The ART of Curriculum Design: The “How”

3 Min Read  •  Arts Appreciation

Welcome to The Art of Curriculum Design.

In this six month series, we explore the fundamentals of curriculum design, via an Arts Appreciation course created through arts collaboration.

During our first week, we defined the language that will be used throughout the series (see intro article here), and last week we took looked at why curriculum needs to be designed (see that article here).

This week, we are going to look at how to pull it all together. Using principles from backward design, standards-based planning, and project-based learning, we designed the Arts Appreciation course by Planning like an Artist.  Artists begin with the end performance. Whether it is on stage, or in a gallery, the final performance is an assessment of everything our students have learned. Unlike traditional core class, our teaching is displayed for everyone to see.  Anyone can plan like an artist, this process can be completed for a unit, a quarter, a semester, or an entire year.

How to Plan A Curriculum Design Like an Artist.

Step 1: Begin with your standards.  Determine which standards you plan to assess.

Step 2: Build the assessment.  How can students demonstrate their mastery of the standards in a real-world project-based application?  I refer to this assessment as a performance assessment, because students will complete or perform a task to demonstrate their mastery.  This assessment is also the aim or outcome of the unit/semester/class. In other words, this is what you want your students to walk away with.

Step 3: Build the rubric.  How will you evaluate the task?  This rubric will be a living document as you plan. At this point, we are just taking a look at the final task, but as you design continue to revise based on specific milestones, skills, and techniques the students need to practice throughout.

Step 4: Set milestones.  What milestone steps or activities do the students need to be able to complete?  These can be small independent activities, or activities that lead to the final assessment.


Step 5: Map it out.  I like to print out a blank calendar and input all of the days off, vacations, testing days, assemblies etc. so that I know exactly how many days I have to work with.  Then I work backward, input when the final performance assessment due date will be, if students will present their final tasks, add dates for those presentations, and lot the dates for each of the milestones.

Step 6: Topics & Objectives.  Add in topics and objectives for each week.  At the end of this process, you should know exactly what needs to be covered each week in order to achieve each milestone.

Step 7: Daily Lesson Plans.  Now that you know where you are going and the milestones to get there, you can plan each daily lesson with purpose.

Planning Like an Artist ensures that students are demonstrating knowledge in a tangible real-world way, and gives purpose to every lesson.  It also allows educators to demonstrate the “why” of each lesson.

Piquès & Pirouettès

Next Week: Arts Appreciation, Planned like an Artist
Next week we will use these steps to design the curriculum for the Arts Appreciation course.