Curriculum Design

A “school design” is much more than curriculum but involves thinking through many aspects of the life of a school: educational objectives; choice of curriculum; rewarding and developing faculty; assessment systems; the culture of a school; school calendar; schedule; and hundreds of other decisions, each affecting one another.

As a new school, Avenues has had the unique opportunity to design its curriculum, and the other components of a school design, from scratch. Any curriculum design, however, is based on a number of well-established factors, including national and local standards and the school’s mission.

Avenues’ curriculum design process begins with consideration of these factors and then uses what Grant Wiggins, a nationally recognized educator, called “backwards planning” in his approach called “understanding by design (UbD.)” This approach focuses first on the outcomes desired, then works backwards, plotting the steps that will produce those outcomes. UbD helps teachers clarify learning goals, devise assessments that reveal student understanding and craft effective learning activities. Developed by Mr. Wiggins in association with Jay McTighe, UbD’s key idea is that a primary goal of education should be the development and deepening of student understanding, which is most effectively revealed when students can transfer what they have learned in one area to understanding in other areas. By defining what student outcomes they want to achieve, teachers then work backwards to develop their curriculum to reach those goals.

A major component of the resulting curriculum design is a good assessment program, which will allow teachers and administrators to evaluate how students are progressing and where they need to go. The curriculum can then be adjusted to respond to students’ needs, improving and strengthening it through many iterations, with more detail added with each iteration.

Curriculum design, then, is not a one-time process. The school is constantly reexamining the curriculum, fine-tuning and improving it, both during the school year and at the end of each year.

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Curriculum design is not a one-time process but entails constant fine-tuning and improvement.

Recent Articles from OPEN, our news and discussion blog

February 14, 2019

Writing Persuasive Letters in Chinese

by Ting Wang, Upper Division Chinese Teacher


The 7th grade Mandarin Chinese class moved on to complete a new project, called “给校长的建议信,” or ”writing persuasive letters about school issues to the head of school.”  

February 12, 2019

Incorporating Snow into a Lesson

by Meagan Gutierrez, Kindergarten Teacher


What do you do with a classroom full of kindergarteners when it snows? 

February 8, 2019

A Memorial Project for a Controversial Figure

by Ron Widelec, Upper Division History Teacher


The 11th grade U.S. history classes were tasked with breaking into small groups and designing a memorial for Andrew Jackson that somehow took into account the complex nature of his presidency.  

February 7, 2019

A Campsite for City Kids

by Alexandra Gerba, Pre-kindergarten Teacher


The pre-K Penguins and Seals decided to turn our uninspiring dramatic play corner into a full working campsite – a close getaway that would feel quiet and cozy.  

February 6, 2019

Totally 80s Chorus Concert

by Neil Ginsberg, Upper Division Vocal Music Teacher


This winter, the 7th and 8th graders of Avenues presented their "Totally 80s" chorus concert. These 21st-century students explored the history, fashion and culture of the late 20th century through the lens of 1980s music.  


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