Last week, a student teacher approached me and asked for help. She was offered a job as a home tutor of English to a 9 year old student. She doesn’t know what to teach, how to teach. The girl’s parents don’t speak English. They have to rely on a professional teacher to offer intruction to her daughter. And my student teacher doesn’t know where to start either. I told her “Why don’t you meet and talk to them about the course? You can make decisions after you get enough information.” Gathering a lot of information to make a decision on a course can be called academically “needs analysis”. The purpose of this activity is to identify the learning needs of a particular group of students or an individual student. The student teacher has been working on this course of curriculum development, but she can not relate to the reality. Then she came across the situation, she started reflecting on what she has read and discussed in the class. Now, she know how to develop a curriculum from the beginning.
Curriculum development may mean many things to different people. It depends on the experiences and background knowledge. However, it basically includes different phases in an interactive manner. For a brand new program, we should rely on the information from needs analysis to set the goals and objectives for a course. But for a well-run program, this phase can be done along the process. The next important phase is to determine the assessment tools. We need to measure how much students achieve the goals. From now on, we can stick on syllabus design and materials development. It is also necessary to work on teacher orientation and support. A system must be set up to assisst teachers in the program, meanwhile we can monitor their performace. Last but not least, curriculum evaluation must be implemented to make timely changes for a better educational outcomes.
Talking about methodology, curriculum is a cake while methodology is a piece of that cake. Methodology mainly deals with teaching practices and the beliefs of the teachers for what they are doing. Teaching curriculum development for undergraduates may be overwhelming, but useful for them the get the whole picture. Teachers need to see the forest as well as the individual tree in that one.