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What is Curriculum Design?

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  • 0:00 Curriculum Design & Teaching
  • 0:36 Curriculum Design &…
  • 1:50 The Nuts & Bolts of…
  • 3:43 Curriculum Design &…
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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 design is a big part of teaching, but it can be hard to know exactly what it means. In this lesson, you will follow a teacher as he learns some of what goes into effective curriculum design.

Curriculum Design and Teaching

Mr. Eliano is a fourth grade teacher who works at a public school in Illinois. He has been teaching for a few years, and he loves his job. He has great relationships with students and families, and his classroom management is wonderful. But, Mr. Eliano gets confused when it comes to curriculum. Sure, he can construct lessons on a day-to-day basis, but he struggles with the big picture. Mr. Eliano sits down with colleagues and supervisors to ask what curriculum design really is. Let's follow his journey as he seeks out the answer to this important pedagogical question.

Curriculum Design and Seeing the Big Picture

First, Mr. Eliano talks to his colleague Mrs. Chang, who has been teaching second grade at his school for more than a decade. Mrs. Chang tells him that the most important thing about curriculum design is to remember that it involves seeing the big picture. Mr. Eliano wonders what that really means. Mrs. Chang explains that when she designs a unit, she thinks in terms of what she wants her students to be able to know and do after the entire unit is over. She also checks herself by asking why these pieces of knowledge or skills are important. If she can't answer that question, she goes back to the drawing board.

Mr. Eliano wonders why Mrs. Chang skips straight to the end of the unit, instead of thinking about what her students will learn that day. Mrs. Chang explains that the day-to-day planning falls into place much more easily once you have sketched out the big picture. She tells Mr. Eliano that some people call this method backward design, where you start at the end and work backwards to think about what particular activities and experiences will start moving your students toward where you hope they will be. Mrs. Chang reminds her colleague that if you don't have a big picture or end goal in mind, you might lose track of your own purpose. If you don't know where you're going, it's really hard to help your students get there!

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