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Training Tools for Curriculum Development. A Resource Pack
Core Modules


Foreword | General presentation | Introduction


This Training Tool for Curriculum Development: A Resource Pack is intended to support specialists and practitioners involved in curriculum change and reform. As the UNESCO institute specialised in the field of curriculum, the International Bureau of Education (IBE) emphasises the key role of high-quality curriculum development processes as a way to foster and improve the excellence, relevance and equity of education.

Building on the successful experience of preparing an Asia-Pacific Resource Pack for Capacity Building in Curriculum Development, the present Resource Pack has been conceptually refined and enriched with a vast array of learning activities, with more than 110 case studies and resources from all regions of the world. It offers a broad comparative international perspective with the view to deepen a comprehensive understanding of the theory and practice of curriculum change. The eight modules of the Resource Pack cover a wide range of factors and dimensions that should be considered in order to improve the quality of curriculum development processes and products.

The draft version of this Resource Pack has been piloted in Africa (United Republic of Tanzania, July 2009), Latin America (Uruguay, August 2009) and Asia (Bhutan, December 2009) which provided an opportunity to gather additional comments and inputs from policy makers, curriculum specialists, researchers, teachers trainers, supervisors, principals and teachers. These pilots also deepened our acquaintance with curriculum reform processes, needs and challenges, and in particular the need to strengthen the capacities of curriculum specialists with a view to foster communities that can share expertise, knowledge and experience.

The IBE will endeavour to customise its training tools to the needs of specific contexts and professionals. In the future, new modules will be prepared covering other important issues, such as education for sustainable development, inclusive education, and competency-based approaches. It is also planned to translate the Resource Pack into other languages.

The Resource Pack is expected to be used in accredited courses offered through regional hubs with long-term sustainable programmes. Developing curriculum training modules with local or regional higher education and teacher education institutions (both pre-service and in-service) will be a priority in order to bridge the current gap between curriculum design and curriculum implementation. This new delivery modality seeks to have a more effective impact at the classroom level by targeting practitioners, teacher trainers, instructional leaders and teachers. In the case of Africa, these activities will be implemented in collaboration, among others, with the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in Africa (BREDA) and the International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA).

Thanks to its digital format, the Resource Pack allows for easy use as an innovative working tool in capacity development activities. Apart from catering for individual consultation, it can be used in diverse group activities through tailored approaches and at different levels of the education system.

Through its worldwide Community of Practice (COP) in Curriculum Development, UNESCO-IBE will continue to support, scale up and diversify the use of the Resource Pack. The COP is an appropriate environment for enlarging and refining the comparative inter-regional perspective through the sharing and dissemination of case studies on curriculum change and development processes.

I would hereby like to extend our sincere gratitude to the numerous specialists, researchers and officers who have granted the copyright authorisation for using their papers and research findings. Additional feedback, comments and suggestions regarding the Resource Pack will be most welcome, as this will help UNESCO-IBE to further enhance and expand its collection of capacity development tools.

I do hope that the Resource Pack will become a useful reference material to assist educational personnel in renovating visions, diversifying strategies and improving practices for quality Education for All.

Clementina Acedo

General presentation

The IBE’s strategic objective by elaborating these Training Tools for Curriculum Development is to contribute to the development of the capacities of specialists, practitioners and decision-makers in the design, management and implementation of quality-oriented curriculum-making processes and inclusive curricula.

Instead of imposing predefined models or prescribing universally applicable solutions, the IBE facilitates access to different experiences and assists curriculum specialists and relevant stakeholders in gaining new perspectives on complex issues and making informed decisions by exploring the advantages and disadvantages of different options in compliance with their own contexts and needs.

Curriculum development

The curriculum is indeed a crucial component of any educational process. As we enter into the twenty-first century, education systems are facing the challenges of the global market and the knowledge economy, but at the same time needing to support the building of social cohesion and the fostering of local cultures to sustain a sense of identity and belonging.

