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Curriculum Development

Curriculum Development involves developing a series of educational experiences students complete in order to earn a degree. Creating a new degree program involves defining learning goals and learning outcomes, and describing how the program of study is designed to help a student achieve these goals and outcomes.

A Program Review is conducted for each degree Program, roughly every eight years. This peer review process examines the program's quality and integrity, and reviews whether a program meets the new Ontario Degree-Level Expectations (DLEs).

If you require any assistance with curriculum development, please contact Ryerson's Curriculum Development Consultant:

Paola Borin
Curriculum Development Consultant
Office: JOR1223
Email: borin@ryerson.ca
Phone: (416) 979-5000 ext. 2629

The first step in developing curriculum is to describe the program's learning goals and learning outcomes. This involves showing how the program of study fits together and how it is designed to help the student achieve the program goals.

Usually, the teaching methods and evaluation methods (assessment) are also described as these descriptions assist in showing how the program is meeting its goals. Visual methods such as Curriculum Mapping can facilitate viewing the program as whole.

Curriculum Mapping

Describing and Analyzing Curriculum

Ultimately, all programs and schools will be required to outline what their programs are intended to achieve, how students will achieve them and how students and instructors will know they have met these goals. Initially, programs going into program review or creating a new curriculum will be targeted for this process.

Curriculum descriptions are useful in a variety of ways. Clear expectations and expected learning outcomes are helpful for:

  • Instructors: Descriptions help with course level planning, including creating learning experiences, creating assessments, understanding degree level expectations, etc.
  • Current and future students: Descriptions help students to understand what they will gain from the program and help to specify the required expectations.
  • Prospective employers: Descriptions help employers to determine what they can expect from graduates of a specified program.
  • Regulatory groups or accrediting bodies: Many major regulatory groups and accrediting bodies use these expectations to determine whether programs are meeting their required standards.

What's Involved

Illustration of the three phases of curriculum development

Whether developing a new degree program, or refining a program, curriculum development consists of three stages:

  1. Defining or refining program goals and outcomes;
  2. Developing/reviewing teaching methods and forms of assessment; and
  3. Reviewing and refining the program.

Defining Program Goals

Program goals describe what a program is designed to achieve. Program goals should be concise and by necessity broad and overarching. They are the answer to, "What is the purpose of this program?" Each program will have a number of program goals that address the key knowledge, skills and values the program is designed to develop in its students.

A few examples of program goals:

  • Organizational Psychology graduates will be able to...
    understand and interpret psychological tests and apply the outcomes in a corporate environment.
  • Photography graduates will...
    develop a professional entry-level portfolio of professional work examples.
  • Art History graduates will be able to...
    research and write effective critiques of art works situated in their political, cultural and historical contexts.

Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are the result, or outcome of program learning experiences. Learning outcomes describe what students are expected to have learned or achieved; as a result, they usually describe what students will be capable of doing, or what evidence will be provided to substantiate learning.

Program learning outcomes are usually visible, demonstrable, measurable, or produce evidence to substantiate the learning.

Program-level learning outcomes don't usually address specializations or streams (e.g., specialization in Clinical Psychology, Psychiatric Nursing, British Literature; except perhaps to indicate students will or may choose such specializations).

Learning outcomes identify the various specific pieces that go into the cultivation of the knowledge, skills and attitudes the program is intended to develop.

Teaching Methods

Degree programs and individual courses are designed to generate student activity. Describing teaching methods consist of listing and explaining all the activities, projects, assignments, and experiences instructors give to achieve course learning outcomes and ultimately, program goals

Assessment

Illustration of Program Assessment Triangle with Program Goals at the widest part, then Learning Outcomes, then Courses and Experiences then Course Learning Outcomes

The sequence illustrated below moves from program level goals to student learning outcomes. Assessment determines if the students have achieved the goals of the program. For this we need some form of evidence, reference points, benchmarks, or results.

Program Goals -> Learning Outcomes -> Courses & Experiences -> Course Learning Outcomes

How can students demonstrate they've met the program goals?  

To determine if students have achieved the program goals requires a variety of checks, evidence, or indicators. These can take a variety of forms such as assignments, demonstrations, projects, essays, tests, or portfolios. These assessment methods should be listed and described in any curriculum document.

Goal

High level, over-arching goals require students to...

Learning outcomes for the goal

Provide evidence of learning...

