Identifying the Scope of Curriculum Development

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  • 0:02 What Is Curriculum?
  • 0:53 School & Districtwide Plans
  • 1:55 Unit Plans
  • 3:07 Lesson Plans
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Curriculum can be overwhelming if you as a teacher are unable to define its scope. In this lesson, you will learn to identify the scope of curriculum development and think about how the scope impacts your work within a curriculum.

What Is Curriculum?

Who's in charge of a curriculum? Did you think the district or the principal or the teacher? Surprisingly, the answer is more like: life! Broadly defined, curriculum refers to everything that students learn, are taught, or even are exposed to, both in school and in the world at large. When we talk about curriculum development, though, we are usually talking about curriculum that teachers and administrators consciously plan for.

Defining the scope, or breadth and parameters, of curriculum is important for multiple reasons:

  • To avoid being overwhelmed by or unfocused in curriculum planning
  • To help you assess students' readiness for and receptiveness to a particular curriculum
  • To help you collaborate with families and other teachers to make sure students are having a coherent, meaningful experience with learning

Schoolwide and Districtwide Plans

Sometimes, a curricular scope can contain an entire school or even district's approach to a subject area. In this case, curriculum development might include buying a prepackaged program, or publishing a school or district-specific guide to expectations of student development over the years in this content area or skill set.

Curriculum development at this level involves vertical planning, or envisioning how students will grow and change over time and make use of what they have learned one year in the following year's program. Schoolwide and districtwide curriculum plans generally begin with long-term expectations of where students will be on completion of a program or set of goals, and work backwards, considering what skills and knowledge will be added each year to eventually meet these goals. Schoolwide and districtwide plans might also take on a spiral nature. In other words, students revisit the same ideas and skills many times over the years and get at them in greater depth as their minds develop.

Unit Plans

Another smaller scope for curriculum development is a unit plan. A unit is a chunk of time spent in a particular content area, or set of interdisciplinary areas, in which students delve deeply into one particular set of ideas or skills. Some examples of units in literacy might include:

  • Genre studies (mysteries, fantasy, biography)
  • Nonfiction writing
  • Author studies

Units of study in social studies might include:

  • Neighborhoods
  • The Civil War
  • Colonial America

Units in mathematics might include:

  • Multiplication and division
  • Fractions and decimals
  • 2-dimensional geometry

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