Given the complexity of today’s ever-changing world, contemporary approaches to curriculum development far exceed the traditional understanding of curricula as merely plans of study or lists of prescribed content. Indeed, it is commonly accepted that in order to effectively foster learning, educational content, methods and structures need to be permanently adjusted to changes occurring in science, technology, culture, economy and social life.

National education authorities around the world increasingly address the challenge of improving the quality of learning outcomes through curricular reform, and curricula must respond to new demands by providing skills and building competences that are relevant to local and global needs. Despite the differences of approach, these authorities are generally looking into new solutions to improve the quality of learning outcomes based on curriculum provisions that take into account different criteria.

Due to the increased access to international comparisons in education, countries are also keen to improve their education systems and curricula, adopting as a reference ‘good’ policies and practices and international ‘standards’ in order to meet the challenges and opportunities of the knowledge society and of an increasingly interdependent world. In general, there is a need for increased exchanges, the sharing of experiences, learning from both failures and successes, and capitalising on local experiences and traditions.

Amongst these challenges, the IBE has identified certain specific and relevant needs in current curriculum development processes, such as solutions to fight poverty and social exclusion, fostering social cohesion and education for sustainable development.

The Resource Pack

The materials included in the modules of this Resource Pack have been elaborated to various degrees with the consideration of selected discussion papers, which are illustrated in the various case studies. Through a series of activities which include various concrete tasks, the user will be able to understand contemporary curriculum change processes.

The structure of this tool is built around Module 1, which deals with “Curriculum change”. The following various dimensions form a set of stand-alone modules that can be read separately or in relation to this core Module.
Seven other core modules complete the pack: Policy dialogue and formulation; Curriculum design; System management and governance; Development of textbooks and other teaching and learning materials; Capacity building for curriculum implementation; Processes of curriculum implementation; and Curriculum evaluation and student assessment.

The resources contained in this Pack seek to develop conceptual understandings about curriculum development and an appreciation of the nature, philosophy and principles of curriculum change as a dynamic and on-going process. It carries the potential to produce a paradigm shift in approaching the various dimensions of curriculum change in a way that highlights their inter-relatedness.

As this tool is designed to be used flexibly in a wide range of different contexts, the products and processes identified above could be useful in both specific circumstances as well as most common curriculum development situations.

Finally, this Resource Pack is not a manual which prescribes a sequence of steps to be taken as no unique solution can be applied in the same way in different contexts. Rather, it intends to concretely orientate ongoing work whilst providing inspiration and valuable inputs to curriculum developers and other stakeholders.


This Resource Pack has been constructed around a framework of concepts and trends that characterise contemporary curriculum development.

For the purposes of this Resource Pack, curriculum can be defined as the organisation of learning sequences with a view to producing specific, intended learning outcomes; and curriculum development is a set of practices aimed at introducing planned changes in search of better achievements.

The resources contained in this pack seek to develop conceptual understandings about curriculum development and an appreciation of the nature, philosophy and principles of curriculum change as a dynamic and on-going process. It could be useful in producing a paradigm shift in approaching the various dimensions of curriculum change in a way that highlights their inter-relatedness.

Resources included herein are elaborated to various degrees in the Conceptual modules through the consideration of selected discussion papers and are illustrated in the various case studies. Through a series of activities divided in concrete tasks, included in the Training manual, the curriculum professionals will be able to understand contemporary curriculum change processes, taking into consideration:

  • Concepts of quality and relevance in education and their implications for curriculum change.
  • Curriculum change as a complex and dynamic process involving a range of stakeholders in the development of a series of products.
  • The implications of emerging trends in curriculum change for:
    • policy making;
    • curriculum design, including the structure of curriculum frameworks and subject syllabuses;
    • time and space allocation;
    • education system governance and management, including resource management;
    • textbook development;
    • assessment and evaluation;
    • teacher training and professional development
  • Processes of curriculum implementation and evaluation.
    As the Resource Pack is designed to be used flexibly in a wide range of different contexts, the products and processes identified above could be useful in different measures, but they are common to most, if not all, curriculum development situations.

The structure of this Pack is built around Module 1 that deals with “Curriculum change”, related to the various dimensions of curriculum change that form a set of stand-alone modules that can be read separately or in relation to Module 1.

