Component Overview: Instruction and Curriculum Process

In the Getting Started: Instructional Practices section of the Portal, the leadership team looked at practices that academic research has identified as being effective at supporting student learning. The team then selected instructional practices to support across the organization.

In this Instruction and Curriculum section of the Portal, the Instruction Preparation component develops a plan and tools for supporting these selected practices. The Curriculum Preparation component provides guidance to help with developing a plan to prepare the scope and sequence, unit plans, and instructional materials to support the selected practices.


In this Instruction and Curriculum component, actions and resources are recommended to help educator teams build and sustain continuous improvement cycles. Improvement Cycles are a strategy that teams “can use to make meaningful changes, alleviate barriers, embed solutions, and achieve expected outcomes” (NIRN). The steps in an improvement cycle are Plan-do-Study-Adjust (PDSA). Specifically, NIRN defines the work in each of those steps as:

Plan: identify barriers or challenges, using data whenever possible, and specify the plan to move programs or innovations forward as well as the outcomes that will be monitored.

Do: carry out the strategies or plan as specified to address the challenges,

Study: use the measures identified during the planning phase to assess and track progress, and

Adjust: decide how to adjust the next iteration of the plan to improve implementation. (adapted from NIRN)

To help teams use PDSA cycles to support improvements in curriculum and instruction, guidance for the following work can be found in this component:

Plan: Design professional learning opportunities for the selected practice and curriculum (Note that action planning guidance is also embedded in the Instruction Preparation and Curriculum Preparation strategies.)

Do: Gather data on implementation and supports.

Study and Act/Adjust: Evaluate the effectiveness of the supports for instructional improvement and curriculum development.

What are instruction and curriculum processes and why are they important?

Curriculum and instruction processes are an aspect of continuous improvement for the standards based education system. This process is designed to reduce curriculum disparities existing across sites and school organizations by publicly identifying what is important for educators to teach and for learners to be able to demonstrate, and therefore should be reviewed in a defined process. Academic standards guide instruction, curriculum, and assessment in an organized and meaningful manner, and help to inform the allocation of instructional resources by clarifying the goals of instruction (McDonnell, McLaughlin, & Morison, 2004).

As educational outcomes for learners are affected by the content that educators teach and in the instructional methods they use, selecting the appropriate curriculum and instructional practices are critical steps in ensuring that the standards are addressed and all students are engaged in their learning.

Some important considerations for evaluating how well the instructional strategies worked include:

· Do learning activities reflect professional research?

· Are learning activities directly connected to instructional goals?

· Are the standards and benchmarks addressed in an engaging and meaningful manner?

· Are the diverse needs of all students addressed?

· Are the instructional practices being implemented with fidelity?

· Are the learners able to demonstrate mastery of the standards?

· Are students empowered to use their cultural experiences in academic course work?

· Are educators provided with access to high-quality, standards-aligned curricular materials?

· Are the materials and activities accessible to all students?

Some important considerations for curriculum include:

· Does the curriculum sequence support the desired learning progression?

· Do the curriculum materials and other materials support the selected instructional practices?

· Do the curriculum materials provide opportunities to differentiate instruction based on student needs?

· Are the materials and activities accessible to all students?

· Do the materials and activities build on previous knowledge and anticipate student misconceptions?

· Can learners choose from, adapt, or create curriculum materials to tailor/enhance their own learning?

How do we carry out the instruction and curriculum processes?

Guidance and resources throughout the Portal are specifically designed to support educator teams with instruction and curriculum processes. The following important actions are recommended:

1. Design Professional Learning: Design professional learning to support selected instructional practices and plans for curriculum development.

2. Gather Data on Supports for instructional practices and curriculum. While implementation is occurring and being supported, teams gather the data necessary for making decisions for continuous improvement.

3. Evaluate Supports: Use a protocol or tool to analyze and respond to data in order to evaluate and adjust the supports being provided for implementation.


McDonnell, L. M., McLaughlin, M. J., & Morison, P. (Eds.). (2004). Educating One and All: Students with Disabilities and Standards-Based Reform. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Framework 5: Improvement Cycles. National Implementation Research Network. (Link to the webpage).