Curriculum Revision Adventure: How to Plan, Navigate, and Arrive

Step 1: Gather Essentials

A program’s curriculum is a tricky thing. It can be gigantic, complex, unwieldy, multi-faceted, living and breathing, stuck in the mud, tired. It can also be competency-based, integrated, innovative. Whatever the description, a curriculum is the map/recipe/blueprint which creates a trained graduate prepared for today and in the future. Which is also challenging: how to train for the now and for the future without getting too far ahead of reality.

To create an effective curriculum, many have experienced huge, lumbering, painful curricular revisions or transformations. There must be a better way.

Let’s look at curricular revision, big picture. Most follow backward design: Begin with the end in mind.

Here are some components of the process:

  • Outcomes: Graduate competencies/goals: intentional and purposeful
    • Current and applicable
    • Align with employer needs now and in future
    • Support accreditation standards
  • Analysis: what’s working or isn’t, what’s included or missing
    • Curriculum mapping: what’s taught where/when/how
      • Mapping anchors: what must the curriculum do
        • Accreditation standards
        • Practice standards
        • Legal requirements of graduates
        • External, literature-supported graduate expectations
        • Internal desired graduate outcomes
  • Gap analysis: snapshot of effectiveness
    • Working
    • Not working
    • Missing and is needed
    • Present and not needed
    • Covered sufficiently
    • Over covered
    • Under covered
  • Student performance trend data: meeting intended outcomes
    • Didactic (e.g., formative assessments, exams)
    • Experiential (e.g., application assessments)
    • Learning Activities (e.g., participation)
  • External stakeholder feedback: what do they see in the graduates
    • Employers
    • Alumni
    • Practitioners

A few parting tips:

  • Avoid acting on a hunch – “we should really update our curriculum”.
  • Be purposeful in determining these essential components, which will pave the way to success.

By triangulating internal and external outcomes and analysis, the status of the curriculum should come into view and the next steps can begin.


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  • Wright B, et al. Innovating Pharmacy Curriculum through Backward Design. Tech Trends. 2018:62;224-229.
  • Porter AL, et al. Let External Stakeholders Be Your Guide to Curricular Revision. Am J Pharm Ed. 2020: 84(5); Article 8021.