In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Curriculum Design

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources
  • Journals
  • Conceptualization
  • Philosophies
  • Models and Strategies
  • Classroom-Level Teacher Curriculum Development
  • Classroom-Level Teacher Professional Development
  • Curriculum History and Theory
  • Standards-Based Curriculum Design

Education Curriculum Design
Saad Shawer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 December 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 December 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0009


Curriculum design (also curriculum organization) refers to the ways in which we arrange the curriculum components. Regardless of the underpinning curriculum model, all curriculum designs endeavor to address four curriculum components: Why do we initiate instruction or aims? What should we teach to realize our set aims and objectives (content or subject matter)? How can we communicate target learning experiences (pedagogy, instruction)? What have we realized and what actions should we take accordingly in relation to the instructional program, learners, and teachers (evaluation)? Although most, if not all, curriculum designs include these four components, they significantly differ in how they address these elements, because of the curriculum philosophy and model on which a design is based. For example, subject-matter-based designs, which overemphasize the logical organization of content, and the learner-centered ones, which focus on the learners and their needs, entail different treatments of the four curriculum components. The following sections very briefly highlight the process of curriculum design. This will involve general overviews of major related sources, curriculum conceptualization and curriculum design stages, in addition to recent issues of classroom-level teacher curriculum design and classroom-level teacher professional development.

General Overviews

Fortunately, there are a huge number of key works that introduce the reader to the curriculum field in general and the process of curriculum design in particular. Among the best sources that show the curriculum design process in specific steps are Tyler 1949 and Taba 1962, dated but influential works. These two books also introduce the reader to the key curriculum concepts and elements. Tyler 1949 in particular is a concise but outstanding and informative source. In contrast, Taba 1962 is a detailed source that best suits those seeking to delve deeper into the field. Those interested in curriculum research, conceptualizations, and controversial issues should consult Jackson 1992, a handbook on curriculum research that delves into almost all theoretical and practical issues. Ornstein and Hunkins 2009 is a reference work for those interested in all curriculum elements. Each chapter in the book is considered a separate source on each of the curriculum elements. It provides excellent discussions about curriculum history and foundations in particular. This book, however, is not suitable for those who seek an introduction to the curriculum field. Those interested in the relationships between formal curriculum designs and teacher curriculum making and developments should turn to Connelly and Clandinin 1988. The reader should also consult the influential Clandinin and Connelly 1992 on the same issue. Those interested in the relationships between curriculum design and teacher, school, and student development would find Shawer 2010 and Craig 2006 among the best works written on the topic.

  • Clandinin, D. J., and F. M. Connelly. 1992. The teacher as curriculum maker. In Handbook of research on curriculum: A project of the American Educational Research Association. Edited by P. W. Jackson, 363–401. New York: Macmillan.

    Clandinin and Connelly’s chapter extends the idea of a previous book on the role of teachers as curriculum makers (Connelly and Clandinin 1988). They trace the development of teachers’ roles from curriculum knowledge transmitters to curriculum knowledge producers.

  • Connelly, F. M., and D. J. Clandinin. 1988. Teachers as curriculum planners: Narratives of experience. Research in Education Series 15. New York: Teachers College Press.

    Connelly and Clandinin’s book is a pioneering work on teachers’ experiences as curriculum planners. Although the book provides useful narrative accounts of how teachers’ work moves from curriculum implementation to curriculum design, it discusses generic-education elements of curriculum design, including scope, balance, and continuity.

  • Craig, C. J. 2006. Why is dissemination so difficult? The nature of teacher knowledge and the spread of curriculum reform. American Educational Research Journal 43.2: 257–293.

    DOI: 10.3102/00028312043002257

    Craig’s paper discusses the practical reasons behind teachers’ insistence on developing and using their own curriculum. It also highlights the positive influence of their work on their own development as well as on students and schools. Available online for purchase.

  • Jackson, P. W. 1992. Conceptions of curriculum and curriculum specialists. In Handbook of research on curriculum: A project of the American Educational Research Association. Edited by P. W. Jackson, 3–40. New York: Macmillan.

    Jackson’s handbook is an excellent source for those interested in all curriculum-related issues, including design, conceptualization, and research.

  • Ornstein, Allan C., and Francis P. Hunkins. 2009. Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and theory. 5th ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

    A major and comprehensive reference on almost all curriculum issues, discusses in detail and depth all curriculum foundations, philosophies, theory, models, strategies, and elements. It provides excellent chapters on curriculum design, development, implementation, and evaluation in addition to controversial issues and trends.

  • Shawer, S. F. 2010. Classroom-level teacher professional development and satisfaction: Teachers learn in the context of classroom-level curriculum development. Professional Development in Education 36.4: 597–620.

    DOI: 10.1080/19415257.2010.489802

    Discusses classroom-level teacher curriculum development as a strategy toward effective professional development for teachers and provides clear definitions of recent coinages, including “classroom-level teacher professional development.” Covers the influence of teacher curriculum making and development on teacher, student, and school.

  • Taba, H. 1962. Curriculum development: Theory and practice. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World.

    Taba’s classic introduces almost all curriculum issues, including theory, planning, stages of design, and evaluation. All those interested in the field of curriculum in general and curriculum design in particular at all levels—including undergraduate and graduate—should consult this reference book alongside Tyler 1949.

  • Tyler, R. W. 1949. Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    This concise and pioneering book was considered the first to offer curriculum a systematic design of four elements—the objectives/Tyler model. Despite various criticisms, it continues to stimulate thoughts about most curriculum issues and provides one of the earliest models to curriculum, the evaluation-objectives model.

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