Curriculum Design Banner


Designing a curriculum is ideally something that is first of all effective and matches assessment with what is taught on a course. However, it also aims to give students a broader perspective. This approach to design is not only shaped by knowledge of your subject but by the many internal and external influences that impact on the academic content of the University’s modules and programmes. These influences include:

  • departmental and institutional Learning and Teaching assessment strategies
  • broader debates in Higher Education and assessment strategies
  • professional accreditation requirements

For many, an essential step in the design and development of the curriculum is an understanding of the role of Constructive Alignment (Biggs, 1999). Its primary focus is to ensure that there is a clear and direct relationship between the learning outcomes students are expected to meet, the methods by which they are assessed and the learning activities  designed to enable them to achieve the Intended Learning Outcomes. Consequently, this process needs to be both transparent to students and across a department.

One of the many influences in shaping the design of the curriculum is the expectations for a Sheffield Graduate. By the time they graduate, the University aims to enable all graduates to demonstrate that they are:

  • knowledgeable in their subject area
  • equipped to work collaboratively and confidently both outside and across disciplines
  • confident in applying their knowledge and skills to authentic challenges
  • able to exhibit ethical behaviour
  • experienced in the processes and methods of research
  • a critical and analytical thinker
  • creative and innovative, and able to understand and manage risk
  • equipped with appropriate information and digital literacy skills
  • confident in considering issues within local, national and international contexts, equipped to work in diverse cultural settings
  • aware and respectful of a range of perspectives and considerate of diversity
  • experienced at working in partnership with others, including comunities and external partners
  • able to translate and adapt knowledge, and apply lateral thinking in problem solving
  • a lifelong learner who understands the importance of continual development
  • an excellent team worker, and able to manage their time efficiently
  • a skilled communicator, comfortable with different styles and audiences
  • reflective, self-aware and able to take ownership of their own learning
  • professional and adaptable, resilient and flexible in their approach.

In addition to providing students with specific goals, this definition can serve as a framework for you in creating a curriculum that supports your students in meeting these objectives.

Attributes for the Sheffield Masters Graduate can also be downloaded from the same page.

This section of the Toolkit explores some of the steps and approaches to consider in developing your curriculum.

Top tips

  • Take a holistic approach to module and programme design; think about where the module fits into the programme as a whole. See Information-Sharing Session for Module Tutors
  • Think about what you want students to know before thinking about content. See Taxonomies of learning aims and objectives: Bloom, neoBloom, and criticisms (Draper, 2011).
  • Consider the wider resources you need for your module as well as the material that will be covered in face-to-face teaching. The Library can provide support in pulling together resource lists.
  • Discuss how your department submits modules and programmes for formal approval with your Programme Convenor or Departmental Director of Learning and Teaching.
  • Review the Proposal for a New Unit form (E1)  to be aware of expectations. Ask your Programme Convenor if you can see previously approved modules which may serve as a guideline.


Bullet Biggs, J. (1999). Teaching for Quality Learning at University, (SRHE and Open University Press, Buckingham)

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The employability strand of the Learning and Teaching Strategy 2011-2016 aims to help students “articulate what they can do as a result of their academic study and related or extra-curricular activities.”