Curriculum Planning/Where do you start

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Where do you start??

For the most part, “school” is still considered a place and an activity for the young. Children who successfully complete secondary school may then enter a college, training institute, or university. In most cases, young adults comprise the “traditional” student in post-secondary education.

Because these “traditional” learners are the more-or-less expected learner audience for higher education, most learning environments and training strategies are designed with them in mind. Curriculum development consequently becomes centred on the choice of content for the curriculum. Curriculum developers ask “What should we teach? What learning objectives must be met? What textbook should we use?”

Adult learners[1], on the other hand, may vary a great deal in their educational backgrounds, training motivations and expectations, background knowledge, literacy level, etc. etc. Any individual who does not conform to the usual training expectations of the trainer or the training institution can be considered a “non-traditional learner.” When designing curriculum or training programs for non-traditional learners, it is a serious mistake to consider content choices alone!Learners, environment and content

Good training design must take into account three integrated factors:*

  • Content (what you will teach)
  • Learner(s) (who you will teach)
  • Environment (where you will teach)

These three factors may not be weighted evenly. If your training program is directed towards a unique learner group; e.g. mostly older unemployed women in a post-conflict zone, your program design may need to be highly adapted for the learners. If your training program must take place in an isolated mountain community without electricity, your most serious adaptations may involve the learning environment.

Conducting a Learner Analysis will help you take these factors into account and to devise adaptations that will better meet the needs of a unique group of learners. Conducting an Environmental Analysis will help you plan training that will fit a unique training environment.

Content, of course, still has to be considered as well as many sub-factors (choice of trainer, activities, resources, etc.). And program evaluation is necessary at every step of the way to help ensure that your program is accomplishing your training goals. The following activities are designed to help you plan an educational program for a non-traditional training situation.

Let's start with the learners.

  1. This resource assumes that the reader has some background in adult education. If more background is required, this website provides a basic short course: Course 8: The Adult Learner.