Guiding Principles for Curriculum Review

By Patti Dyjur, Curriculum Development Specialist

How we make decisions about the curriculum review process depends on our values about curriculum, teaching and learning. At the University of Calgary, the following principles help to guide the review process, thereby shaping the results:

  • Contributions from and collaboration among instructors
  • Evidence-informed
  • Focus on student learning
  • Program-level perspective
  • Continuous improvement

Contributions from and collaboration among instructors

Curriculum review is a “collaborative, faculty-led critical examination of an academic program for the purpose of optimizing the learning outcomes of that program” (University of Calgary, 2013). Broad participation in the review yields a more robust review than if a single individual carries out the mapping and review process. Additionally, participating in analyzing the data and developing the action plan foster valuable discussions about curriculum and improving the learning experience for students (Wolf, 2007).


Valuable data sources for any curriculum review include the output from curriculum maps, student data, and data from the Office of Institutional Analysis such as enrollment statistics. Depending on the program, other data may be salient such as alumni surveys, instructor surveys or focus groups, and employer surveys. Each review might be a bit different as the curriculum review team decides which data are most important to the review.

Focus on Student Learning

According to the Academic Quality Assurance Handbook – Curriculum Reviews (2013), curriculum reviews are a “formative component of the overall quality assurance strategy and are focused on the continuing development of students’ learning experiences.” Therefore, the central purpose of the review is to enhance student learning.

Program-level Perspective

Instead of looking at courses as discrete units of instruction, curriculum review examines the program as a whole and the learning experience of students throughout the program. Courses are examined in the context of how they contribute to student learning over the program: the sequence of courses, the scope of each one and how expectations of students build throughout the program, the teaching and learning activities and student assessments in each course and how the diversity contributes to a well rounded, valuable learning experience for students.

Continuous Improvement

At the University of Calgary the curriculum review process will be conducted every 5 years (for certain programs it will be every 7 years), with an interim report half way through the cycle to outline progress made on the previous report. The goal is to make curriculum review part of the normal practice of faculties and departments, not a one-off report to be completed and forgotten.


University of Calgary. (2013). Academic quality assurance handbook curriculum reviews.

Wolf, P. (2007). A model for facilitating curriculum development in higher education: A faculty-driven, data-informed, and educational developer-supported approach. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 112(15-20). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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