Fig. 1. Structure of the Resource Pack.

Module 1: Curriculum change
This introductory module proposes a comprehensive approach to curriculum change. It begins by placing curriculum within the broader framework of quality education and effective educational policy, and defining curriculum change as a dynamic process aimed at ensuring relevance of learning. It is therefore a core module and a key entry point for the whole Resource Pack. The other modules dealing with specific dimensions of curriculum change outlined below may be selected based on their relevance to different potential users and the context-specific challenges with which they are faced.
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Module 2: Policy dialogue and formulation
This module explores contexts of policy change, firstly by examining possible triggers and rationales for policy change and secondly by providing tools for the analysis of strengths and weaknesses in local contexts and for the identification of the partners involved in, and concerned with, the education system. It then identifies the range of possible stakeholder involvement in policy dialogue and formulation, as well as the possible causes of resistance to policy change.
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Module 3: Curriculum design
This module presents a generic structure for curriculum frameworks and examines the relationship between its various constituent elements. It provides an overview of different approaches to the process of defining what learners should know and be able to do at the end of various learning cycles based on the formulation of objectives, skills, competencies and/or standards. Each of these approaches has implications for the structuring of learning content, time and space allocation at school level, teaching and learning methodologies, and assessment methods.
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Module 4: System management and governance
This module examines the relationship between sound management and governance and successful curriculum development. Consistent with the principle of relevance, it explores the importance of effective management and leadership of curriculum development processes at central, regional and school levels.

The module identifies a number of rationales and modalities for effective management and governance, and considers the need to maintain balance between centralisation and decentralisation. It explores issues related to the localisation of curriculum in specific national and local contexts as a way of ensuring greater responsiveness to local needs and realities. In so doing, it attempts to clarify the different practices associated with decentralisation including devolution and decentralisation of decision-making power to lower levels, and de-concentration of administrative functions away from the centre.

The module promotes the view that educational authorities should develop or adopt a management and governance system that is based on universally applicable principles (such as the primacy of what is best for the child and the importance of ethical and corruption-free processes) and should adopt processes that will work most efficiently in the prevailing economic and political circumstances.
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Module 5: Development of textbooks and teaching-learning materials
This module explores current trends in policy and processes of textbook development and presents a variety of models for the curriculum professional to consider. The potential roles of various stakeholders, including the Ministry of Education, in the production and distribution of textbooks are presented and users are invited to consider the schemes that best apply to their contexts.

The full range of teaching-learning materials is also explored, and some ideas for the selection and production are given in relation to curriculum needs.
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Module 6: Capacity building for curriculum implementation
This module defines capacity building in the context of curriculum change, as a process of developing the knowledge, skills and insight of individuals and groups engaged in curriculum change and empowering them to make informed decisions in such areas as policy formulation, curriculum design, textbook development and evaluation, piloting and innovation, curriculum evaluation and student assessment through training and the promotion of discourse. Capacity building for curriculum change is examined in the contexts of new teaching and learning approaches and information and communications technology. The module highlights the need for carefully targeted capacity building, the priority areas for empowerment of the targeted stakeholders, and the varied approaches to on-going capacity building in order to sustain the change process.
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Module 7: Processes of curriculum implementation
This module aims to explore and clarify possible models of curriculum implementation. It examines a range of issues related to implementation, including:

  • Planning for the implementation process;
  • Analysing funding and resources;
  • The process of piloting new curricula;
  • The importance of initial and continuing teacher training, and
  • The possible roles of regional and school-based leaders in putting new curricula into place.

Module 8: Curriculum evaluation and student assessment
Curriculum evaluation is presented as an important source of curriculum policy change, and of on-going feedback for continuous curriculum adaptation in the process of implementation. Rationales for evaluation are considered and the module then identifies curricula and curriculum components which may be evaluated. Possible approaches to evaluation are explored.

The module focuses on processes and techniques of evaluation: who should evaluate, whose opinions are important, the types of qualitative and quantitative data that can be useful, how to gather data and what to do with data.
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