Levels of Curriculum Development

In the diagram below notice that there are three levels of curriculum development.  The top left depicts the program level, then the course level and then the unit and/or lesson level.  No matter where you start developing your curriculum a great approach is to use the backward design.  Backwards design is about three things:

  • Identifying the results,
  • Determining acceptable evidence and
  • Planning the learning experiences. 

Although there are similarities on how you approach each level, there are differences as well.  The major difference is that at the departmental level you are approaching results, evidence and learning experience broadly. At the lesson level you align what you want students to know broadly more specifically.

When you are designing a curriculum you usually start at the level where you have influence to change or develop.  If you are a lecturer- then it will be at the lesson level, a course instructor can either start at the course level, unit level or lesson level.  If you are a department/program chair, or on a curriculum committee for your program you can start at the program level.

Presented in this resource area is how to approach curriculum development on the Program level
Course Curriculum Development and Developing lesson plans are included in the Lesson Development and Delivery resource area. 

Program Development- Let’s assume that your University is offering a Plant Breeding Program at the M.S. and PhD. Levels.  If I want to look deeply at what you are currently doing to improve learning for your students the following may be helpful.  Using an approach by Wiggins & McTyhe  (               ).  Your approach may look like this.

Remember a couple of important things: 

  1. A great program does not only teach content it also prepares students to be self-directed learners, good employees, good leaders and good professionals.  Not everything your program is doing should and can be done within a course. 
  2. A great program design takes into account what students need to be successful today, but projects what future needs they will have.
  3. Students and employers have a stake in program design, not including them in the process impacts future success of the program.