Concept Planning: A Concept Approach to Curriculum Design

Posted by on 15 July 2019

Curriculum design and development is a continuous, cyclic process that gives effect to the national curriculum in ways that best address the particular needs, interests, and circumstances of the school’s students and community. Since the NZC was launched, school communities have become increasingly diverse, technologies more sophisticated, and demands on schools more complex. A response to these challenges is needed to ensure that the curriculum fulfills the purpose for which it was intended.

The design of the curriculum for a full primary school, using the ‘Concept Planning’ approach, was carried out by an Ahead Associates consultant, at the request of the principal. In the principal’s view, curriculum planning had become a stressful chore for teachers and a low priority  in comparison with meeting assessment deadlines.  The school was facing student assimilation challenges and questions as to the efficacy of the curriculum to meet the changing needs of the school community were needing to be addressed.  Concepts were used as the vehicle to link the school vision and values to the NZC key competencies, principles and learning areas. Building on existing best practice and involvement of the whole school community were critical to the success of the project.   

For this school, the ‘Concept Planning’ approach to curriculum design;

  • ensured that the shape of the curriculum was beneficial and meaningful to the community
  • placed the voice and needs of the learner at the forefront, firmly embedded in planning and practice
  • made use of the natural connections that exist between learning areas, and that link learning areas and key competencies to the school values
  • contextualised teaching and learning and provided multiple opportunities for meaning-making and language acquisition  
  • acknowledged that all curriculum areas are equally valuable (there are no ‘lesser subjects’) and provided a wide and systematic coverage of objectives, in which children are sure to find opportunities to shine and to become engaged. 
  • enabled teachers to recapture the excitement of teaching (planning becomes less stressful and a higher priority)
  • involved a highly strategic approach, relying on input from the whole staff and in particular, the school’s most experienced educators