What High School Teachers Need to Know About Curriculum

HS Curriculum
High school arts curricula run from the very structured to the, “Hey, here is the course title. Teach whatever you feel falls under that umbrella!” That doesn’t make it exactly easy to understand or write curriculum for your high school classes.

Here are five important things to know about high school curriculum.


1. Don’t reinvent the wheel, invest in research.

There are some really great examples out there! Do a simple web search for “high school art curriculum” and you are bound to find some things you’ll love, some things you’ll hate, and a few things you can adapt. Here is the curriculum I have developed with my high school teachers for Intro to Art.

2. Think vertically.

What do you want your students to graduate knowing? What will it take to make them successful at the next step, whatever that may be? Figure that out (you might even ask a couple of nearby post-secondary institutions), and map backwards. Reach out to middle school and elementary school colleagues to make sure curriculum scaffolds appropriately.

3. Curriculum is just a map of what you teach, not how you teach.

Making sure kids know all of the stuff you want them to know is where strategies and instructional framework comes in. Check out Robert Marzano’s right here. How do you know you what students have learned? That’s where smart assessment comes in.

4. Lay it all out.

Don’t aimlessly wander through the year, be thoughtful and intentional. Map out your whole year, then get more detailed as each month approaches. Taking the AOE Designing Your Curriculum course can set you on the right path.

5. There is no RIGHT curriculum.

If there were, we’d all be teaching it. Art is such a broad and all-encompassing subject, we cannot assume one set of lessons is better than another. We can, however, keep reviewing and revising to meet the needs of our students.
Curriculum is not a fixed thing, it is dynamic, and should be intentional and supported by strong strategies. Whether you are designing your own, part of a curriculum writing team, or working from an established curriculum, keeping these things in mind will ensure that your intended curriculum is your enacted curriculum.

How do you go about curriculum planning at the high school level? 

Do you get to create your own curriculum from scratch, or are there guidelines you have to follow?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Sarah Dougherty

Sarah Dougherty, a visual arts curriculum coordinator, is a former AOEU Writer and elementary school art educator. She loves working with diverse populations to bring art into students’ homes, communities, and everyday lives.

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