Ask Me Anything sessions: Mon-Fri 9–10 am, 3–4 pm; Te Puna Aurei LearnFest Weds 24 November


Curriculum development and course design

The teaching developers at CeTTL work to assist tertiary teachers to develop awareness of the decisions to be made in the process of curriculum design/development and course design. These decisions involve true collaborative work within any programme and a number of factors to be considered and thought of within the constructive alignment framework and in relation to students, teachers and the teaching contexts.

At the core of course design lies

(a) writing precise learning outcomes that incorporate knowledge, skills and attitudes, and

(b) thinking how to align outcomes, teaching strategies and assessment tasks.

Outcomes-based approach

An outcomes-based approach to paper design places the students’ expected learning at the centre of the design process, but the outcomes need to be developed in conjunction with the other components of the paper in order to offer the students an integrated learning experience. They should not be seen and used as institutional obligations which are imposed on a sequence of classes that are based on topics.


Learning outcomes are written at the threshold level, that is, they indicate the minimum level of learning that is hoped for in a particular area. The learning outcomes should be aligned with the assessment tasks and criteria. These help students to develop the required learning as well as evaluate the extent to which students have attained it. Likewise, the teaching and learning approaches should be designed to help promote the kinds of learning identified in the outcomes and supported through the assessment tasks.


As with everything in our teaching, we need to reflect on and evaluate our design in relation to our broader teaching and learning beliefs, feedback, research and our estimation of the quality of the students’ learning. This reflection and evaluation informs the next cycle of paper design.

Constructive alignment

The principle of constructive alignment was first developed by Biggs (2003) and has become a widely accepted framework for a form of design which aims to offer students a coherent, connected and integrated learning experience.

A quality education does not happen by chance; it requires careful planning, skilled teaching, and an overall structure that ensures that every student has the opportunity to reach the goals of the programme in which she or he has enrolled.

How we can help

If you are interested to know about curriculum design/development and course design or have practical information on these in your own teaching practice, please feel free to share with us. If you have tried-and-tested tips on these areas, please let CeTTL know, so that we can share good practice.

If you are interested in curriculum design/development and course design in greater depth, there is a specialised paper on this topic scheduled to be offered in future years, as part of the PGCert in Tertiary Teaching and Learning. For further details, please contact [email protected].

You are also very welcome to contact CeTTL staff at any time if you want to discuss ideas about these, or already have clear ideas and would like some support implementing them. We would love to work with you.


Biggs, J., & Tang, C. (2011). Teaching for quality learning at university (4th ed.). Maidenhead, England: Open University Press.

Bates, T. (2014). Teaching in a digital age: Guidelines for designing teaching and learning for a digital age. Retrieved from

Blackmore, P., & Kandiko, C. (2012). Strategic curriculum change. Abingdon, England: Routledge.

Ornstein, A., & Hunkins, F. (2016).  Curriculum: Foundations, principles and issues (7th Ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Smith, R. M. (2008). Conquering the content: a step-by-step guide to online course design. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Ako Aotearoa sources: