|In view of the abundant literature on the subject, this
article aims to highlight important points and issues in curriculum
design for lecturers with no previous training in education.
For most of us without a background in education, a curriculum
often means a sequence of lectures, teaching timetables, examination
sessions and grading. Occasionally, a curriculum can also
turn into a turf battle with different departments vying for
increased teaching hours for their particular discipline.
But a curriculum is more than just sequences of lectures
and timetables. According to Kern, et al. (1998), a curriculum
is a planned educational experience. Hence, the
main intention of curriculum design at the tertiary level
is to foster the academic development of students. Once a
specific group of students is identified for whom the curriculum
is to be designed, the purpose for the curriculum design can
then be made clear from the outset. To carry out curriculum
design and implementation successfully and to prevent conflicts
of interests, it is also vital that a coordinator is appointed
and full institutional support be made available.
If a curriculum is to be a planned educational experience,
then curriculum design and implementation should follow a
sequence of steps that operates like an upward and downward
spiral with a robust feedback system for the adjustment of
each step. Curriculum planning can be divided into 6 steps:
1. Identification of the Faculty/institutions mission
and the needs of its stakeholders
This is the crucial first step as it is important to understand
the mission of the Faculty for which the curriculum is designed.
For example, the mission of a Faculty of Medicine is to train
doctors to deliver health care services to society. Consequently,
curriculum developers must know and understand the needs of
curriculum stakeholders (i.e. students, faculty members, university
administrators, professional bodies, government, etc.) that
will determine the type of graduate profile the Faculty wants:
- possesses a sound scientific basis to practise Medicine;
- possesses high clinical competence;
- possesses critical analytical skills;
- is capable of self-directed & life-long learning;
- possesses good communication skills;
- is compassionate and ethical.
2. Needs assessment of the learners
This step is often neglected. Once the potential students
are identified, their needs must be assessed, because curriculum
developers must be aware of the learners strengths and
weaknesses. Therefore data on student characteristics are
needed (e.g. entry level of competence, ability to meet the
prerequisites of the programme, individual goals and priorities,
personal background and reasons for enrolling, attitudes about
discipline and assumptions about the programme).
3. Establishment of the curriculums goals and objectives
This is an important step as goals and objectives determine
the instructional philosophy and thus guide the selection
of the most effective learning methods. Moreover, the learning
objectives will also determine the design and selection of
assessment instruments and procedures. As clear and well-written
objectives are absolutely necessary to define the focus of
the curriculum, faculty members in charge of curriculum design
must be formally trained in writing instructional objectives.
4. Selection of educational strategies
The selection of educational strategies must be based on
three main principles. First, the educational methods must
be congruent with the learning objectives. Second, the use
of multiple educational methods is preferable to a singular
method, as the curriculum should respond to the challenges
of the multitude of students learning styles and varied
educational objectives. Finally, the curriculum designer and
implementer must verify the curriculums feasibility
in terms of material and human resources.
5. Implementation of the new curriculum
Designing the curriculum is the most exciting and creative
part of curriculum development. However, the ultimate goal
is not to design the best and ideal curriculum, but to put
it into practice successfully. The many conditions and requirements
for successful execution include the promotion of faculty
members ownership of the process of curriculum implementation
and the allocation of adequate resources. Unequivocal support
from the highest academic authority must be secured before
starting to put a new curriculum into operation. Following
the first phase of implementation of the new programme, a
formal assessment must be carried out in order to adjust the
process and to establish a link between institutional goals,
courses and curriculum.
6. Evaluation and feedback to improve the curriculum
Although evaluation of the curriculum is the last step in
this practical approach, it is not necessarily the final action.
The evaluation data collected must serve as criteria for adjusting
the curriculum to the goals of the programme or the mission
of the Faculty. The most important message here is that a
curriculum must be evaluated, corrected and go through repeated
levels of innovation because it is not a static system. Feedback
from teachers, tutors and students must continuously be taken
into serious consideration so as to enhance the learning outcomes
for the students.
In conclusion, a curriculum is an academic plan. It is a
total blueprint for actions where:
a. the objectives, aims and outcome of the curriculum are
b. the processes to achieve these are identified;
c. the ways to measure whether success has been achieved;
d. systematic review and adjustment are also part of the
Kern, D.E.; Thomas, P.A.; Howard, D.M. & Bass, E.B.
(1998). Curriculum Development for Medical Education.
Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.
Diamond, R.M. (1998). Designing and Assessing Courses and
Curricula. San Francisco: Josey-Bass Publishers.