Curriculum Development & Renewal

Curriculum development and renewal is the process of reviewing, designing, and implementing new and revised programs.

The process of curriculum development presents opportunities and challenges. The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning supports leaders and teams who undertake curriculum development and renewal projects. 

The following 4-Step process makes educationally effective and timely curriculum change more likely.

Steps in the Process


PDF of the 4 Step process, including Actions to take within each Step:  The 4 Steps with Actions

The 4-Step renewal process works when each step is completed before moving on to the next. Follow the steps in this order to avoid confusion, isolation, unrealistic workloads, and delays. 

Utilizing this 4 Step process will enable you as a leader to answer the following questions:

  • How do we get started?
  • In what order do we make our decisions?
  • Who needs to be involved?
  • How do we know when to move to the next step?
  • How can we get this work done in a timely way and not sacrifice our educational vision?

Understanding the 4-Steps

The 4-Step process acts as a road map to curriculum development renewal. Each step considers important factors, who are the stakeholders in that phase, estimated timelines, and helpful tips to moving forward your renewal work. Expand each of the accordions below for an outline of each step including:

›  Key questions answered at this Step
›  Who to involve
›  Timelines
›  Common pitfalls to avoid


Determine that a curriculum initiative has the necessary support and structures that make it ready to proceed.

Key Questions answered in Step 1:
  • What are the good reasons to do this now?
  • How long will this likely take us?
  • How can we set up effective collaborative processes and governance of curriculum initiatives?

Who is involved in this Step?  Usually, formal leaders or an existing committee chair in the academic unit undertake this step, having exploratory and support-building individual and group conversations with faculty and other stakeholders.

How long does this take?  3+ months, depending.
Step 1 may occur organically over years as a program need emerges or more quickly as an accreditation visit or program review is anticipated, underway, or completed. Sometimes a crisis or major change in the environment brings readiness for change more quickly. Deciding how to structure committees and communication can be straightforward in some contexts; in others it may require significant consultation and endorsement by faculty.

Process Check

Is Step 1 complete? Are you ready to move to Step 2?  Use this checklist to ensure all Actions are completed in this Step.

Support needs to be widespread, even if some elements are vigorously debated. To enter Step 2 with confidence, faculty feedback in Step 1 needs to reflect that processes so far have been valuable, transparent, and consultative.

Foundational decisions set a program design process up for success and manageability. Acknowledge requirements and realities that will help or hinder the process. Don't leave it to chance, envision the system for an aligned and effective curriculum change.

Key Questions answered in Step 2:
  • How must the curriculum function to make it manageable in our context?
  • Why are curricular goals essential to designing an aligned curriculum?
  • What do we intend learners to know and become able to do by the end of the program?

Who is involved in this Step?  A core team of faculty collaborating under the mandate of a committee or an academic leader (e.g., Dean).  

How long does this take?  4-6 well designed meetings, over 2-6 months.
Timeframes for Step 2 depends on the size and scope of the change. Foundational decisions should include input and perspectives from faculty who will be called on to approve and implement the curriculum.  Input can be gathered through a retreat, a series of dedicated meetings, or discussion and endorsement at a faculty council meeting.

Process Check

Is Step 2 complete? Ready to begin Step 3?  Use this checklist to ensure all Actions have been completed in this Step.

In Steps 1 and 2, a few leaders or a core team may have done most of the work. Moving to Step 3 means you are prepared to engage a larger group to work on curriculum design with a good understanding of both the need and direction for change.

Designing an aligned curriculum requires collective effort.

Key Questions answered in Step 3:
  • What do we need to know about learning to design an educationally effective curriculum?
  • What do we need to understand about our existing program in order to make decisions?
  • How will we sequence the learning activities to achieve the program outcomes?
  • How can we be successful in the approval process(es)?

Who is involved in this Step?  In Steps 1 and 2, a few leaders or core team may have done most of the work, that likely included reaching out to stakeholders and faculty for important input and to provide details. At Step 3, typically, a larger group prepared to do the work of curriculum design, comes together as a committee, or subcommittees, or breaks into working groups.

How long does this take?  4-24  months.
Again, depending on the size of the change and the frequency and effectiveness of meetings and other work, Step 3 can require significantly more time than Steps 1 and 2 as this is when the design itself is created. Faculty joining the process in Step 3 needs to understand why a curriculum is not designed first, around content. Thorough completion of Steps 1 and 2 makes understanding the work of Step 3 more likely.  

Process Check

Is Step 3 complete? Ready to shift to Step 4?  Use this checklist to ensure all Actions have been completed in this Step.

Once a program design is fully described and the proposal has moved through the necessary approvals, the team can breathe a collective sigh of relief. The work of implementing the design comes next - building-in continuous improvement and evaluation to ensure the vision is sustainable and flexible enough for modifications.

Curriculum design is tested with actual educators and students. Adjustments are likely as the first group moves through the new curriculum.

Key Questions answered in Step 4:
  • What is needed to complete the detailed design?
  • How will information be gathered and used to determine whether the intended learning is occurring in the curriculum?

Who is involved in this Step?  All faculty, instructors, staff and others involved in delivering the new or revised program.

How long does this take?  18 months - 5 years!
For smaller scale change, the work is likely focused during the 4-6 months leading up to delivery, and then in the first year of implementation. For new programs or significantly revised ones, this work likely continues until at least the first cohort graduates, meaning this step takes 4+ years.

Process Check

Ready to move to continuous curriculum improvement? Use this checklist to ensure all Actions have been completed in this Step.

Collective continuous improvement should be an ongoing process. Expect adjustments over the first few years of implemention.


The Curriculum Design Guide:
Four Steps to Design or Renew Your Program

A process guide to assist leaders in the design and implementation of an aligned curriculum that meets program level goals.

Courses and Workshops

Short Course:
The GMCTL offers a short course focusing on both Steps 1 and 2 of this process for successful curriculum change Curriculum Change Short Course.

This course is aimed to academic leaders, faculty and staff with an upcoming curriculum project. Participants are encouraged to attend this course in groups of 2 or 3 to maximize the action planning focus of the short course.

Tailored sessions:
Work with our team to co-design tailored sessions related to these areas:

  • Identifying Drivers for Curriculum Change
  • Defining Shared Curriculum Goals
  • Mapping the Curriculum: What to keep, What to change
  • Creating an Aligned Curriculum: Principles of Effective Design for Learning
  • Sequencing and reinforcing learning outcomes across the curriculum
  • Action Planning for Curriculum Change: Steps 1 and 2
  • Action Planning for your priorities, for example:
    • Indigenizing the Curriculum
    • Internationalizing the Curriculum
    • Experiential Learning in the Curriculum
    • Learning for Sustainability
    • Student Well-being and Engagement across the Curriculum


Get Help from the Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching and Learning 
  • Access process coaching
  • Collaborate to apply for funding
  • Explore and get support for using the CAT
  • Ask for meeting or retreat facilitation or design help
  • Invite us to join or attend committees as resources by invitation or on an ongoing basis
  • Attend our short course
  • Ask for tailored short course and/or workshops
  • Connect with an Educational Development Specialist