SOE Curriculum Process: A Beginning



The School of Education needs a systematic curriculum process that can be clearly understood by all faculty and easily followed by all Programs proposing curriculum items. The role of the SOE Curriculum Committee should be to insure that the highest standards of curriculum development are maintained, with regard to both process and product. The Committee should assist the curriculum development process rather than dominate it. The work of curriculum development and the responsibility for producing curriculum documents lies with the faculty of each Program.

The University Curriculum Process

Curriculum, according to the By-laws, is a matter for faculty initiative and faculty decision-making. The College and University administrations facilitate curriculum development and curriculum review by the faculty, and assess the implications of curriculum proposals for budget and institutional resources. In practice it is only for new programs (new degrees or certification programs) that adminstration approval is to be sought. The adminstration is represented by the Office of the Provost in this process.

A Program initiates a curriculum change. It can be as minor as a change in wording in the College Bulletin, or as major as the creation of a new degree-granting program or department. Anything that affects requirements for degrees, as legally specified in the Bulletin, is a curriculum matter. It must be approved by the Program faculty, by the SOE curriculum committee (CC), by the SOE Faculty, by the College Curriculum Committee (Graduate or Undergraduate), for new degrees/certification programs by the College Master Planning Committee as well, and by Faculty Council. New degree/certification programs must undergo review by the CUNY Office of Academic Affairs. Approved proposals are then entered into the Chancellor's Report by the College President (in practice by the Provost) for approval by the Trustees. New programs must also be approved by the State Department of Education. Only then do changes take effect.

Important Details

Curriculum items must be submitted in a precise format which is required for the Chancellor's Report. It is best to adhere to this format right from the first draft, and to add supplementary information in a separate, accompanying internal SOE document. Descriptions of the proper format and details are in the Guidelines listed below. The SOE should create simple word-processor templates for the various types of standard curriculum items (e.g. change in existing course, creation of new course, etc.) so that the necessary attention to such details can be built in to our curriculum documents from the outset, and with a minimum of fuss for faculty and Program Heads.

It is also important to remember that we are responsible for obtaining written statements of 'clearance' from other departments with whose responsibilities our curriculum proposals may overlap. It is wise to maintain contact with relevant departments from an early stage of the curriculum development process, even though formal clearance will only be sought before a document is sent to the responsible college-wide committee.

The curriculum process takes time; there are no shortcut or 'emergency' procedures. The two Bulletins are issued in alternate years, and if a Bulletin change is needed, the proposing program should be aware of its publication timetable. Each year the last Trustees meeting is in June, the last faculty council meeting to get items into the June Chancellor's Report is in May; six weeks lead time is needed for the college-wide committee to report an item to faculty council. Minor items could thus be approved at the April SOE meeting, more substantive ones need to be voted on, or at least fully discussed in March. The CC needs to have items at least 4 weeks before they can be placed before the SOE, and longer in advance for any major proposal such as a new course. Work on curriculum documents by program faculty should be completed in the Fall term for changes intended to take effect the following Fall. For new degree proposals, an additional semester's time should be allowed.

Quality Standards

Even more important than correct format and advance planning is the intellectual and academic quality of substantive curriculum proposals. Changes to existing courses or program requirements need a well-argued rationale. A short one-paragraph summary of this rationale appears in the document itself as 'Discussion', but the CC and the SOE may need a more extensive, separate justification. New courses should have much more substantial documentation, including:

New programs (new degrees or certification programs) require even more extensive documentation, including all of the above for each proposed new course, plus a comparable rationale for the program as a whole. There are separate and detailed guidelines, from the BC Master Planning Committee, and CUNY Academic Affairs, for new program proposals, including a two-stage proposal process with preliminary review by the BC Provost, CUNY Academic Affairs and the Trustees.

The role of the SOE Curriculum Committee is to define, interpret, and uphold these quality standards. The CC should advise program faculty from an early stage of the curriculum development process on how to improve proposals to meet the standards.

Sources of Information

Everyone involved in the curriculum process should have on hand or have ready access to the following essential sources of information:

The last of these needs to be developed by the Committee from its experience over the next year, beginning from a preliminary draft. The document should be available on the SOE website as well as in printed form.


The Document Flow Process

  1. FACULTY initiate and discuss curriculum change in Program meetings
  2. PROGRAM HEAD emails PRELIMINARY CURRICULUM DOCUMENT (PCD) to Acting Curriculum Coordinator (ACC) [in future, the Chair of the Curriculum Committee]
  3. Informal email dialogue between ACC and Program Head regarding PCD
  4. ACC forwards PCD to STAFF for distribution to Curriculum Committee members
  5. ACC and SOE Curriculum Committee raise questions to be answered in FORMAL CURRICULUM PROPOSAL, including identification of departments from whom Permissions need to be requested; ACC emails all information to Program Head.
  6. Program FACULTY draft FORMAL CURRICULUM PROPOSAL (FCP) in proper BC format
  7. Program Head emails FCP to ACC and certifies that format meets BC requirements
  8. ACC forwards FCP to STAFF for distribution to Curriculum Committee members
  9. ACC and SOE Curriculum Committee discuss and committee votes on FCP; Program Head or representative may be invited to attend a part of the meeting to answer questions.
  10. ACC requests that Program Head make any needed changes to FCP
  11. Program Head emails final, fully formatted and impeccable FCP to ACC
  12. ACC asks Assistant Dean to seek any needed permissions from other departments
  13. ACC forwards FCP to STAFF for distribution to all SOE voting faculty members
  14. SOE Faculty discuss and vote on FCP, with possible ammendments
  15. ACC requests that Program Head make any needed amendments to FCP
  16. Program Head emails Final FCP to ACC
  17. ACC asks Assistant Dean to confirm permissions from other departments if affected by amendments, or if initial clearance was conditional.
  18. ACC forwards Final FCP, any clearances, and cover letter to Assistant Dean for transmittal to College Curriculum Committee (10 paper copies and disk file) and to SOE Secretary for inclusion in the minutes of the SOE Faculty meeting at which it was approved.


Notes on the Electronic Document Process

This process is designed to make the flow of curriculum information simpler and more accessible to all those working on curriculum in the SOE. By having all the preliminary and frequently revised curriculum documents in electronic form, changes can be discussed more widely and new versions exchanged more quickly. In addition, draft versions can be posted to a special area of the SOE website for review by all SOE faculty, thus avoiding unforeseen problems at SOE meetings.

To make this process work, there must be some standardization of format. In general MSWord, WordPerfect, and the standard *.rtf (rich text format) are interconvertible, but details of formatting (e.g. italics in a bibliography item) can be lost. We will see what works best. In addition all program heads and all members of the committee must be able to create, edit, email as attachment files, and receive and open as attachment files, these documents. Members of the CC should probably also learn to convert file formats and prepare a document in HTML for posting on the website.


Prepared by J. L. Lemke, 12/98
not an official SOE document