The mission of Michigan State University Extension is to help people improve their lives through an educational process that applies knowledge to critical issues, needs, and opportunities. Creating curriculum materials to support this mission is an awesome undertaking. This site is designed to help you build the skills and knowledge base you’ll need to navigate through the curriculum development process.

Key Principles to Keep in Mind . . .

As you begin your journey, consider the following key principles of curriculum development:

  • Curriculum development is serious business! Developing high-quality curricula requires a serious commitment and a significant investment of money, time, and human energy. This is why a Project Request Form must be submitted to propose the development of any new materials.
  • Curriculum development requires a team approach. In curriculum development design teams, the whole truly is greater than the sum of the parts. By bringing together people with expertise in content or subject matter, youth development issues, adult education, experiential learning approaches and educational media - along with representatives of your target audiences - you heighten the creativity and quality quotient of your potential curriculum.
  • Good curriculum is steeped in significant conceptual development and research. This includes researching the specific need for a curriculum (including clearly identifying and knowing the characteristics of your potential audience) and connecting your curriculum to research on topics such as positive youth development, adult education, learning styles, the specific subject or content area, and experiential learning.
  • Getting input from potential audiences is a critical step in the process. By building in ways to get audience feedback throughout the curriculum development process, you help guarantee that your end product is relevant and useful. Having representatives from your potential audiences pilot materials, provide input through focus groups, or serve on your design team can all heighten the quality and authenticity of the process and final product.
  • Curriculum development is not a linear process! Although the "steps" involved are presented in a roughly linear fashion on this website, you’ll note that there are many connections back and forth, and that aspects of the process affect other parts along the way. If you’re looking for a process that’s straight-forward and simple to complete, you’re in the wrong business!
  • Curriculum is never really completely done! This ties in with the previous point that curriculum development is not a linear process. It will be a wonderful accomplishment to get to the point where you’ve completed your curriculum product, promoted it to a variety of audiences, and provided training to some targeted audiences. However, it’s critical to continue to study your audiences and their needs and to check the ongoing relevance of your materials. When that occurs, you’ve really come full circle in the curriculum development process.

Starting the Process

Before moving ahead with any curriculum development project, we strongly recommend that you or your work group complete and submit copies of the Project Request Form and the related worksheets that follow to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The more you prepare in the early stages, the smoother the overall development process and the better your final product will be.

Building the Team

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Creating the Framework

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Creating Drafts One Through Done

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Gathering Input & Moving to Final Production

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Celebrating, Sharing, Training On, & Evaluating Your Curriculum

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Curriculum Development Research

The content of this website is supported by information from research on educational curriculum, and specific sources are cited on the appropriate pages. The curriculum development resources in the list that follows are 4-H–centric, but the information in them can be adapted for use in many other types of educational materials.

  • Barkman, S. J., Machtmes, K., Myers, H., Horton, R. L., & Hutchinson, S. (1999). Evaluating 4-H curriculum through the design process: Pilot testing and collecting data for the 4-H National Jury Review Process [4-H 898]. Lafayette, IN: Purdue University.
  • Hendricks, P. A. (1998). Targeting life skills model: Incorporating developmentally appropriate learning opportunities to assess impact of life skills development. Ames: Iowa State University Extension. For information about the Targeting Life Skills Model manual, training packet and life skills wheel, visit
  • Horton, R. L., Hutchinson, S., Barkman, S. J., Machtmes, K., & Myers, H. (1999). Developing experientially based 4-H curriculum materials [4-H 897]. Columbus: Ohio State University Extension Publications.
  • National 4-H Council. (2012). Curriculum development. Chevy Chase, MD: Author. Retrieved from
  • National 4-H Council. (n.d.). Heads-on, hands-on: The power of experiential learning DVD and guide [Item 07901]. Chevy Chase, MD: Author.


This site was adapted from “Cruising the 4-H Curriculum Development Highway” which drew heavily on the expertise and skills of the members of the MSU Extension 4-H and the MSU Extension Children, Youth, and Family Programs curriculum development support teams. (Note: Positions given here were current as of May 1, 2015.)

  • Patty Adams, Editor, ANR Communications, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
  • Cheryl Howell, Director, Michigan 4-H Foundation
  • Priscilla Martin, Editor, MSU Extension
  • Rebecca McKee, Senior Editor, ANR Communications, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
  • Janet Olsen, Program Leader, MSU Extension
  • Karen Pace, Senior Program Leader, MSU Extension
  • Kathy Raphael, Associate Program Leader, MSU Extension
  • Marian Reiter, Graphic Artist, ANR Communications, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The information on the MSU Extension Curriculum Development Guide website is currently maintained by the ANR Creative team.