What is Curriculum Alignment?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2019
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The process of curriculum alignment is the formal evaluation of a course or educational program to address the changing needs of employers and students. Curriculum is the list of educational outcomes, skills, and materials that need to be covered and completed during a specific training program. The curriculum is developed by the teachers, educational advisers, and program coordinators.

Curriculum alignment is achieved through a consultative process. Any proposed course must complete multiple reviews and be approved by a series of educators and committees before it can be implemented. In order to implement a new course, it must be designed, reviewed, approved, and then structured to meet these requirements.

Designing a new course is a process that typically starts at the department of education for elementary and secondary courses. At the post-secondary level, courses are developed by professors, sometimes based on new developments and, on occasion, based on requests received from the provost, who is responsible for the educational performance of the institution.


The department of education has an entire staff of course designers and curriculum advisers. They are responsible for determining the focus of the course and appropriate level, based on the subject matter, prerequisite knowledge, and overall educational goals. For example, a course in botany that focuses on how seeds grow into plants can be aimed at the elementary school level. The course designer must then determine the evaluation matrix to be used, textbook or resource materials, and how this course fits into the overall curriculum or program of study.

Once this information is reviewed and completed, the course outline or syllabus is provided to the educational consultants to complete curriculum alignment. During this process, the course aims and outline are compared to skill sets, educational expectations, prerequisites, and other courses. The purposes of this review are to ensure all courses fit into an overall education plan, to reduce the duplication of course materials, and to confirm that course aims tie into the needs of employers and subsequent course offerings.

In addition to new courses, all existing courses are reviewed on a set schedule to ensure curriculum alignment. The purpose of the review is to update course materials, review new resources and textbooks available, and ensure the course is still relevant. The process for existing courses varies in complexity based on the subject area and level of education. For example, an elementary school course in numeracy does not typically change over time. However, a high school course in sociology needs to be updated to reflect cultural changes that occur naturally over time.


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Post 7
@ysmina - I think a lot of places do take students' input into consideration when designing curricula. I'm willing to assume that at every college, students are given evaluation forms for every course where they can make suggestions for improvement both in terms of the course and professor.

I know this depends on the size of the department, but in smaller units, students actually have an exit interview with the chair or a dean or someone to address the effectiveness of the program.

Also, as a master's student, my department was undergoing an undergraduate curriculum change, and they solicited input from all of the recent undergrads about how things could be improved. They even asked me and other grad students who had come from other universities about how things were done there and what material we thought was most important for students.

Post 6

@cardsfan27 - I agree. No Child Left Behind went into effect when I was in high school, and I saw a pretty significant change in the way teachers went about their lessons. All of a sudden, we were given lots of practice tests, and the teachers were very focused on making sure we learned specific things.

Luckily, college is not that way, and the professors can teach in any way they see fit for the most part. I think it is interesting that the way college curricula are created is much different than the way school curricula are even though colleges are teaching above and beyond what high schools do.

I think the key for any curriculum alignment is for the needs of the students to be addressed in whatever way is most effective in the long run. Not just for students to pass a test.

Post 5

@TreeMan - I think you began to touch on an interesting point that educators at the grade school and secondary school level are not evaluated as much on overall knowledge of their students anymore. As long as the kids are passing the standardized tests, there is really no incentive for them to teach anything outside of that material.

It is basic economics, really. If the teachers get raises based on their students' success on the tests, they are going to put all of their effort into making sure that happens. Fortunately, there are some teachers who understand the importance of a well-rounded education and go above and beyond what is necessary for the standardized tests, but from my observations, those are becoming more and more rare.

Post 4

@ddljohn - I believe that is generally the case. I'm not an expert in education, but I have read a lot of material about how the No Child Left Behind laws have hurt a lot of programs and undermined the way children are taught.

I know in my state, the state education board created what were called learned objectives for every subject in every grade. Those objectives were then approved by the legislature, and it was the teachers' responsibilities to make sure the children were taught those things every year. There was really no magic to the system. The things that were taught weren't out of the ordinary, they were just what was expected at that grade.

Since No Child Left Behind went into effect, teachers and schools are judged on standardized test scores over general learning.

Post 3

Before the "No Child Left Behind" federal initiative was started, I believe there were standards determined at the local and state level for public school curricula. School boards, along with individual schools and teachers would contribute and decide on the curricula together.

I think after No Child Left Behind, things have changed. Aren't the public school curricula now decided on by lawmakers? I know that the federal government has placed very strict requirements as to what can be and cannot be in the curricula now. So school boards have no choice but to follow.

Post 2

@ysmina-- When it comes to higher education curricula, it's not possible to make generalizations. Because it really depends on the University, the program and what the principles and aims of the institution are.

There are state and national standards that academic institutions have to aspire to. Aside from that, the curriculum depends on what the program aims to achieve, what kind of knowledge it wants to get across to its students.

Universities definitely keep in mind how this knowledge will be used by their students after graduation in their specific job fields. In some cases, they also seek opinions of students. Especially if a curriculum is being renewed and if there are courses that are not applicable or

as beneficial as they used to be.

I'm a master's student and my program director took advice from all graduate students in my program about a particular course which was consequently removed from the curriculum. So that definitely happens but maybe more often in smaller programs with a fewer number students. My program is quite small.

Post 1

Why doesn't higher education administrators and coordinators seek the views of students when deciding on curriculum? And to what extent are the skills that will be required in that career field considered?

I don't know too much about curriculum alignment despite having gone to college. During college, it felt to me that the curriculum was decided on based on two factors. One was the provost required courses which had become the norm for this area of study in all educational institutions. The other seemed to be based on the interests of the Professors and the expertise which they had. After all, in order to add a new course to a curriculum, you have to make sure there is someone there to teach it.

Do you think that this is the right way to go about curriculum alignment? What about the interests of students and the skills and expertise they need for their careers?

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