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Why Curriculum Analysis is Important to Curriculum Design

Why Curriculum Analysis is Important to Curriculum Design

February 27, 2023

Using Technology to Drive Student Achievement

It’s no secret that any software's data analytics tools and reporting features can turn seemingly unstructured data into easy-to-read insights that fuel better decisions. Using a tool like Google Docs or Microsoft Word over a curriculum management platform can seem like a great idea at first - it’s free, there’s little to no learning curve because these tools are so commonly used, it’s collaborative, and it’s flexible. Sounds great, right? 



Time and time again, leaders have come to the same conclusion: it wasn’t a good decision. 


Shortly after you begin your curriculum design journey, you’ll start to have a few minor concerns with inconsistency, lack of visibility, and the volume of documents becoming harder and harder to manage. Fast forward a few years, and suddenly you have folders upon folders containing, on average, 500-1000 curriculum documents in different formats, and you have absolutely no idea where your strengths and weaknesses lie aside from your assessment results. 


You are losing out on so many perks when you decide against a curriculum management platform, including the ability to analyze your curriculum. By not having access to curriculum data in an easy-to-read fashion, you are missing out on the ability to see if your organization is:

  • Teaching and assessing for all necessary national or state standards,
  • Addressing all state mandates you may be required to,
  • Effectively aligning to any school-wide goals that your team has developed, and
  • Creating effective and well-aligned learning experiences for students.

In this article, we’ll dig into a few ways leveraging curriculum analysis tools can completely change how you do your job.

Getting Started

The first step to leveraging curriculum analytics is to start building your curriculum. The one tip I would give any leader before they kick off this work is to create guidance for curriculum teams so that you get the consistency you’d like to see across all disciplines and grades. 


While a consistent template will help, adding some additional tips and tricks can also alleviate confusion and prevent reworking documents later on. Some things to consider may be:

  • Definitions of each area within your template
  • Common naming conventions
  • Rough character counts for unit descriptions
  • Guidance around the number of standards in each unit
  • How many Portrait of a Graduate goals should be included

This may seem too granular to some, but I have never heard a teacher ask for LESS guidance as they trek into unfamiliar territory.

Insights Come Early

As the work begins, do you need completely polished courses, units, or lessons to start seeing insights? Absolutely not. Even if you only asked teachers to choose the state or national standards they will be referencing in each unit, you will already be able to see where you may not be teaching students some key learning objectives, or where you may be incorporating a standard more than you need to. As you build in assessments and learning activities, those insights will only begin to grow.


Are you a private or independent school that is not using standards? No problem. You likely have a Portrait of a Graduate, Core Competencies, or Transdisciplinary Goals that are important to who you are as an institution. Analysis tools will also be able to give you feedback on which goals may be overrepresented or underrepresented and how each department contributes to the overall vision.


By using Eduplanet21’s Stage 1 Learning Goals Frequency report, you can see how many units are addressing each of your standards or schoolwide goals.


Stage 1 Learning Goals Frequency report

Checking Progress as You Build

As teachers or curriculum teams begin writing these documents, how do you keep track of the work that has been done? I’ve seen massive Excel or Google Sheets documents that teams use to keep track, or Curriculum Coordinators chasing up their teams to get an update. 


At Eduplanet21 it’s pretty simple. We’ve added a Unit Status Report to our analysis suite that provides an “at a glance” look for leadership to identify if their current written curriculum meets all necessary completion requirements determined by the school or district and to ensure curriculum is fully aligned. This report:

  • Provides leadership with an overview of where work needs to be done,
  • Shows concerns with alignment to standards and goals,
  • Provides a level of accountability for teachers who are required to develop complete units,
  • Provides building principals, supervisors, and department heads a summary of activity and necessary actions for their staff.

And the best part: it takes less than five seconds and five clicks to get all this information.

Designing a Well-aligned Curriculum

Determining the goals you plan to teach in a course, unit, or lesson is one thing. It’s another thing entirely to show the alignment to those standards and goals; how you are teaching them, and how you are assessing students for understanding. 


The ability to see that alignment and identify where you may have gaps or redundancies in your curriculum allows you to more easily identify the strengths and weaknesses in your design and planning. It also ensures a level of intentionality and makes it harder to just teach the “fun stuff.” Everything you do should have a direct relationship to the unit's goals.


The way we can accomplish this is by choosing the standards and goals each assessment or learning activity is addressing as we design them. This looks a bit different on every platform, but in Eduplanet21 it’s simple. Next to each assessment or learning activity, there is an area for alignment. You can choose the standards and goals you are addressing, and in turn, you will see those displayed next to the assessment or activity. 


Standards and Goals

Eduplanet21 also offers a unit alignment check. Let’s be honest, everyone loves color coding. This quick report available at the unit level allows writers to check to see if they have taught and assessed each of their goals for the unit. 

Unit Alignment Check

Better Assessments and Learning Experiences for Kids

Now that your units are created and well-aligned, you can start to dig deeper. What types of assessments are you creating? Are we only challenging students with multiple-choice assessments in Math? Are students being consumed with too many time-consuming projects all at once? How do you know?

Assessment and Learning Experience reports, that’s how!


One of my favorite international schools that I work with is focusing heavily on the idea of Balanced Assessment this year and thinking about how they, as a team, can be intentional about offering students different ways of demonstrating understanding and transfer. 


By adding a drop-down menu for assessment types to their template, this school can now search and filter by major projects, summative assessments, labs, etc. and see collectively what assessments exist in a given course. Furthermore, teachers can check and see the types of assessments that students will participate in at a particular time of year across all disciplines, which can aid in curriculum development and planning.


The benefits continue when we look at learning activities. By filtering by the type of activity or different instructional strategies that are at play, teachers can get a better macro view and understanding of how they will be engaging students in learning. They can also look at learning activities across different disciplines and connect to other classes to create more opportunities for transfer as students are introduced to new or familiar concepts.


Suddenly, we begin to find improvement in our horizontal alignment, all because we can visualize and condense the information we are looking for.

The Work Doesn’t End There

Curriculum should be living and breathing. It should reflect our beliefs and values as an organization, which change as the times' change. As you change the goals you align to or begin to incorporate different resources and technology, your curriculum documents can and should be evolving. As they evolve, so will your analysis reports. 

It is important as a leader to check these at least quarterly for changes, especially as new state standards are introduced, a large group of new teachers joins the school or district, or when you have a change in leadership.

Beware of Paralysis by Analysis

Analysis features can differ from platform to platform, so knowing what you’re looking for is important. It’s easy to get “paralysis by analysis," so try not to spend too much time and energy on the extensive reports you’ll be able to run. 


Instead, focus more heavily on the quality of those reports and how the information informs curriculum design and instruction. I also recommend having a problem you are trying to solve before delving into analysis reports. This ensures that your efforts are focused, and you don’t become consumed by looking at the data.

In a Nutshell

If you are a leader who is still developing curriculum in Google or another word processor, I highly encourage you to chat with a member of our team or begin researching the best option for your school/district for a curriculum management platform. The insights and information you will get back are worth the time and investment!


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