The Key to Curriculum: Elements and Relationships

Table of Content

Key elements and relationships in curriculum
Key elements within the curriculum and the relationships between them are shown in diagram 1 below. Staff and students are at the heart of curriculum. The relationships between them are shaped by the answers to key questions about assessment, content, learning interactions and the connections between those elements. In the diagram the top question in each pair is a design question for staff. The lower set of questions is commonly asked by students to shape their approach to learning. Curriculum design should help ensure alignment between the answers staff build into their design and those that students find through their experience of the curriculum.

These elements and relationships of course are all context bound. In current systemic approaches to curriculum design, a major element of the educational context is the intended learning outcomes for students of a topic or course. Intended learning outcomes frame and influence the detail and alignment of assessment, learning interactions and content (Biggs, 1999). Intended learning outcomes describe the characteristics that a student should be able show on successful completion of a course or topic. Assessment gauges the extent of students’ achievement of the intended outcomes, learning interactions and content should help to build towards students’ achievement of those outcomes.

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Alignment in the curriculum: outcomes influence internal elements – elements align towards students achieving outcomes Intended learning outcomes are formed under the influences of: university policy and regulations, the interests of the particular academic discipline,  our understanding of the characteristics of students entering the course of topics, the expectations of society, professions and potential employers, and educational theory and good practices Elements/Components of the Curriculum

The nature of the elements and the manner in which they are organized may comprise which we call a curriculum design.

Component 1: Curriculum Aims, Goals and Objectives
Aims: Elementary, Secondary, and Tertiary
Goals: School Vision and Mission
Objectives: educational objectives
1. Cognitive – knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, evaluation 2. Affective – receiving, responding, valuing, organization, characterization 3. psychomotor – perception, set, guided response, mechanism, complex overt response, adaptation, origination

Component 2: Curriculum Content or Subject Matter
Information to be learned in school, another term for knowledge ( a compendium of facts, concepts, generalization, principles, theories.

1. Subject-centered view of curriculum: The Fund of human knowledge represents the repository of accumulated discoveries and inventions of man down the centuries, due to man’s exploration of his world 2. Learner-centered view of curriculum: Relates knowledge to the individual’s personal and social world and how he or she defines reality. Gerome Bruner: “Knowledge is a model we construct to give meaning and structure to regularities in experience”

Criteria used in selection of subject matter for the curriculum: 1. self-sufficiency – “less teaching effort and educational resources, less learner’s effort but more results and effective learning outcomes – most economical manner (Scheffler, 1970)

2. significance – contribute to basic ideas to achieve overall aim of curriculum, develop learning skills

3. validity – meaningful to the learner based on maturity, prior experience,
educational and social value

4. utility – usefulness of the content either for the present or the future 5. learnability – within the range of the experience of the learners

6. feasibility – can be learned within the tile allowed, resources available, expertise of the teacher, nature of learner

Principles to follow in organizing the learning contents (Palma, 1992)

1. BALANCE . Content curriculum should be fairly distributed in depth and breath of the particular learning are or discipline. This will ensure that the level or area will not be overcrowded or less crowded.

2. ARTICULATION. Each level of subject matter should be smoothly connected to the next, glaring gaps or wasteful overlaps in the subject matter will be avoided.

3. SEQUENCE. This is the logical arrangement of the subject matter. It refers to the deepening and broadening of content as it is taken up in the higher levels.

The horizontal connections are needed in subject areas that are similar so that learning will be elated to one another. This is INTEGRATION.

Learning requires a continuing application of the new knowledge, skills, attitudes or values so that these will be used in daily living. The constant repetition, review and reinforcement of learning is what is referred to as CONTINUITY.

Component 3 – Curriculum Experience
Instructional strategies and methods will link to curriculum experiences, the core and heart of the curriculum. The instructional strategies and methods will put into action the goals and use of the content in order to produce an outcome. Teaching strategies convert the written curriculum to instruction. Among these are time-tested methods, inquiry approaches, constructivist and other emerging strategies that complement new theories in teaching and learning. Educational activities like field trips, conducting experiments, interacting with computer programs and other experiential learning will also form par of the repertoire of teaching.

