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Six-Steps in Curriculum Planning

This is an excerpt from Developmental Physical Education for All Children 5th Edition With Web Resource by Frances Cleland-Donnelly,Suzanne S. Mueller & David Gallahue.

Curriculum design protocols are similar regardless of content area. Here is a six-step approach to the process:

  1. Establish a value base for the program.
  2. Develop a conceptual framework.
  3. Determine program goals.
  4. Design the program.
  5. Establish program assessment procedures.
  6. Implement the program.


These six steps have been used for many years, both in education and in business and industry, and they are a commonly accepted way of doing what has come to be known as strategic planning. The process of strategic planning is simply a means of organizing a new program and putting it into action. Each step is discussed in the following subsections.


Establishing a Value Base

A necessary first step in all curricular planning is to establish the value base on which the curriculum is built. Your value statement represents your beliefs and rationale about the purpose and goals of physical education for children. Chapter 1 noted a suggestion by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies to the U.S. Department of Education designating physical education as a core subject since "physical education in school is the only sure opportunity for all school-aged children to access health-enhancing physical activity and the only school subject area that provides education to ensure that students develop knowledge, skill, and motivation to engage in health-enhancing physical activity for life" (Institute of Medicine Report of the National Academies, 2013, p. 2). When we value physical education as a way to help children achieve and maintain a healthy life, we substantially engage the goals of physical education:

The goal of physical education is to develop physically literate individuals who have the knowledge, skills and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of healthful physical activity. (AAHPERD, 2013b)


A physically literate individual

  • has learned skills necessary to perform a variety of physical activities,
  • knows the implications and benefits of involvement in various types of physical activity,
  • participates regularly in physical activity,
  • is physically fit, and
  • values physical activity and its contributions to healthful living.


Developing a Conceptual Framework

Any curriculum should be undergirded by a conceptual framework - that is, by essential concepts on which the curriculum is purposefully based. The conceptual framework provides the necessary link between the program design and your values and goals; as such, it clarifies, defines, and classifies the terms and concepts used in the curriculum. In a developmental physical education curriculum, the conceptual framework is composed of categories in child development, movement content and learning environment, and standards-based physical education. Figure 23.1 outlines the conceptual framework for the developmental physical education curriculum presented in this text.



Determining Program Goals

Once you have determined the value base of your curriculum and the conceptual framework that will govern its structure, you can determine the goals for the program. As you know from chapter 8, the national standards for K-12 physical education (SHAPE America, 2014) are based on the developmental needs of children; specifically, the standards take into account the phases and stages of motor development; the levels and stages of movement skill learning; children’s cognitive, fitness, and affective development; and the movement framework. As a result, the standards can be used to guide the goal-setting process for a developmental physical education curriculum. The exit goals for elementary physical education describe the behaviors that grade 5 students should exhibit on the path to becoming physically literate. Here they are:

  1. Demonstrates competence in fundamental motor skills and selected combinations of skills.
  2. Uses basic movement concepts in dance, gymnastics, and small-sided practice tasks.
  3. Identifies basic health-related fitness (HRF) concepts.
  4. Exhibits acceptance of self and others in physical activities.
  5. Identifies the benefits of a physically active lifestyle.


As you apply the standards to your program, you will need to decide which goals are emphasized, which goals are achievable or need to be modified, whether you have additional goals (Rink, 2009), and what summative assessments you will use to measure how well students have achieved the goals (see chapter 9 for summative assessments).


In determining the emphasis for each goal (standard), teachers can use their knowledge of children’s development in all domains. For instance, pre-K children are at the inconsistent level of fundamental movement skill development, whereas K-2 children are at the consistent level. The fundamental movement skills form the foundation for the movement activities in which children participate and serve as the vehicle for physical literacy and physical activity. Therefore, the primary emphasis for pre-K and K-2 children is to gain the fundamental skills (standard 1) and use movement concepts (standard 2). In turn, through appropriately designed movement experiences, children develop the mature movement patterns that lead to movement skill competence and the ability to gain the health benefits of regular participation in moderate to vigorous physical activity (standard 3). In addition, as children participate with others in the movement environment, they need structured opportunities to gain positive social interaction skills (standard 4) and recognize the value of physical activity for both enjoyment and challenge (standard 5).


With all of this in mind, figure 23.2 illustrates the emphasis that could be given to each standard as a result of the developmental needs of pre-K and K-2 children. The shift from 5 percent to 10 percent emphasis on standard 3 in grades 1 and 2 reflects children’s greater ability to be moderately to vigorously active as a result of gaining more maturity in movement skill performance.


Figure 23.2 Emphasis for each standard in pre-K through grade 5.
Emphasis for each standard in pre-K through grade 5.


In contrast, children in grades 3 through 5 have progressed to the combination and application levels of specialized movement skill development. Although some children remain at the combination level through grade 5, some others advance to the application level as early as grade 4 due to variation in children’s rates of physical development and opportunities to participate in organized physical activities (e.g., youth sport) outside of the school physical education program. More generally, grades 3 through 5 constitute a time of transition from fundamental to specialized skills (standard 1), from movement concepts to tactics and strategies (standard 2), from simple cooperation to teamwork and competition (standard 4), and from valuing physical activity for enjoyment and challenge to also valuing it for health and social interaction (standard 5). In addition, by grade 4, children’s systems have matured enough that they can begin applying the FITT guidelines in order to gain health-related fitness (standard 3). Figure 23.2 illustrates the emphasis that could be given to each standard as a result of the developmental needs of children in grades 3 through 5.

Learn more about Developmental Physical Education for All Children, Fifth Edition.