Guiding Principles for Curriculum Development

Our approach to Curriculum Development is flexible, collaborative and based on evidence-informed processes and practices. Curriculum development at VCC is guided by the following principles:

Constructive alignment is an approach to course design where the three key elements of any course – learning outcomes, assessment methods, and teaching & learning activities – are intentionally aligned to ensure students can achieve the course learning outcomes. “Constructive” refers to the idea that students engage in deep learning and construct meaning through relevant and meaningful learning activities.  Alignment is what the instructor does to ensure that assessment tasks and teaching and learning activities support student achievement of the course learning outcomes. 

Constructive alignment

Image source: Let’s not take the constructive out of constructive alignment (

At the CTLR we use a Backward Design approach to course design to ensure that all elements of your course are connected (see image below).  In this model, you begin with what students should know and be able to do at the end of the course and then work backwards to design assessment tasks and learning activities. Contact an Instructional Associates who can walk you through the three stages of backward design.

Three Stages of Backward Design

Image source: Introduction: What is Backward Design? : An Introduction to Backward Design (

Adult learners have unique characteristics that are important to consider when designing your course and teaching and learning activities.

Adult learners:

  • are internally motivated and self-directed;
  • have a whole range of life experience and prior knowledge to draw on;
  • want to be actively involved in the learning process (adult learners will often have expectations about the learning process from past learning experiences);
  • are ready to learn when they assume new social or life roles (assuming these new roles involves change which can cause anxiety in adult learners);
  • often have a clear understanding of why they are learning and what they want to get out of it;
  • learn best by doing and solving real-life problems relevant to their lives;
  • appreciate learning experiences that have immediate application and benefit for them.

Another valuable model of teaching and learning principles to draw from are First Peoples Principles of Learning. Considering the whole student with a holistic approach, respect for individual learning journeys, reflexivity and reflectivity in learning design, valuing learning in community and in relationship, and land-based learning can benefit all students.

Designing a course with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles creates a learning environment in which all students can thrive and fully participate. With UDL, you can proactively address the needs of all your students through providing multiple means of representation, engagement, action, and expression within your content and instruction.

Visit our UDL and Accessibility page for more information and support.

learner-centered or student-centered teaching approach shifts the focus of activity from the teacher to the student and is shown to result in more successful learning and educational outcomes for students. Students’ prior knowledge, skill and diverse life experience are considered in the design of learning.

Active learning strategies are used to allow students to engage, process, and apply information. This can be done through group discussions, case studies, problem solving, role plays and other methods . Incorporating active learning into your classes increases student motivation and engagement, promotes higher-order thinking (i.e., application of knowledge, analysis, synthesis), and leads to deeper learning.

Learner-Centered Instruction

Image: Principles of Learner-Centered Instruction. Adapted from Parrish (2019)

Many of the principles of learning design can be applied to all delivery modes, whether face-to-face, blended, or online. Effective e-learning is best facilitated through purposeful design and ensuring that technology is being used well to engage and motivate students, and help them meet the learning outcomes. Consider beginning with this resource, 3 Key Effective Practices in Blended Hybrid Learning from University of Guelph.

Experiential learning can be traced back to the work of John Dewey (1938) but is most well-known from David Kolb’s (1984) four stage Learning Cycle:

Kolb's Learning Cycle

Experiential Learning provides student with the opportunity to apply the process of Doing – Reviewing – Concluding – Planning to real world experiences. The reflection stage is a key part of the process. Experiential learning benefits students with enhanced engagement, development of critical thinking and problem solving, improved academic success, and clearer connections between theory and practice.

Examples of Experiential Learning include:

  • Capstone projects;
  • Case studies;
  • Field experience;
  • Interactive simulations;
  • Virtual simulation;
  • Labs;
  • Performance-based learning;
  • Practicums or placements.


VCC has a series of quality assurance processes that are designed to strengthen and maintain its programs. This is the final piece of curriculum design in terms of evaluation and revision. These quality assurance processes include governance review, annual program review, program renewal, and short- and long-term academic planning activities.

VCC’s Strategic Innovation Plan provides a vision for campus and program development at VCC. It is guided by five strategic priorities:

  • Academic Innovation;
  • Campuses of the Future;
  • Operational Excellence;
  • Engaged Communities, and;
  • Empowered People & Inclusive Culture. 

VCC’s Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs) reflect the essential skills, abilities, and attitudes that VCC promotes in its programs and culture. Our Instructional Associates can work with you to identify how and where you can incorporate VCC’s strategic priorities into your academic programming.

Contact an Instructional Associate ( at any stage of your curriculum development for consultation and support.