Whatever methods the teacher utilizes to implement the curriculum, there will be some guide for the selection and use, Here are some of them:

1. teaching methods are means to achieve the end
2. there is no single best teaching method
3. teaching methods should stimulate the learner’s desire to develop the cognitive, affective, psychomotor, social and spiritual domain of the individual 4. in the choice of teaching methods, learning styles of the students should be considered 5. every method should lead to the development of the learning outcome in three domains 6. flexibility should be a consideration in the use of teaching methods

Component 4 – Curriculum Evaluation
To be effective, all curricula must have an element of evaluation. Curriculum evaluation refer to the formal determination of the quality, effectiveness or value of the program, process, and product of the curriculum. Several methods of evaluation came up. The most widely used is Stufflebeam’s CIPP Model. The process in CIPP model is continuous and very important to curriculum managers.

CIPP Model – Context (environment of curriculum), Input (ingredients of curriculum), Process (ways and means of implementing), Product accomplishment of goals)- process is continuous.

Regardless of the methods and materials evaluation will utilize, a suggested plan of action for the process of curriculum evaluation is introduced. These are the steps:

1. Focus on one particular component of the curriculum. Will it be subject area, the grade level, the course, or the degree program? Specify objectives of evaluation.

2. Collect or gather the information. Information is made up of data needed regarding the object of evaluation.

3. Organize the information. This step will require coding, organizing, storing and retrieving data for interpretation.

4. Analyze information. An appropriate way of analyzing will be utilized.

5. Report the information. The report of evaluation should be reported to specific audiences. It can be done formally in conferences with stakeholders, or informally through round table discussion and conversations.

6. Recycle the information for continuous feedback, modifications and adjustments to be made Role of teachers in curriculum development
Teachers know their students’ needs better than others involved in the curriculum process. While state or federal standards often dictate the skills covered by the curriculum, a teacher can provide insight into the types of materials, activities and specific skills that need to be included. Teachers from multiple grade-levels may collaborate to identify skills students need at each level and ensure that the curriculum adequately prepares students to advance to the next grade-level and to meet the standards.


Because teachers must use the curriculum, they should have input in its creation. A teacher can gauge whether an activity will fit into a specified time frame and whether it will engage students. If multiple teachers will use the curriculum, allow as many of them as possible to provide input during the creation stage. As teachers provide input, they will gain ownership in the final product and feel more confident that the curriculum was created with their concerns and the needs of their particular students in mind. Related Reading: Qualifications of a Director of Curriculum

Development Implementation

Teachers must implement the curriculum in their own classrooms, sticking to the plan that has taken so much time, careful planning and effort to create. When a teacher fails to properly implement a strong curriculum, she risks not covering standards or failing to implement effective practices in the classroom. That does not mean a teacher cannot make minor changes. In fact, a strong curriculum is designed to allow a teacher to be flexible and to insert a few personalized components or choose from among a selection of activities.


Reflecting on a curriculum allows teachers and others involved in the process to find any weaknesses in the curriculum and attempt to make it better. Teachers reflect on curriculum in multiple ways, such as keeping a journal as they implement the curriculum, giving students surveys and reviewing the results or analyzing assessment data and individual student performance. Not only can reflection serve to improve a specific curriculum, it may guide the creation of new curriculum.

How to Develop a Curriculum

The word curriculum generally refers to a series of courses that help learners achieve specific academic or occupational goals. A curriculum often consists of general learning objectives and a list of courses and resources. Some curricula are more like lesson plans, containing detailed information about how to teach a course, complete with discussion questions and specific activities for learners. Here are some strategies for developing a curriculum Define the objective of the curriculum. The goal may be to help adults prepare for the General Education Development (GED) exam. In a university program, the main objective might be to provide specific skills or knowledge necessary for completion of a degree. Being specific about the curriculum objective will assist with its development. Choose an appropriate title. Depending on the learning objective, titling the curriculum may be a straightforward process or one that requires greater thought.

A curriculum for GED students can be called “GED Preparation Curriculum.” A program designed to assist adolescents with eating disorders might require a carefully thought-out title that is attractive to teenagers and sensitive to their needs Create a scope and sequence. This is an outline of key skills and information that students need to achieve the main curriculum objective. For a bachelor’s degree curriculum, the scope and sequence might be a list of courses that a student must complete. The outline for a software training curriculum might be a more detailed list of software operations, such as creating new records, saving information, deleting records and merging files Determine the teaching approach. Depending on the topic and objective, information might best be conveyed in a lecture format. In other cases, providing written materials, holding discussion sessions and offering hands-on practice might be the most appropriate teaching methods. National or regional development limitations and available teaching staff and graduate fields of opportunities are considered. Include discussion questions.

