Key Definitions & Frameworks
The curriculum is an “academic plan,” which should include: the purpose of the curriculum (i.e., goals for student learning), content, sequence (the order of the learning experience), instructional methods, instructional resources, evaluation approaches, and how adjustments to the plan will be made based on experience or assessment data.
(Lattuca, L. & Stark, J. (2009) Shaping the college curriculum: Academic plans in context. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.)
- The intended curriculum is the documented, official plan -- or what faculty hope students will learn.
- The achieved curriculum includes knowledge, skills and attitudes that are truly learned and remembered.
(Cuban, L. (1992). Curriculum stability and change. In Jackson, Philip (Ed.) Handbook of Research on Curriculum. American Educational Research Association)
Assessment can be helpful in better understanding alignment between an intended and achieved curriculum.
Goals and objectives are the general intended purposes and desired achievements of a particular educational environment. Crucially, they provide a framework for assessing the effectiveness of a curriculum. Goals and objectives generally characterize three types of learning: knowledge, skills, and attitudes.
Learning outcomes and competencies describe specific measurable skills, knowledge or attitudes that learners will have achieved through the education program. The term "outcome" is usually used to describe the level of proficiency that a graduate should be expected to demonstrate, while "competencies" is typically used to describe a level of proficiency needed by a beginning professional in the field.
- For information about writing useful outcome measures, see oire.uconn.edu/.
- For more information about competencies, see Competencies in Curriculum Development
- For examples of common learning outcomes for university students, see the American Association of Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) essential learning outcomes and The Lumina Foundation's Degree Qualifications Profile.
When developing or revising a curriculum, curriculum maps or matrices can help educators concretely describe the sequence of courses/content and more easily conceptualize how different pieces of the curriculum work together as a whole. They can also identify gaps in a curriculum or a need to re-think course sequencing.
- For more information about the curriculum mapping process, see "Curriculum Mapping in Higher Education: A Vehicle for Collaboration" and this helpful website at the University of Hawaii at Manoa
- For examples of curriculum maps, see this sample business map.
Benchmarking involves making comparisons of educational experiences at peer institutions or programs. It can be useful to identify key courses or educational experiences that peer programs are offering.
This step-by-step overview discusses how to create a mission statement, which can be a useful foundational document to guide the development of a program's goals and objectives.
CRLT Services for Curriculum Design
- review their current curricula,
- develop new curricular offerings, and
- evaluate the results of curricular changes.