Curriculum Planning

Curriculum planning is the decision-making process about the content and the organization of learning for which the school is responsible. Different groups of people decide on the variety of topics and issues concerned with the educational needs of pupils.

Teachers are rarely in sole charge of the curriculum for their class's work. A school's head teacher,researchers, academics, local authority administrators, government departments and politicians often exercise influence over the basis of a school curriculum, setting the broad educational goals.

There is a debate on the role of teachers in the planning phase because for some they are solely responsible for implementation, while for others school practitioners must be the main planners. Planning itself is carried out through workshops, lectures, meetings and discussions, writing reports, papers, handbooks and textbooks.

Curriculum planners are found at various levels, including national, state, institutional, building, teacher-team and individual teacher levels, as well as in the classroom, where pupils and instructors cooperate. Curriculum planning aims at providing quality learning and teaching, and developing students' knowledge and skills. Curriculum frameworks are developed to help planners in decision-making and in designing the curriculum. These frameworks include subject goals and purposes, content, guidelines for implementation and evaluation, teaching and learning principles.

A well-developed framework has to contain comprehensive and up-to-date information and to link theory with practice. As a result frameworks ensure coherence and continuity of learning across subjects and grade levels because they set standards and criteria. Teachers later evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum on the grounds of student performance. Teachers are also assessed, on the basis of their implementation of the curriculum.

A well-planned curriculum is a result of clearly defined objectives which improve student learning outcomes. Intended learning results include a deep understanding of the matter and development of specific skills such as critical and creative thinking, problem solving, informed decision-making. The objectives must be suitable and attainable by all students because usually they have different abilities and interests. There are different models of curriculum planning producing various modes of teaching which address different learning styles. Modes of instruction include lectures, practice drills, directed questioning, discussions, simulations, problem solving and independent study.

Choosing a curriculum approach determines the scope, the objectives, the content and the modes of teaching. There are four main categories of approaches, namely subject area approach, broadfields approach, social-problems approach and emerging needs approach. The subject area approach is the most common method of curriculum planning because it is organized around separate disciplines and requires development of subject-specific skills. The broadfields approach incorporates several subjects into a broader field emphasizing on the links between the distinct knowledge areas. The social-problems approach analyzes current problems in society and raises awareness among students. The emerging needs approach focuses more on the present personal and social needs of students and develops their interpersonal skills.

Curriculum planning models are divided into technical and non-technical models depending on set educational goals and desired learning outcomes. The technical model is used when planners want students to develop deep subject-specific knowledge and skills. The non-technical method in turn is preferred when the focus is on the learners and their interpersonal relations. The technical model is more theoretical and rigorous, while the non-technical one is more flexible and practical using activity-oriented methods of learning and teaching. Developers who prefer the technical model believe that curriculum planning is universal and follows a certain line of logic in order to meet the stated goals and objectives. The non-technical approach points out learners' personal preferences and needs which affect curriculum and require a more subjective, individual-oriented planning. This model allows developers to take into consideration the individual learning abilities and plan the curriculum accordingly to meet the set goals.

Effective curriculum planning has to address fully the learning needs of students and to allow for improvement in the course of implementation.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Key Concepts for Understanding Curriculum
Colin J. Marsh.
RoutledgeFalmer, 2004 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Part II "Curriculum Planning and Development"
Curriculum Theory and Practice: What's Your Style?
Miller, Donna L.
Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 92, No. 7, April 2011
Learning, Progression and Development Principles for Pedagogy and Curriculum Design
Raban, Bridie.
Australian Journal of Early Childhood, Vol. 26, No. 2, June 2001
Curriculum Collaboration: A Key to Continuous Program Renewal
Briggs, Charlotte L.
Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 78, No. 6, November-December 2007
Outcomes of Teacher Participation in the Curriculum Development Process
Saban, Ahmet.
Education, Vol. 115, No. 4, Summer 1995
Interdisciplinary Curriculum Design
Repko, Allen F.
Academic Exchange Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 1, Spring 2007
Joint Curriculum Design: Facilitating Learner Ownership and Active Participation in Secondary Classrooms
Patricia A. Gross.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
Getting Results with Curriculum Mapping
Heidi Hayes Jacobs.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2004
Sequence and Scope in the Curriculum
Ediger, Marlow.
Education, Vol. 117, No. 1, Fall 1996
Concept Mapping as a Tool for Curriculum Design
McDaniel, Elizabeth A.; Roth, Brenda F.; Miller, Michael S.
Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology, Vol. 2, Annual 2005
What's the Big Issue? Creating Standards-Based Curriculum: What Is Necessary Is a Re-Wiring of That Part of Your Brain That Controls Curriculum Development
Hider, Glenn R.
The Technology Teacher, Vol. 65, No. 4, December 2005
International Handbook of Curriculum Research
William F. Pinar.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Engaging the Curriculum in Higher Education
Ronald Barnett; Kelly Coate.
Open University Press, 2004
Coordinating the Curriculum in the Smaller Primary School
Mick Waters; Charles Easton; Jane Golightly; Mel Oyston.
Falmer Press, 1999
The Recursive Elaboration of Key Competencies as Agents of Curriculum Change
Hipkins, Rosemary; Boyd, Sally.
Curriculum Matters, Vol. 7, Annual 2011
"An Effective and Agonizing Way to Learn": Backwards Design and New Teachers' Preparation for Planning Curriculum
Graff, Nelson.
Teacher Education Quarterly, Vol. 38, No. 3, Summer 2011
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