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The Role Instructional Leaders Play in Cultivating Curriculum Development

The Role Instructional Leaders Play in Cultivating Curriculum Development

June 06, 2023

Curriculum: noun cur·​ric·​u·​lum kə-ˈri-kyə-ləm plural: curricula kə-ˈri-kyə-lə  also curriculums

  1. the courses offered by an educational institution  
  2. a set of courses constituting an area of specialization

Curriculum is a ubiquitous term perceived to be easily defined and understood by the masses. 

For students and their parents, it's the response to the age-old question, "What did you learn in school today?" For teachers, it is often viewed as what they teach on any given day. For instructional leaders, it's a bit more than the generalized word interpretation. 


For those who truly understand its meaning, the term curriculum is of the utmost importance. It is the most essential, influential, and powerful educational component. It possesses the ability to generate and sustain significant change. It is their lodestar. 


With it, student growth, instructional accountability, and innovation can thrive. Without it, inconsistencies, misconceptions, and stagnation are inevitable.


Curriculum development and oversight is a complex, multifaceted task for instructional leaders. As a Director of Curriculum and Instruction, I find myself living in the two very different worlds of compliance and innovation simultaneously. 


State and local guidelines, standards, and mandates must be met. Relevant, rigorous, and highly engaging student-centered objectives and activities must be designed. Assessment experiences must be purposeful and connected, allowing students to apply and transfer their learning to new real-world situations. 


Resources must be accessible to all. All of these "musts," along with a laundry list of other musts, must be accomplished, but how?

Familiarity and Understanding in Curriculum Development

Becoming familiar with content standards is a solid starting point for any curriculum development journey. Understanding the content and student work output expectations outlined by subject area standards allow curriculum leaders and writers to design clear and concise curricula documents indicating for teachers what to teach and when to teach it (Schmoker, 2023). 


Standards-driven curricular coherency increases teachers' instructional efficiency and effectiveness. It allows teachers to generate innovative and meaningful activities and assessments. Their time is no longer spent deciding what to teach and when. They are no longer unthinkingly following the path outlined in a resource due to a lack of direction or because they feel they have to because nothing else exists. 


Coherent standards-aligned curricula clearly demonstrates to educators what is of utmost importance and provides them with multiple opportunities to utilize their professional knowledge and judgment to ensure their students can apply and transfer knowledge. 

A Need for Active Participation in Curriculum Development

Instructional leaders need to actively participate in the management and development of curricula. Reflection paired with the establishment of accountability measures is crucial. 


Instructional leaders need to recognize when curriculum changes are necessary and work with teachers and other administrators to continually evaluate curricula and ensure that it meets state standards and mandates, district goals, and student learning needs.


Standards-driven curricula audits paired with teacher surveys paint a clear picture of curricula strengths and weaknesses. Adjustments can easily be made, and relevant professional learning opportunities for teachers can be planned. 


Collaborative conversations focused on instructional beliefs and best practices valued at the local level can take place (DuFour & Marzano, 2011). Instructional and assessment frameworks evolve and take a definite shape when educators and administrators truly understand what students need to know.  


The Eduplanet21 software, supported by a committed Customer Success Team and optional Consulting services, can help you approach curriculum design and review in a collaborative, systematic way. You can hear more about Livingston’s Curriculum Journey in this recording, or reach out to see how we can help.


About the Author

Jennifer Loniewski has been an educator for over twenty years. She currently is the Director of Elementary Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development for Livingston Public Schools (N.J.). Before serving in her current role, Mrs. Loniewski was the Principal of Randall Carter Elementary School and the Grades 6-8 ELA and Social Studies Assistant Principal for Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development for Wayne Township Public Schools (N.J.). 


Prior to becoming an administrator, Mrs. Loniewski was a classroom teacher for ten years. She has taught every elementary grade level and was also a Gifted and Talented Teacher, Basic Skills Intervention Teacher, and Accelerated Math Teacher.


Mrs. Loniewski graduated from The College of New Jersey, where she studied Elementary Education and History. She also holds a Master's degree in Educational leadership from The College of Saint Elizabeth.  


"Curriculum." Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2023.


Marzano, R. J., & Dufour, R. (2011). Leaders of Learning: How District, School, and Classroom Leaders Improve Student Achievement. Solution Tree Press.


Schmoker, Mike. Results Now 2.0: The Untapped Opportunities for Swift, Dramatic Gains in Achievement. ASCD, 2023.

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