Graduates with a BA in English Literature will read and analyze literary texts for meaning and synthesize findings situating texts within their historical context and significance.
  1. Demonstrate a close reading of various literary genres
    Assessment: Assignment written at graduation level
  2. Describe and discuss an overview of various authors, major movements, and periods in western literature
    Assessment: Essay written at graduation level
  3. Demonstrate appropriate use of literary terminology
    Assessment: Written test or exam
  4. Analyze literature with respect to historical and cultural context and significance
    Assessment: Long essay written at graduation level
  5. Read and Interpret literary criticism and research
    Assessment: Assignments written at graduation level
  6. Write and analyze literature with clear, articulate and coherent writing
    Assessment: Assignments written at graduation level

 

Curriculum Mapping

Mapping is a visual approach to analyzing a program. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways including charts, tables and diagrams; essentially, any way to enable an overview and analysis of the program as a whole.

Mapping is an extremely useful exercise. It does take a bit of work to collect the various pieces of information and plug them in but it allows the program to be seen and analyzed as a whole. This approach reveals patterns otherwise difficult to see. This process is carried out when programs are first developed, but courses are inevitably refined over the years, responding to various needs and pressures and they sometimes drift away from the original intention. Periodically analyzing a program overall through curriculum mapping allows instructors to make changes and intentionally maintain the integrity and coherence of a program.

Mapping Curriculum [pdf] from Defining and Refining Degree Programs by Paola Borin.

As part of the academic quality assurance process at Ryerson, all degree granting programs and schools undergo a program review approximately every seven years. Programs are required to provide information about what programs are intended to achieve, how they will achieve them and how they will know they have met their goals.

Senate and the Program Review Process

Policies that determine the university's academic quality assurance framework and periodic program review are established by Ryerson's Senate. To help in your understanding of new program development and the program review process at Ryerson - and how curriculum development fits into this process - links are provided below to key Senate policies as well as the periodic program review schedule.

Policy 110, Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP) [pdf] ] is an umbrella policy which includes the policies that outline the process for developing and reviewing new and existing programs. Please note that final implementation of this policy is pending Quality Council approval. Policies included in 110 are listed below.

Policy 112, Approval Process For New Undergraduate Programs [pdf]

Policy 126, Periodic Program Review Of Undergraduate Programs [pdf]

Policy 127, Curriculum Modifications: Graduate and Undergraduate Programs [pdf]

To determine when your program is scheduled for review, consult the periodic program review schedule [pdf].

Degree-Level Expectations (DLEs)

To comply with the requirements of the newly instituted Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance (the Quality Council), Senate revised program review and new program policies to include degree-level expectations (DLEs). DLEs are a threshold framework for undergraduate and graduate students' expression of intellectual and creative skills.

To learn more about DLEs and how they impact your program review process, see our page on Degree-Level Expectations.

Collecting Information

Since program reviews require some collection of data, an excellent starting point is The University Planning Office (UPO). Some of the UPO's sources of data that would be helpful to program reviews are listed below. Clicking on Key Statistics and Reports and Student Surveys will take you to the UPO site where these statistics are housed.

Key Statistics

  • Students - Undergraduate
  • Students - Graduate
  • Students - Continuing Education Division
  • Students - Graduation, Employment and OSAP Default Rates

Reports and Student Surveys

  • National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)
  • First-Year Student Survey
  • Comprehensive Student Survey
  • Graduating Student Survey (4th Year)

 

For further information or background on any of the data, contact the University Planning Office.

Degree-Level Expectations (DLEs) are a threshold framework for the expression of the intellectual and creative development of students. All Ontario universities are expected to ensure graduates meet base-level expectations and acquire a set of skills defined by the DLEs framework.

The Ryerson Senate has revised and approved policies for both program review and the development of new programs to comply with the requirements of the newly instituted Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance (the Quality Council). The policies reinforce the university degree-level expectations (DLEs) requirements for both undergraduate and graduate programs.

Benefits of Clarifying Degree-Level Expectations

Clear expectations for students pursuing a program of study is helpful at a variety of levels. Some examples are provided here.

Departmental Benefits

  • Clarified program purpose
  • Increased communication amongst instructors
  • Increased departmental discussion regarding intended goals and outcomes

Program Level Benefits

  • Increased clarity of program goals and expectations
  • Increased planning to ensure program coherence

Benefits for Faculty Members

  • Clarity regarding program and course expectations
  • Increased awareness of courses in context
  • Outcomes-oriented language to facilitate communication of program goals and course expectations
  • Outcomes-oriented language to facilitate assignment and assessment design

Benefits for Students

  • Clarity regarding program and course expectations
  • Outcomes-oriented language to facilitate understanding of program goals and course expectations
  • Outcomes-oriented language to facilitate understanding of assignments and assessments
  • Experience of a more unified and coherent program

Benefits for Employers/Government/Accrediting Bodies

  • Greater clarity of program goals and intended outcomes
  • Evidence of learning outcomes including knowledge, skills and attitudes

 

Requirements

Each degree-granting program must demonstrate the program of study addresses each of the degree level expectations specified.

