Who is the Curriculum For

3 Questions to Answer to Support your Curriculum Process

by Kelby Zenor, Rubicon International

It is easy to get caught up in the urgency and immediate need of an initiative.  We see this all the time – our accreditation came back and made a recommendation that we need to have a documented curriculum, we are changing standards and need to create curriculum aligned to them, we don’t have a documented curriculum and need one, we have a documented curriculum but it is in 42 different places including in a binder on someone’s shelf. All these are valid reasons to get started, but, before schools jump into the deep end of this process, they need to take a deep breath and reflect on a few questions.

Anytime we work with a school or district that is starting, reviewing or struggling with their process, we like to start with these questions:

WHO is the curriculum for?

WHAT should be captured in the curriculum?

HOW is the curriculum used once it is written?

These questions take time, conversation, collaboration, and reflection on the past and future. Let’s dive into each of these a little bit!

WHO is the curriculum for?

What’s your immediate answer for “who your curriculum is for?” Most schools we work with state the obvious: Teachers, School/District, Administrators.

You have to think about who will benefit from knowing your curriculum and why. It is easy to state one or two key beneficiaries but then we are stuck on thinking that it is only important to those two groups.  When in fact, if we were to really reflect, we would realize that there are many who need the curriculum to be successful in their role. Defining this helps with buy-in, clarity in the use of curriculum, expectation of how we will use it (now I am getting ahead of myself).

Let’s go back to the question and think about the not so obvious but super relevant answers: Students, Parents, Community?  Or, what about Future Teachers, Institutional Memory?

Here are a few examples from other educators:

WHAT should be captured in the curriculum?

This is one of my favorite questions because it is all about what makes a school or district shine in terms of their curriculum. When reflecting on this question, there is always a bit of hesitation for schools who have been capturing the curriculum already. Is it what we are capturing or what we should capture? This question shares so much about the process at the school – if what is being captured doesn’t match the professional development, initiatives, conversations, PLC dialogue, etc., then there can be a big disconnect between what we document and how we talk about our curriculum.

Successful schools marry the language of curriculum with their documentation in order to facilitate a process in which everyone is clear on what is important to the school’s curriculum.  Sometimes this is taking a direct pedagogy and following it down to the letter, but, more often than not, it is taking pieces of different pedagogies and initiatives that work together to meet the needs of the learners and culture of the school.


Differentiation is a hot topic and can be captured in many ways. One district really looked at the professional development they offered on it and ensured that they captured their strategies in a similar way.  Check out their story here!

For some districts it is important to bring in examples of student work. Reflecting back on the who, if it included new teachers or teachers in the grades above and below having clear guidelines on assessments and rubrics supports in depth conversation in PLCs. Check out this districts story here.

Assessing your Mission

Sometimes the what is about school culture and reflecting who we want our students to be once they graduate. Tracking and capturing the hidden curriculum elements can be a critical piece. One school looked outside the box for assessing their mission. Check out their story here.

HOW is the curriculum used once it is captured?

In any initiative the goal is to have long-term success. Curriculum work takes time, thought, collaboration and review. Being clear on how the curriculum will be used is a critical piece to generating buy-in.

Change Management

Reflect on the change management process and the importance of having all the pieces: Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Plan = Change. When we don’t answer the how question we lose the Action Plan and Incentives to do the work which leads to Gradual Change or Frustration. Being clear on how the curriculum will be used supports the importance that curriculum work is never done because there are always new things to be learned, strategies to try out and students to engage.

The curriculum is dynamic!

Tying the curriculum directly to the students and their work gives an opportunity for grade calibration, conversation around grade expectations as well as a resource for future teachers. The expectation is also set that the process will include adjustments and shifts based on student understanding.

See how a district reflected writing expectations and rubrics in their curriculum.

How curriculum will be used
Example of how curriculum will be used
Curriculum engagement based on roles!

It is important when reflecting on the how curriculum is used, to go back and look at your who. Including the different ways the stakeholders will use the curriculum is a key piece of reflection. To assume that the curriculum has one use would be limiting – think through how Teachers, Admin, Heads of Department, Parents, and Students engage with the curriculum.

Examine how a district took the time to reflect on their professional development plan to ensure that the different stakeholders were supported.

Immediate and long term uses!

Goals and use change over time. Creating expectations that layout immediate uses of the curriculum support the current work. Adding future goals for the curriculum helps the longevity of the process and shows forward thinking and the importance of having high quality curriculum.

Explore how one district created a long-term plan that laid out how the curriculum will be used for five years.

How curriculum is used to in implementation
These three questions will drive us to have a clearly articulated WHY statement!

Join us at an upcoming event to walk through creating a curriculum process based on your mapping vision.

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