitors and drive your students to success, you should familiarize yourself with designing an effective curriculum. Examining the tips and tricks essential to curriculum design can help break down the difficult process into smaller, more manageable steps.
What is a curriculum?
A curriculum is an overall educational process plan, including course content, delivery modes, institution-wide policies and procedures, assessment systems, and instructional materials. It is the backbone of creating a dynamic and engaging learning environment for students.
A well-designed curriculum can reduce selection bias in a program of study, enhance learning, and increase persistence in the classroom. Good curriculum design involves all the necessary elements, such as good resources, content materials, engaging exercises, and effective learning techniques for delivering high-quality instruction.
However, the curriculum is all around us, influencing even the most subtle aspects of our everyday lives. For example: when we learn about a new product from an advertisement or read reviews online, that’s a curriculum in action. Curriculum shapes how we learn and grow from very young ages and continues throughout life.
Creating an effective curriculum takes great planning and hard work. One can consider various curriculum and instruction graduate programs as well if interested in pursuing it as a profession. While there is no tried-and-true template for designing a curriculum, this article reviews several elements that form the foundation of a strong curriculum design and implementation.
Step one: Determine the purpose and principles of the curriculum
The first step in developing a curriculum is establishing the principles upon which it will be built. These principles must reflect your school’s values and vision by addressing concerns such as how this course will prepare students to address the context. Which pedagogical approaches best suit us in teaching these disciplines? And which areas of content do we need most to fulfill that mission statement or set of goals established by the administration?
When you create your curriculum from this perspective, teachers can use their expertise to design lessons that best serve students’ learning needs.
Step two: Deciding on learning objectives
You must draft a plan that outlines what students can expect from their education at your school. Educate yourself on how effective learning happens before you begin designing content. Because each student learns differently, knowing their needs also helps develop a curriculum that effectively teaches every student.
Plan out ways to help expand your curriculum by incorporating extracurricular activities, educational tours, and other enhancement experiences.
Step three: Deciding the content
Begin by examining the subject areas you will teach, then decide what to include in each course. Consider how these subjects relate to one another so that all your courses form a cohesive sequence for students.
An effective curriculum integrates content across subject areas. This integration allows students to develop a more comprehensive understanding of concepts and ideas. Integrated curricula also encourage students to practice critical thinking and problem-solving skills by providing opportunities for them to work together on projects that require collaboration. Integrated curricula also allow students to develop a deeper understanding of concepts by exploring multiple perspectives and interpretations.
A well-designed curriculum provides students various opportunities to practice and improve their skills. For example, a science class could include a unit on the human body and another on ecosystems. These units would not only cover the same subject area, but will also introduce students to some of the same concepts (e.g., cells and ecosystems). When this happens, students can use what they learned in one unit as a foundation for learning new information in another.
Step four: Select the best delivery method or methods for your curriculum
After developing your curriculum, find ways of delivering it. Teach the coursework through a clear and well-organized narrative that progresses logically from start to finish. The success of your curriculum depends on how clearly you demonstrate how the information in it will be taught throughout the academic period.
Also, prepare a short-term plan specific enough to allow you to track your progress while still being flexible enough to accommodate changes in the curriculum because of unexpected events. It should include a timetable for each unit or project and a list of resources (such as books, films, and websites) that will help you teach it.
Step five: Promote student interaction and engagement
Effective curriculum design is based on creating an engaging environment that stimulates a desire in students to learn. This allows students to actively participate in their education, effectively mastering and retaining new material over time.
Teachers are the key to student engagement; if teachers aren’t enthusiastic, students won’t be either. Teachers can make or break a class, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Learning becomes fun if you have a teacher who is excited about their subject matter and can clearly explain it with good analogies.
Step six: Create an assessment strategy
Assessment is essential to track a student’s progress during study. Test scores and quizzes are just two tools that instructors can use in assessing students’ understanding of the material, but assessment should also encompass other measures such as projects and class participation.
As a teacher, you should adopt different assessment methods to get a holistic picture of students’ performance. In the classroom, teachers should employ various means to assess student learning. Some examples include:
- Observation and questioning (immediate feedback)
- Assignments and projects (summative feedback)
- Peer assessment (formative feedback)
Teachers must have a clear, explicit framework to design and implement their curriculum. An effective curriculum is much more than a list of courses. An effective curriculum must be thought out, with an overall plan for how you want the class to progress over the year. It should strike a balance between depth and breadth so that students are exposed to enough topics to give them a good foundation in those areas, but not so many that they become overwhelmed with information. It should provide real-world applications of lessons learned so that students can see how they apply them beyond the classroom. And it should engage students in their learning so that they feel enthusiastic about their work and compassionate about others’ work. With all these things considered, creating an effective curriculum is simply a question of breaking it down into manageable pieces and then putting them together into an organized whole.