Centre for Teaching and Learning

Centre for Teaching and Learning
Centre for Teaching and Learning

Curriculum Design and Renewal

Curriculum design and renewal, is an ongoing, cyclical, and analytical process, that continually strives to find new and effective ways to offer students learning experiences that are transformational, inspiring, and intellectually challenging. For some departments/units this process is initiated following a program review; for others, their interest stems from the recognition that a revitalization of their current curriculum is needed or a new program needs to be developed. Regardless of the reason, it usually progresses from evaluating the existing program, to designing an improved program, to implementing the changes and back to evaluating the revised program. 

Curriculum…is a design of events that brings about conversion. Curriculum is not worth the journey if it does not convert those who participate in it into something better.

(Schubert, 1991)

The process of curriculum improvement is:

  • Collaborative, reflective, analytical
  • Evidence-based (multiple sources of data)
  • Student-learning focused

Cycle for continuous curriculum improvement in 5 Stages

Continuous curriculum improvement in 5 stages: stage 1: set goals and align resources, stage 2: develop/validate program learning outcomes, step 3: gather evidence, discuss and interpret evidence, stage 4: improve/enhance, stage 5: monitor and adapt

Stage 1: Set Goals & Align Resources

What questions would like to answer during this curriculum review process?
What data will best help you answer those questions?
Whom will you involve?
What resources will be required?
What are your timelines?
What assessment methods are most appropriate?

Stage 2: Develop/Validate Program Learning Outcomes

  • Learning outcomes are direct statements that describe the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind that students are expected to reliably demonstrate after successfully completing a course/program.
  • They describe learning that is significant and durable– learning that really matters in the long term.

Stage 3: Gather Evidence   Discuss & Interpret Evidence

  • Curriculum mapping
    • Used to determine where, when, and how learning outcomes are taught and assessed within a program
  • Focus groups, surveys, or other means of gathering evidence (students/alumni/TAs/faculty/employers)
  • Student Artefacts (portfolios, projects, other products; performance/exhibits, demonstrations)
  • Data provided by OIRP & SGS
  • Accreditation information
  • ‘Model’ programs elsewhere





(SWOC analysis)





or            (SOAR analysis)

  • Identify strengths/redundancies/gaps

Stage 4: Improve/Enhance

  • Make necessary changes
  • Develop criteria you will use to judge the relative success of those changes.

Stage 5: Monitor & Adapt

  • Use this information to create action plans
  • Continuous gathering of evidence of student learning

Curriculum Mapping Tools for:

UDLEs Baccalaureate/Bachelors  
UDLEs Honours__Baccalaureate_Bachelors
GDLEs Master's
GDLEs Doctoral

Planning for Change

Use the following trigger questions to help curriculum development using the UDLEs. (based on the model from Kotter, J.P. (1996). Leading Change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.)

Planning for Change

Consider this...

Establish a sense of urgency
  • How might you create a sense of the importance and immediacy of incorporating the UDLEs in curriculum planning?

Create a guiding coalition

  • What mix of skills, influence, interest, etc. might you draw on to help you move forward?
  • Which individuals and offices have the expertise and the commitment necessary to advance this initiative?
Develop a vision and strategy
  • What vision and strategy might you articulate to guide the curriculum change process?
  • What specific mandate, time-line, and resources might you give to the guiding coalition?
Communicate the change vision
  • What communication strategy and processes might you use and who might you identify to help you communicate the vision and strategy consistently and effectively?
Empower for broad-based action
  • What might you do to help members of the guiding coalition to eliminate barriers, such as resistance, in instituting a curriculum change process?
Generate short-term wins
  • What short term deliverables (e.g. pilot project) might you and your team identify?
  • How might those who contribute to the curricular change process be supported and recognized?

Consolidate gains, produce more change

  • What process reporting mechanisms might you put in place?
  • What strategies might you use to embed the curriculum change processes throughout the institution?

Anchor new approaches in the culture

  • How might you reinforce the changes? For example, what structural adjustments (position changes, recruitment of new change leaders, promotions, etc?) might be necessary?
  • What connections might you make between the changes made and measures of institutional success (e.g. NSSE)?
  • How can you continue to build capacity for sustaining/revisiting the curriculum change processes?