In a curriculum that serves more as a script for teachers, detailed discussion questions provide greater direction. In a human rights curriculum, for example, students might be asked to share their understanding of what constitutes fundamental human rights. Allow room for flexibility to meet learners’ needs. Curriculum development must prioritize the needs of learners. Sometimes needs are indiscernible until a teacher has worked closely with a group of students across a period of time. In some cases, it is better to provide general directions and allow teachers to fill in the details and revise the curriculum as needed Build in an assessment component. Determining how to assess the knowledge of learners is dependent on the main curriculum objective. If students are preparing for a standardized exam, implementing practice tests is an effective way to simultaneously prepare students for the testing process and identify weaker skills and knowledge areas.

If the learning objective is enrichment or life skills development, assessments may be more informal, consisting of class discussions, essays or one-on-one meetings. Establish a system of curriculum evaluation. When preparing learners for exams, gathering statistics of passing rates is helpful for gauging overall effectiveness. In more subjective subjects, such as the arts or personal development, observe patterns of student attendance and participation. Special attention to participant engagement and empowerment also can reveal curriculum efficacy

Is it possible to develop quality curriculum materials more quickly using online technology? The traditional, paper-based development process has some crucial problems. Conducting needs assessments, holding committee meetings of teachers and development experts, mailing materials to reviewers, and waiting for responses takes enormous time and effort and often results in low participation. Most importantly, logistical constraints mean that the people most directly impacted by the new materials—teachers and students—are too often not included in the development process (apart from a few committee representatives) and commonly find that the materials created lack quality and usefulness.

Case Study: Developing a 4-H Program

As an associate professor of agricultural and extension education at Penn State University, I develop curriculum materials on a variety of topics for youth (8-18 years) and adults (teachers and volunteer leaders). The materials are used in 4-H programs in each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. In 1993, I decided to shift curriculum material development from a paper-based process to a computer-based one using a database. Since then, our department has refined the process, creating nearly 40 curriculum items along the way. We now use a Web interface, though other computer-based ways of exchanging information, such as e-mail, would work. This article is a case study comparison of traditional development practices and the computer-based development process my department uses. The materials developed during this study included a set of seventeen sequential curriculum modules, plus support materials of various types: reference lists, fact sheets, audiovisual scripts, evaluations and tests, and activity guides. The objectives of the study were to: 1. Reduce the curriculum development time from the initial “idea phase” to product release.

2. Improve curriculum materials.

3. Maximize the usefulness of the curriculum by keeping resources current. To simulate actual curriculum development conditions, the curriculum reviewers were self-selected rather than appointed or randomly selected. Reviewers were interviewed afterward in order to identify factors that inhibited or facilitated the process. Reaching a Wider Audience

One of the immediate benefits of our online process was that we were better able to distribute materials quickly to a large number of evaluators. From a target population of more than 500 participants, 63 curriculum reviewers—extension agents, teachers, parents, volunteers, and youth—reviewed the electronic curricula. Though only a handful commented on all 17 modules in the series, overall, these reviewers evaluated 102 curriculum materials. In contrast, in the traditional process using mailed materials, only eight reviewers responded, providing comments on only 20 materials. Because the materials were in a widely available database, county extension offices in Pennsylvania and evaluators from the Pennsylvania State Department of Education were able to access curriculum drafts easily and review them quickly. We provided explanations of each module, review forms, and a menu, all online, to show how materials fit within the overall curriculum plan. Support materials were assigned a document name and number and were reviewed in the same way. Greater Efficiency

Using traditional methods, content developers spent a large amount of time corresponding with potential reviewers and managing the printing, collation, and mailing of materials. Some documents had to be re-sent when the originals did not arrive or were misplaced. Review was so time-consuming that reviewers rarely had the opportunity to discuss suggestions or respond more than once. Using the database, no additional materials had to be re-printed and re-sent because of mailing delays, a problem we occasionally faced. The database simply “held” the documents until the reviewers were ready to read or share them with others. Modules could also be reviewed immediately. Reviewers noted that they were able to respond more easily to the materials and could adjust their review time better.

