Peter Oliva's Ten General Axioms of Curriculum Development


  • Curriculum change is inevitable, necessary, and desirable. Schools and school systems grow and develop in proportion to their ability to respond to change and adapt to changing conditions. Society and its institutions continuously encounter problems to which they must respond.

  • Curriculum both reflects and is a product of its time. The curriculum responds to, and is changed by, factors such as social forces, philosophical positions, psychological principles, accumulating knowledge, and educational leadership at its moment in history.

  • Curriculum changes made at an earlier period of time can exist concurrently with newer curriculum changes. Curriculum revision rarely starts and ends abruptly. Changes can coexist and overlap for long periods of time. Usually curriculum is phased in and phased out on a gradual basis.

  • Curriculum change depends on people to implement the change. People who will implement the curriculum should be involved in its development. When individuals internalize and own the changes in curriculum, the changes will be effective and long-lasting.

  • Curriculum development is a cooperative group activity. Significant and fundamental changes in curriculum are brought about as a result of group decisions. Any significant change in the curriculum should involve a broad range of stakeholders to gain their understanding, support, and input.

  • Curriculum development is a decision-making process in which choices are made from a set of alternatives. Examples of decisions curriculum developers must make include what to teach, what philosophy or point of view to support, how to differentiate for special populations, what methods or strategies to use to deliver the curriculum, and what type of school organization best supports the curriculum.

  • Curriculum development is an ongoing process. Continuous monitoring, examination, evaluation, and improvement of curricula are needed. No curriculum meets the needs of everyone. As the needs of learners change, as society changes, and as new knowledge and technology appear, the curriculum must change.

  • Curriculum development is more effective if it is a comprehensive process, rather than a “piecemeal” process. Curriculum development should not be a hit or miss proposition, but should involve careful planning and be supported by adequate resources, needed time, and sufficient personnel.


  • Curriculum development is more effective when it follows a systematic process. A set of procedures, or models, for curriculum should be established in advance, and be known and accepted by all who are involved in the process. The model should outline the sequence of steps to be followed for the development of the curriculum.

  • Curriculum development starts from where the curriculum is. Most curriculum planners begin with existing curriculum. Oliva advises planners to "hold fast to that which is good."


From: Oliva, Peter F. Developing the curriculum: Sixth edition. NY: Longman 2003, pp 28-41.