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 22, 2018

Middle Grades Lunar New Year Celebration

by Ting Wang, Middle Grades Chinese Teacher


In class, middle grades students not only learned about the “do’s and dont’s” of Lunar New Year, they also learned about how Chinese people follow a day-by-day guide to do New Year’s preparation seven days before the Lunar New Year’s eve.  

February 15, 2018

The GO Project-Avenues Partnership

by Jennette Mullaney


Since 2012, Avenues has partnered with the GO Project, an educational intervention program that serves under-resourced children in New York City.  

February 13, 2018

Learning About the Filmmaking Process

by Rachel Kreibich, 5th Grade Head Teacher


Nick Shumaker, the father of one of our 5th graders, recently visited the Palms’ classroom to talk about the process of creating the animated film White Fang.  

February 7, 2018

Tactfully Approaching Strangers in a Second Language

by Spencer Baron, Upper Division Chinese Teacher


In Chinese 3-4, we are actively focused on our skills at making conversation. As we move across topics essential to daily life in Chinese, the one common thread is the opening. That very small but important dance of interaction between two or more people is where so many decisions are made about how to move forward and will dictate how friendly each side will decide to be 

February 6, 2018

A Picture Book Teaches Compassion

by Liz Salegumba, Pre-K Head Teacher


This fall’s earthquakes in Mexico and devastating storms in Puerto Rico deeply affected members of our teaching team. One of our teachers saw an opportunity for children to learn compassion with the use of Alvaro F. Villa’s Flood, a moving and wordless eBook.  


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