Though I should note that some reviewers chose to print the documents and mail them back or spent time modifying the review form to fit their needs, overall the computer-based process saved time. In some cases, a professional editor made editing changes to the text, while reviewers simultaneously evaluated content, further reducing development time. Content developers made sequence changes from one module to the next more easily, eliminating problems associated with managing different drafts of the same document. As reviews came in, developers continually incorporated changes into the documents. These corrections were highlighted, allowing later reviewers to benefit from the changes and forestalling redundant suggestions.

Reviewers were informed that their comments might be modified if a disagreement arose. In the initial comparison in 1993, development time and effort were reduced by one-third (15 months versus 24 months, see Figure 1). In subsequent comparisons in 1995 and 1997, support materials were produced in 75% to 80% less time. These favorable results appear to be due largely to three factors: 1. The ability of the reviewers to locate and review materials quickly. 2. The reduction of time spent distributing and awaiting return of materials. 3. The opportunity to make multiple changes to documents without reviewer confusion (which can occur when review materials are mailed out in installments). Producing Quality Materials

The greatest advantage of the computer-based process was to allow first drafts of materials, particularly widely-used or controversial ones, to be reviewed by a wide audience—including teachers and youth—long before the bulk of time, effort, and money were expended. The multiple perspectives allowed us to address the problem Whitten (1992) has identified: that small groups of developers making materials for large groups of users are “attempting to hit a moving target.” In other words, using a computer-based process means that controversial issues get ironed out when materials are in the early stages of development. The computer-based process allows such immediate access to materials for such a wide audience that potential problems can be brought to the table quickly and discussed thoroughly.

The result is a far more useful and effective product, not only in terms of its short-term quality, but also its long-term application (its “longevity”). To provide an additional guarantee of quality, the electronic materials were also reviewed by professional curriculum developers throughout the United States. Their evaluations were so positive that the materials we developed have been included in a national curriculum collection. Best of all, we have achieved a measure of longevity; the materials developed with the computer-based process, some of them eight years ago, are still used to teach thousands of young people each year.


In this case study, we examined computer-based ways to improve the curriculum development process and create quality materials in less time. The online process reduced confusion, time spent, and redundancy of effort, kept meetings and paper revisions to a minimum, and involved a greater variety and number of reviewers. No significant problems were reported. The review sheet has been redesigned several times based on reviewer comments. In the end, computer-based methods greatly surpassed traditional ones. The traditional methods too often resulted in final materials that lacked quality and usefulness, regardless of numerous needs assessments, planning meetings, and follow-up letters. Since I found no other comparisons of this type, it would seem worthwhile to replicate this study, or at the very least to repeat and fine tune the computer-based process.

This is especially true in situations where context is critical to the learning outcome (Leh, Sleezer & Anderson, 1998) and teacher and student participation is highly valued (Jonassen, 2000). Though ours is now a Web-based interface, it is important to note that it is largely irrelevant what sort of computer-based technology is used, so long as evaluators have remote access to the information in the database. As new technologies are created and as experts from around the globe are called upon to solve problems and instruct students, knowing successful strategies for developing and transferring educational materials becomes increasingly important (Baker, 1995). The ultimate challenge may be to convince colleagues to try a new approach.

Role of Information Technology in Curriculum Development
information (Definition)
The concept of information is closely related to notions of constraint, communication, control, form, instruction, knowledge, meaning, mental stimulus, pattern, perception and representation (Or)
In general, raw data that:
 Has been verified to be accurate and timely
 Is specific and organized for a purpose
 Is presented within a context that gives it meaning and relevance and which  Leads to increase in understanding and decrease in uncertainty.

The value of information lies solely in its ability to affect a behavior, decision, or outcome. A piece of information is considered valueless if, after receiving it, things remain unchanged.

Technology (Definition)
Human innovation in action that involves the generation of knowledge and processes to develop systems that solve problems and extend human capabilities. (Or) The innovation, change or modification of the natural environment to satisfy perceived human needs and wants.

Information Technology (Definition):
By the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) is: “The study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems, particularly software applications and computer hardware.” (Or)

Information technology or information and communication technology (ICT) is a broad subject which deals with technology and other aspects of managing and processing information, especially in large organizations. Particularly, IT employs the use of electronic computers, storage media, network administration, server maintenance, and computer software to secure, convert, store, protect, process, transmit, manipulate and retrieve information.

Role of Information Technology in Curriculum Development:
In recent years a synthesis of communication technologies has been occurring, serving to continually extend the capabilities of communication networks

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