The Undergraduate Degree-level expectations (DLEs) specify six areas of ability required at the undergraduate and graduate levels. These areas include:

  1. Depth and Breadth of Knowledge
  2. Knowledge of Methodologies
  3. Application of Knowledge
  4. Communication Skills
  5. Awareness of Limits of Knowledge
  6. Autonomy and Professional Capacity

Specific requirements that students are to demonstrate at each level (undergraduate, Master's, PhD) can be found in the tables below.

Undergraduate Degree-Level Expectations (UDLES)

EXPECTATIONS The following degree level expectations adopted from OCAV's Guidelines define a threshold framework for the expression of the intellectual and creative development of students. Under these Guidelines all undergraduate degree programs at Ryerson will be expected to demonstrate that at the completion of the program students would have acquired the following set of skills.
1. Depth and Breadth of Knowledge a. a developed knowledge and critical understanding of the key concepts, methodologies, current advances, theoretical approaches and assumptions in a discipline overall, as well as in a specialized area of a discipline
b. a developed understanding of many of the major fields in a discipline, including, where appropriate, from an interdisciplinary perspective, and how the fields may intersect with fields in related disciplines
c. a developed ability to:
  i. gather, review, evaluate and interpret information; and
  ii. compare the merits of alternate hypotheses or creative options, relevant to one or more of the major fields in a discipline
d. a developed, detailed knowledge of and experience in research in an area of the discipline
e. developed critical thinking and analytical skills inside and outside the discipline
f. the ability to apply learning from one or more areas outside the discipline
2. Knowledge of Methodologies ... an understanding of methods of enquiry or creative activity, or both, in their primary area of study that enables the student to:
  • evaluate the appropriateness of different approaches to solving problems using well established ideas and techniques;
  • devise and sustain arguments or solve problems using these methods; and describe and comment upon particular aspects of current research or equivalent advanced scholarship.
3. Application of Knowledge a. the ability to review, present and critically evaluate qualitative and quantitative information to:
  i. develop lines of argument;
  ii. make sound judgments in accordance with the major theories, concepts and methods of the subject(s) of study;
  iii. apply underlying concepts, principles, and techniques of analysis, both within and outside the discipline;
  iv. where appropriate use this knowledge in the creative process; and
b. the ability to use a range of established techniques to:
  i. initiate and undertake critical evaluation of arguments, assumptions, abstract concepts and information;
  ii. propose solutions;
  iii. frame appropriate questions for the purpose of solving a problem;
  iv. solve a problem or create a new work; and
c. the ability to make critical use of scholarly reviews and primary sources.
4. Communication Skills ...the ability to communicate information, arguments, and analyses accurately and reliably, orally and in writing to a range of audiences.
5. Awareness of Limits of Knowledge ...an understanding of the limits to their own knowledge and ability, and an appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits to knowledge and how this might influence analyses and interpretations.
6. Autonomy and Professional Capacity a. qualities and transferable skills necessary for further study, employment, community involvement and other activities requiring:
  • the exercise of initiative, personal responsibility and accountability in both personal and group contexts;
  • working effectively with others;
  • decision-making in complex contexts;
b. the ability to manage their own learning in changing circumstances, both within and outside the discipline and to select an appropriate program of further study; and c. behaviour consistent with academic integrity and social responsibility.

 

Graduate Degree-Level Expectations (GDLEs)

MASTER'S DEGREE EXPECTATIONS This degree is awarded to students who have demonstrated:
1. Depth and Breadth of Knowledge A systematic understanding of knowledge, and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights, much of which is at, or informed by, the forefront of their academic discipline, field of study, or area of professional practice.
2. Research and Scholarship A conceptual understanding and methodological competence that:
a. Enables a working comprehension of how established techniques of research and inquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in the discipline;
b. Enables a critical evaluation of current research and advanced research and scholarship in the discipline or area of professional competence; and
c. Enables a treatment of complex issues and judgments based on established principles and techniques; and,
On the basis of that competence, has shown at least one of the following:
a. The development and support of a sustained argument in written form; or
b. Originality in the application of knowledge.
3. Level of Application of Knowledge Competence in the research process by applying an existing body of knowledge in the critical analysis of a new question or of a specific problem or issue in a new setting.
4. Professional Capacity/Autonomy a. The qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:
   i. The exercise of initiative and of personal responsibility and accountability; and
   ii. Decision-making in complex situations; and
b. The intellectual independence required for continuing professional development;
c. The ethical behaviour consistent with academic integrity and the use of appropriate guidelines and procedures for responsible conduct of research; and
d. The ability to appreciate the broader implications of applying knowledge to particular contexts.
5. Level of Communication Skills The ability to communicate ideas, issues and conclusions clearly.
6. Awareness of Limits of Knowledge Cognizance of the complexity of knowledge and of the potential contributions of other interpretations, methods, and disciplines.

