UBC Curriculum Cycle

While there are many models for curriculum development and renewal (see University of Saskatchewan and University of Toronto for examples), UBC uses a simplified, four-stage model to describe the curriculum cycle. This model is intended to provide a framework for thinking and talking about program development and renewal; it should not be construed as a pre-defined process for engagement. The four stages to this model are Definition, Analysis & Planning, Implementation, and Program Assessment. An overview of these stages can be found below.

Please note, curriculum development or renewal rarely occurs as a simple cycle where one stage is completed before the next stage begins. Rather, this work is often an iterative process moving back and forth between stages, as work from one stage may lead to change in another. For example, it is fairly common for work in the Planning & Analysis stage to lead to change in Definition.

The Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) provides support to units interested in developing new programs or renewing existing programs. We find program renewal is most successful when it follows a team based, faculty-driven process involving broad engagement and follows a data driven approach. This work is most effective when it is focused on student learning and developing student expertise within a discipline.

Stages of the Curriculum Cycle:

    1. Definition – In this stage, programs goals and what students should know or be able to do as a result of the program of study are determined. This often also includes conversations about what experiences students should have during the program. Often, this stage involves broad engagement of faculty within a program, alumni, current students and other key constituents. The output of this stage is commitments regarding student learning and experience. This is valuable to inform informal curriculum conversations within the unit and to communicate to students and other key constituents what they should expect from the program.
    2. Analysis & Planning – In this stage, the curriculum team analyzes how the learning goals defined in the Definition stage are realized (or not realized) over the course of the program. This stage also involves broad engagement with faculty regarding how the courses they teach contribute to learning goals. Students and external partners may be involved in providing feedback regarding whether graduates of the program demonstrate sufficient learning to consider the goal achieved and where improvements could be made. This stage may also involve more complex analysis for existing programs such as reviewing student performance or student feedback and modeling of pathways students take through the program. The outputs of this stage may include clearly articulated connections across courses (beyond pre-requisite relationships), the identification of meaningful streams of courses (to help students make deliberate choices about their course selections), the identification of areas for improvement and/or a program assessment plan. This stage will also involve the development of Faculty and Senate curriculum proposals for some projects.
    3. Implementation – For existing programs, the complexity of the implementation stage will vary widely depending on the extent of program renewal. This stage may involve redesigning courses, implementing new teaching or assessment practices, integrating new foci into courses, moving existing foci to different courses, or other work. For new programs, this may involve the development of several new courses. Regardless of what work occurs in this stage, we see higher success rates when faculty work collaboratively, have a structured support, and have the opportunity to share their work with one another.
    4. Program Assessment – Assessing the efficacy of academic programs is a core component of the curriculum cycle. In this stage, units assess whether students are consistently meeting learning outcomes or achieving the intended competencies. This generally includes the analysis of learning artifacts (papers, assessments, projects, etc.) and may also include graduate or alumni surveys on perceptions of learning and/or how learning applied to future work or study. This information is then used to inform a continual improvement process as the cycle begins again.

For more information about how the CTLT can assist units with new program development or program renewal, please contact CTLT Curriculum Support.