Glossary of Key Terms

Having a common understanding of key terms will help you participate in the discussions and learn more clearly and confidently.

Curriculum terms

Curriculum A sequence of intended learning experiences defined by an area of specialization or final credential

Curriculum alignment:  The extent to which learning outcomes, learning experiences, and assessments of learning match up and support each other 

Curriculum mapping:  A process for creating a summary and/or analyzing a curriculum on defined, scaled aspects


Assessment terms

Formative Assessment:  Feedback that students and educators can use to improve (can be a grade, a score, a rating, written, spoken, and so on).   Also known as assessment for learning. 

Summative Assessment:  A way of checking to see what students have learned when they are done learning (end of a module, end of a course, end of a program).  Also known as assessment of  learning.  


Planning terms

Curriculum change: A change beyond an individual course with implications for learners across a curriculum.  Curriculum change involves multiple educators, usually requiring a management process and formal approval. 

Curriculum working group: An intentionally assembled set of people who are well positioned to collectively make decisions about what should be included and omitted from student learning experiences, how it should be sequenced, and what is essential to assess. 

Graduate attributes:  The statements we make about what our graduates should know, be able to do, value at the end of our curriculum/program 

Program-level outcomes:  The statements we make about what participation in our curriculum/program should result in for our graduates 

Stakeholder:  Individuals, groups, communities inside and beyond the university with interest and or influence in our curriculum change processes and outcomes.

Students:  People who have enrolled in our programs because they want the knowledge, skills, enrichment and life opportunities that higher education can provide. 


Common words in curriculum conversations

Contact hours:  (Generally) the hours spent in a designated, synchronous instructor-led learning activity.

Content “coverage”:  (Generally) the topics included in a course.  Often distinct from what students actually learn or are assessed on.  

Credit units (cu):  A value assigned to a course to indicate a relative weight within a program.  (Generally) a 3 cu course is thought to occur over a standard term (12-13 weeks in Fall or Winter) and involve 36-39 hours of teaching time, plus associated labs.   See more official explanation here.

Lecture hours:  (Generally) the number of hours an instructor has students view/listen to their lectures.  Sometimes used as a proxy for learning.  

Total student learning hours:  The number of hours students who do well in the course are likely to put in, including time for things like reading, studying, and learning in class. 


GMCTL words

Bloom’s Taxonomy (link): One of many descriptions of the relative complexity or progression of learning tasks. 

Curriculum Alignment Tool or “CAT” for short:  A tool for collecting data about the contributions of individual courses to overall program outcomes to produce reports/visualizations, also called curriculum mapping.

Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund: A fund administered by the GMCTL on behalf of the Provost in support of program-level change initiatives.

Educational development specialist:  An educational specialist who helps a disciplinary expert realize a vision for a course or program.  See the staff list at the GMCTL for areas of expertise/interest for the educational development specialists there. 

Educational jargon:  Special words or expressions used by some educators to convey specific meaning that may be confusing or unintelligible to those from other fields. 




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Curriculum Design Guide Copyright © by Susan Bens; Sara Dzaman; Aditi Garg; and Wendy James is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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