 

DOCTORAL DEGREE EXPECTATIONS This degree extends the skills associated with the Master’s degree and is awarded to students who have demonstrated:
1. Depth and Breadth of Knowledge A thorough understanding of a substantial body of knowledge that is at the forefront of their academic discipline or area of professional practice.
2. Research and Scholarship a. The ability to conceptualize, design, and implement research for the generation of new knowledge, applications, or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and to adjust the research design or methodology in the light of unforeseen problems;
b. The ability to make informed judgments on complex issues in specialist fields, sometimes requiring new methods; and
c. The ability to produce original research, or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, and to merit publication.
3. Level of Application of Knowledge a. The capacity to undertake pure and/or applied research at an advanced level; and
b. Contribute to the development of academic or professional skills, techniques, tools, practices, ideas, theories, approaches, and/or materials.
4. Professional Capacity/Autonomy a. The qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and largely autonomous initiative in complex situations;
b. The intellectual independence to be academically and professionally engaged and current;
c. The ethical behaviour consistent with academic integrity and the use of appropriate guidelines and procedures for responsible conduct of research; and
d. The ability to evaluate the broader implications of applying knowledge to particular contexts.
5. Level of Communication Skills The ability to communicate complex and/or ambiguous ideas, issues and conclusions clearly and effectively.
6. Awareness of Limits of Knowledge An appreciation of the limitations of one’s own work and discipline, of the complexity of knowledge, and of the potential contributions of other interpretations, methods, and disciplines.

 

Key Documents

Institutional Quality Assurance Process (IQAP) [pdf]
At Ryerson, Senate Policy 110 includes the Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations (UDLEs) and Graduate Degree Level Expectations and (GDLEs) as part of Appendix 1 and 2. Please note that final implementation of this policy is pending Quality Council approval.

For further information, please consult:

Guidelines for University Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations [doc]
Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents (OCAV)

Quality Assurance Framework [pdf]
Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance. Approved by OCAV, 2010.

Mapping Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations (UDLEs) [pdf] from Defining and Refining Degree Programs by Paola Borin.

We offer professional consulting services to support programs and schools in the curriculum development and program review process. Free of charge to any Ryerson degree-granting program, our curriculum development consultant, Paola Borin, provides customized support and guidance as well as workshop and retreat facilitation.

Developing New Programs

Contact our curriculum development consultant for assistance when developing new programs, including:

  • Informal consultation and needs assessment
  • Developing the program goals and the curriculum component of a new program
  • Facilitating curriculum meetings or retreats
    • Defining graduate attributes
    • Developing a Curriculum Development Plan (with the department chair or curriculum committee; SWOT, surveys, focus groups)
    • Defining program goals and program learning outcomes
    • Identifying program components (methods & assessments)

     

Program Refinement or Review

Our curriculum development consultant can assist with refinement or review of programs, including:

  • Initial consultation and needs assessment
  • Developing a Curriculum Analysis Plan (with the department chair or curriculum committee; SWOT, surveys, focus groups)
  • Facilitating department curriculum meetings or retreats
    • Refining graduate attributes
    • Defining or refining program goals and program learning outcomes
    • Reviewing program components (methods & assessments)
    • Conducting a SWOT exercise
  • Mapping the curriculum to goals and degree-level expectations (DLEs)
  • Preparing a development plan

 

Curriculum Development Consultant

For inquires or to book any of these services contact:

Paola Borin
Curriculum Development Consultant
Office: JOR1223
Email: borin@ryerson.ca
Phone: (416) 979-5000 ext. 2629

Paola BorinPaola Borin

Paola Borin is a specialist in curriculum development with over 20 years of experience in public and private education and training. She has degrees in Psychology and in Education, and completed a graduate degree in Curriculum Design from Stanford University.

Paola has professional experience in the development and delivery of software, in usability and information architecture in new media, and in the application of new media to education. Paola joins us from McMaster University where she worked as and Educational Consultant for ten years teaching and working with departments and faculty members engaged in diverse departmental and faculty curriculum projects and professional counselling. Paola is passionate about education, interested in program development and interested in helping others develop skills to build dynamic and effective programs.

Key Documents

Mapping Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations (UDLEs) [pdf] from Defining and Refining Degree Programs by Paola Borin.

Contact the LTO for more information, resources, and materials for curriculum development and mapping.

Additional Resources

Sample Honours degree benchmark statements

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)
For many years the United Kingdom has been involved in developing benchmark documents for their degree programs both undergraduate and. These documents can be very helpful for getting a feel for the type of outcomes-oriented language now required in Ontario curricula.

The following additional resources are available: