Chapter 3 – Step 3 in the Process

Action 9: Determine the Best Sequence for Learning, First

Determine a best sequence for learning, including courses

Here, the design decisions are made.

This is the activity everyone is usually waiting for — designing the curriculum.   It can be tempting to start talking about the courses right away, but this will usually cause delays and derail progress on an aligned curriculum.

Instead, describe the learning progression by breaking down the program outcomes into a series of progressive sub-outcomes  that the design team agrees can be built through practice, feedback, and reinforcement toward the final program outcomes at the program’s end. Do this process in iterations with increasing detail, eventually describing courses and other curricular elements. 


Start with the endpoint of the curriculum, then the entry point and beginning of the curriculum, and then work on the middle that bridges the beginning and the end.  Do this to avoid the final or first stages of the curriculum being overloaded and disconnected.  Image of a bridge

The design of the “middle curriculum” requires much negotiation, but this is a vastly better place design-wise to do that work.



Process Tips ✔

  • Help faculty articulate how designing the program using the final and first year, then the middle years, helps to avoid disconnect.  Often, faculty will recognize these problems in the current curriculum.
  • Show colleagues, who are not participating actively in the design, how the design is becoming more detailed through iterations, rather than surprising them with a fully designed curriculum.
  • Share progress and seek input at key intervals through intentional conversations and formalized updates at department or faculty meetings.


Good Signs! 🏁

Sequencing of learning activities to achieve program goals are evident.

⊕  A sequence for decisions has been presented to those who will work on the design

⊕  The design process is logical and allows for iteration

⊕  Learning outcomes come first

⊕  “Backwards planning” (to begin design with end of program, not the start ) is being used


Warning Signs 🏴

⊗  Superficial or no attention to alignment in place

⊗  Program outcomes, practical requirements are not being actively and explicitly incorporated into discussions.

⊗ Focus is on topic to cover rather than program and other learning outcomes.

⊗  Faculty are proposing courses or contact hours as a first step rather than defining  outcomes by year and term, first .




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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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