Ask most experienced educators and they will likely tell you that a curriculum is an essential tool for any course. The curriculum provides a "big picture" of your overall goals and then helps you identify the practical steps to reach those goals, such as choosing the specific topics and teaching strategies. It may seem overwhelming to write a curriculum, but through the course of developing several of our own, we have learned a few important steps that can help you.
1. Evaluate yourself
What skills, passions and experience do you have that could benefit others? How does teaching fit into your career and lifestyle? How much time to do you have to devote to this course? Do you need additional training?
2. Define your target audience
Teaching a course that will meet the specific needs of every individual is nearly impossible. Instead of taking a "one-size fits all" approach, identify and market to a niche group of potential clients that will most benefit from your unique experience, skills and course offerings. It is often helpful to get specific about who would make an "ideal client" and consider their needs, interests, economic status, the area where they live, etc. The more you can define your ideal clients, the easier it will be to develop a course that meets their needs and determine the most appropriate setting for your courses.
3. What are the course goals and objectives?
It is important to consider both the broad, general intentions of the course (often called "goals") and the specific, measurable actions or outcomes of the course (often called "objectives"). For example, you could have a course goal that parents learn how to communicate their birth preferences and an objective that parents know three questions to ask if an intervention is suggested during labor. Write down as many goals and objectives as you can and then list them in order of priority.
4. Develop the lesson plans and teaching strategies
After you have written your course goals and objectives, create an outline of the content that you will include in the course to help you achieve your goals. Plan the specific teaching strategies you will use (group discussion, video, activity, etc.), the time for each topic and be sure to give the most time to the highest priority items.
5. Identify resources
Sometimes educators choose the course materials then develop the lesson plans or vice-versa. It is important that you evaluate the tools and materials that you will use to ensure they meet your needs and are up-to-date. Course materials include visual aids, parent resources (books, handouts, etc.), videos, PowerPoints, activities/games, etc.
6. Evaluate your course
Choose a few methods that you can use to evaluate the course and consider how well the course is meeting the needs of students. This could involve asking questions of your students, having students complete a survey or other tools to gauge their understanding. You can write your own evaluation of the course, too. It can be helpful to review your notes as you gain more experience. Use the evaluations to help you refine the course for next time.
It takes a lot of effort to create a curriculum. However, once it is completed, you have a valuable resource that can guide you for years to come. If you need help or would rather skip this process entirely, you can always use one of Plumtree Baby's curriculums as a foundation for your course.
Julie Olson, LCCE, FACCE
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