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Curriculum design: The curriculum design process

Written By: Kieran Briggs
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This series of Compact Guides provide an overview of a range of curriculum models.

This is not a definitive list, as even within a particular model there can be numerous variations. Rather, the aim is to offer insights into some of the curriculum models that exist – including their purpose, structure and design – to help you consider what might be right for your students.

The process of designing a curriculum is important, complex and unique to your school. Alongside the models in this series, below are some of the questions you can ask to help with your curriculum design.

What is the overall purpose of the curriculum?

Purpose should be at the very core of your curriculum and be definable in a couple of sentences. For example: ‘The purpose of the curriculum is to provide children with a broad and balanced education that allows them to develop their knowledge and skills within specific subject areas.’

The purpose of the curriculum should be aligned with the core values, culture and ethos of your school. What type of young people do you wish to develop – academic, caring, resilient, independent, reflective? Does your curriculum provide opportunities for this development?

What will the curriculum include?

The content of your curriculum should meet the needs of the students. What knowledge, skills, values and attitudes will the students develop through your curriculum? Why are these important?

You can also consider your extra-curricular offer here. Will you offer educational visits, clubs, themed learning days, opportunities to flourish artistically? If so, where do they fit into the overall curriculum and who will access them?

How will the curriculum be organised?

Will the content of the curriculum be taught in separate subjects, as with a knowledge-centred curriculum, or be based around a problem or theme, as with a problem-centred model, or focus on the needs of the child, as with a play-based curriculum?

The sequencing of the content also needs careful consideration to ensure that knowledge and skills are built upon as the curriculum progresses through phases. Thinking about what will be learnt, when and why can ensure coherence and consistency across the curriculum.

Who will be involved in the design process?

Will the design process only involve teachers or the whole-school community, including the students, parents and governors? With an area-based curriculum, for example, you can also involve the wider local community such as businesses, heritage groups and charitable organisations.

What are the barriers to successful implementation?

It is important to consider whether or not there is the capacity to implement the desired curriculum. Does the school have the time, resources, infrastructure, and personnel for the desired approach? For example, does your school have the capacity and time to implement an aims-based curriculum where learning is more flexible and responsive to the individual student’s needs? If not, are these barriers that can be overcome?

How will the curriculum be evaluated?

How will you know if it is successful in helping to meet the learning objectives and goals, while remaining true to its overall purpose? At which points throughout the year will the curriculum be reviewed and is there enough flexibility to restructure if necessary?

Designing a curriculum is a challenging process. It involves, among other things, careful consideration of the content, organisation and purpose – of the school and its students. However, it can also be immensely exciting as you consider the value and vision of the education you wish to provide, and build a model around that.

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