A Better Planned Curriculum-Revision Design

November 5, 2014 Kristen Hicks

Just when you think your program’s curriculum is perfect, something changes. A revision to the accreditation standards, new expectations for students entering the workforce, advancements in technology—whatever the cause, the results for you are the same: you have to go through the strenuous process of curriculum review and revision all over again.

The process may be time-consuming and challenging, but there’s an upside. Every curriculum revision is an opportunity to make your program better. And not just better for the accreditation standards or whatever other particular need you’re trying to meet; better for you, your faculty, and your students.

You just need to analyze what’s working now and what needs to be changed. You don’t want this process to be based on guesswork. For best results, all changes should be guided by actual data on student performance and curriculum distribution.

How to Collect the Data

If you’ve been to this blog before, you probably already know how to get that data (hint: it involves embedded assessment). Interestingly, many of the schools that already use ExamSoft aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity the product provides to collect valuable data.

Schools can use ExamSoft to track how students are performing over time as individuals, how individual classes are serving students, and how the program is doing overall. By tagging all the test questions and assignments students are given with the categories you want to track, you can discover what students know and where they need to improve.

Is your curriculum putting too much emphasis on subject areas students already have down? Is there a skill set or a competency area your students struggle with that needs more attention in the curriculum? The reports you get from ExamSoft can help you answer these questions.

How to Use It Well

If you haven’t been collecting data yet, now’s the time to start. If you already have data for your curriculum review, consider the following recommendations:

Look at the Big Picture. Use a longitudinal analysis of the data you have to understand how your curriculum is working across the board. The data can also be used to help individual students and to improve courses, but for curriculum review, you want to look at the big picture. For example, don’t just look to see how common tags are across one exam; look to see how commonly subjects and skills are being taught and tested across all exams and assignments in the program. If students are getting more of the same from several different courses, you’ll want to eliminate those courses or re-work them so they’re centered on additional material that needs to be emphasized.

Trust the Data. The data may show that some ideas and strategies aren’t working as planned. Since the data is based on real, tangible outcomes, it should be heeded.

Try to analyze what’s causing the results you’re seeing. You may not need to scrap underperforming initiatives or courses entirely; it may just be a matter of tweaking them so they work better.

Don’t stop. When your curriculum review is complete, your job is not done. Keep collecting data and continue to review and analyze it at regular intervals to determine if additional changes to the curriculum are in order.

Better data gives you the power to constantly improve your curriculum. Are you ready to take advantage of it?


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