What is curriculum development?

It is always good at the beginning of a process to start by reflecting on your own experience. Perhaps you already have experience of designing and delivering training courses? Try to answer the following questions:


What does curriculum development mean to you?

What experiences have you had with curriculum development?

What have you, personally, learned from these experiences?

What have others who were involved learned from these experiences?


Perhaps, when you see the word ‘curriculum’, you think of:


a formal setting, a product like a book, or a document?

some inputs like a small group of people sitting in an office making a document that will be sent out to many teachers or trainers all over the country?

the resources that are needed for curriculum development to take place?

all of these, and more?


It is difficult to give a definition for curriculum development, because it will always be affected very strongly by the context in which it takes place. We can look back in history and find out that the word curriculum originally came from a Latin word, which meant a racetrack that horses ran around. Today, we might call it a racecourse, and so we see that the words curriculum and course are closely related. There is a suggestion that something continuous is happening, maybe over a long time, although it is equally valid for short courses. We can think of curriculum development as a continuous process, which is relevant to the situation where it takes place, and flexible, so you can adapt it over time. As in a race, there may be a finishing point, but if you work in curriculum development, you will probably find out that the work does not end at a particular moment. This is what makes it very interesting and exciting!


The following description of curriculum development, rather than a definition, provides a basis for the approach taken in this Toolkit:


Curriculum development describes all the ways in which a training or teaching organisation plans and guides learning. This learning can take place in groups or with individual learners. It can take place inside or outside a classroom. It can take place in an institutional setting like a school, college or training centre, or in a village or a field. It is central to the teaching and learning process (Rogers and Taylor 1998).


From this description, you will see that curriculum development can take place in many settings, and may involve many people. Typically, curriculum development involves four main elements:

1.   Identify what learning is needed and decide on the type of training you need to provide to meet these learning needs.

2.   Plan the training carefully, so that learning is most likely to take place.

3.   Deliver the training so that learning does take place.

4.   Evaluate the training so that there is evidence that learning has taken place.


These elements can be addressed in different ways. It is important that the approach you use will lead to effective training and teaching. This Toolkit strongly recommends that you follow a participatory approach to curriculum development since this will bring about the best results, and lead to real learning.


Why this recommendation?


The fact is that a lot of training and teaching is not effective. Many traditional approaches to curriculum development, and the resulting curriculum, do not provide the guidance to learning that is needed by both trainers and participants. In addition, curriculum development rarely involves the different groups or individuals who will gain from, or have something to offer to the training.