Curriculum Development

About Curriculum Development

Curriculum development, design, or renewal refers to an initiative undertaken by a Faculty or academic unit that seeks to explore, analyze and, ideally, enhance some element of a program’s curriculum with the broad goal of improving students’ learning experiences in the program. Support for curriculum development is one of the ways in which the Office of the Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education (OVPIUE) creates opportunities for faculty and academic units at the University of Toronto to explore new ways of improving student learning.

What is Curriculum Development?

Curriculum development is a flexible, collaborative process that leverages the perspectives of key stakeholders involved in the design and delivery of an academic program and culminates in collegial decision-making about the future direction of the program and implementation of changes to its structure and/or courses. The diagram on the left outlines the common phases of a curriculum development process. 

How the OVPIUE Supports Curriculum Development

The OVPIUE Curriculum Development Specialist works with units to develop a process that supports their goals for curriculum development. Depending on how much support the unit is interested in, the Curriculum Development Specialist can facilitate the process in partnership with the unit, including participating in curriculum committees, planning and facilitating meetings, workshops, and retreats, and sharing and/or developing resources relevant to the units’ interests and goals.

Drivers of Curriculum Development

There are many reasons a Faculty or academic unit might want to make changes to one or more programs. Not all of them can be addressed through curriculum development, but the following list captures some of the common motivations for change that can be supported by curriculum development processes:

  • Shifts in discipline: As disciplines evolve as a result of new research findings and additions or improvements to conceptual and methodological approaches, university curricula need to evolve as well. Changes in the discipline may prompt a review of existing curricula or the development of new programs to ensure that students are engaging with the latest developments in the field.
  • Shifts in industry: In addition to developments within disciplines, changes in the labour market occur due to technological advancements and evolving demands from industries. For programs with strong ties to professional practice, shifts in industry may prompt a need to revise or reimagine curricula to ensure that students are prepared to navigate the field following graduation.
  • Shifts in culture and society: Units may engage with curriculum development to ensure that their programs foster a more equitable and respectful learning environment that reflects diverse worldviews and enhances the educational experience for all students. That process might include an exploration of historical biases, injustices, and Eurocentric perspectives in curriculum content; it may focus on understanding and reducing barriers to participation in key learning experiences; etc.
  • Students’ interests: Seeking student input, concerns, and suggestions regarding their learning experience and interests can prompt curricular change that further encourages intellectual curiosity and empowers students to pursue well-rounded educational paths aligned with their educational, personal and professional goals.
  • Desire for greater flexibility: A unit might be interested in providing students more opportunities to customize their educational journey, tailor their learning experiences, and explore interdisciplinary interests. Options might include changes to program modality, such as offering learning experiences online or in a hybrid format, or changes to educational pathways by offering a broader range of course options, fields or concentrations, etc.
  • Recommendations of UTQAP review: All programs at the University periodically undertake a cyclical external review process (University of Toronto Quality Assurance Process). Reviews provide academic divisions/units with a structured opportunity to reflect and seek feedback regarding strengths and areas of concern for their programs of study; these processes result in recommendations for improvement which often include suggestions for curricular change.
  • Accreditation requirements: Accrediting bodies that govern professional programs may recommend changes based on a review/audit or they may revise educational standards and requirements which may prompt units to update their programs to align with the changes.