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What is Curriculum Design?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Curriculum design is an aspect of the education profession which focuses on developing curricula for students. Some education professionals specialize in curriculum design, and may spend all of their time working on curricula, rather than teaching in the classroom, while in other cases working teachers develop their own curricula. Curriculum design is also practiced by parents who homeschool their children, sometimes with the guidance of an experienced education professional who can provide advice and suggestions, and sometimes with the assistance of experienced homeschoolers.

In many nations, specific benchmark standards are set for education to ensure that children across the nation achieve a similar level of education. For example, a government may dictate when children should start to learn multiplication and division, set standards for reading ability, and so forth. One aspect of curriculum design involves reviewing these standards and determining how they can be met or exceeded.

Another aspect involves thinking about the students themselves, and what type of curriculum would be most appropriate. Students come from a wide variety of cultural and class backgrounds, and curriculum design should not be a one size fits all approach. Methods which work in a school located in an upper class district may not be appropriate for a school in an area with many immigrants who do not speak the primary language of instruction, for example, and methods used with students who are language learners would not work for children with intellectual disabilities. A skilled curriculum designer needs to think about the needs of the student population he or she is serving.

Curriculum design may also include a consideration of limitations. A homeschooling parent, for example, might be able to make time to take a student on a trip to London to see historical items in museums to learn in context, while an entire classroom in Bangkok could not reasonably replicate this experience. Limitations can include issues like funding, access to textbooks, moral norms in the region where the students are being taught, and limitations set by the school district. For example, someone who works on curriculum design for sexual education programs may be designing curricula for school districts in which certain subjects cannot be discussed, requiring an adjustment to the curriculum.

Flexibility is another important aspect of curriculum design. Many classroom teachers are working with students of different levels of ability, and they need to be able to adjust the curriculum to keep all of the students engaged and learning. It may also be necessary to change the pace of a curriculum to deal with problems as they arise; for example, a class might have more trouble grasping a concept than was expected, and the teacher needs to be able to spend more time on it, rather than racing on to the next subject and leaving students confused.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon160201 — On Mar 15, 2011

Do not forget the informal curriculum as well as the hidden curriculum.

By anon139502 — On Jan 04, 2011

Curriculum design would also take into consideration how learners learn by reflecting on their experiences doing the tasks, and group work. The reflection can be how they interact as a team, and the different tasks that each team member does, and how they resolve conflicts in the team. -- carina1

By parmnparsley — On Jul 02, 2010

The article made a great point about curriculum design being tailored to the teaching situation. I would also like to add that curriculum design should also not be too narrow in scope that it does not introduce the student to influences from other socio-cultural or socio-economic groups. Education is about broadening a student’s horizons, and a skilled curriculum designer will keep this in mind.

By anon68966 — On Mar 05, 2010

A user-friendly site with scholarly-like content! I'll be returning. --Casper

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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