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What Is the Curriculum Development Process?

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

Curriculum development is an important aspect of teaching and learning. This lesson will guide you through the basics of the curriculum development process. You can apply what you learn in this lesson to a variety of content areas and age groups.

What Is Curriculum Development All About?

No matter what age group you teach and regardless of your main subject area, curriculum development is an important part of an educator's job. Even if you work primarily with textbooks or preplanned curriculum materials, it is helpful to go through the process of curriculum development so that you can have a sense of where you are going with your students and what your major purposes are. In this lesson, you can follow along with fictional sixth grade English teacher, Ms. Greer, to learn about the curriculum development process.

Backward Design

Ms. Greer is a proponent of backward design, which is a philosophy that dictates that teachers should approach curriculum development by first thinking about where they want their students to end up. At the beginning of each new unit of study, Ms. Greer comes up with a list of major understandings, or educational goals, that she hopes her students will attain by the end of the unit. These understandings are broad and conceptual in nature, and not merely a list of facts that must be memorized. For instance, when teaching an expository writing unit, Ms. Greer works toward understandings like:

  • A well-written introduction is important for grabbing readers' attention.
  • An essay sticks to one topic or closely related set of ideas.
  • Writers plan their work before sitting down to draft.

As Ms. Greer continues through the curriculum development process, she returns to her list of understandings to ensure that the activities she uses will guide students toward her goals for the course.

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