ISTE Coaching Standard 3 ISTE Coaching Standard 3.b ISTE Coaching Standard 4.3.C

Digital Curriculum Adoption Processes

Digital Curriculum Word Cloud, Dunworth (2022).

Selecting the right curriculum is what can make or break a teaching experience, both for the success of the educator and the learning experience of the students. For Module 1 I investigated how to best support the evaluation and adoption process of different digital learning curricula and digital learning tools. I wanted to discover what the major “checklist items” are or should be when working through the adoption process. Additionally, I was interested in how districts evaluate whether or not a curriculum aligns with culturally relevant pedagogy practices when reviewing new curricula for adoption. 

My question was: with culturally relevant pedagogy in mind, when partnering with teachers, what are effective strategies for evaluating digital learning content during the curriculum adoption process? What does/ should this process look like?

This aligns directly with the ISTE Coaching Standard 3: Collaborator. Specifically 3B: “partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate, and aligned to content standards” (ISTE, n.d.). The question also aligns with 3C: “partner with educators to evaluate the efficacy of digital learning content and tools to inform procurement decisions and adoption” (ISTE, n.d.).

There are multiple websites that offer evaluation tools and rubrics for evaluating curriculum. I found one that offers tools for higher education professionals from EduCase. One thing I really like about the rubric is that it is licensed under the Creative Commons, making it shareable and easy to access. This rubric includes 8 different categories for evaluation: Functionality, Accessibility, Technical, Mobile Design, Privacy, Data Protection, and Rights, Social Presence, Teaching Presence, and Cognitive Processes (Anstey & Watson, 2018). It has sub-categories and scores for each of the categories. As a teacher, I love rubrics. The only thing the rubric does not cover is whether or not the tool meets the teaching standards for whatever state or district you are located in. I believe this is because the tool was designed for higher education. I feel like the tool could be easily adapted by a state or school district in order to meet individual needs. The idea of developing curriculum evaluation rubrics for the digital curriculum adoption process, directly aligns with ISTE Coaching Standard 3C.

Culture, Community, & Student Voice (Dunworth, 2022)

While it is important to evaluate the curriculum for the items mentioned above, it is also critically important to include student voice and the community. In Washington state, the community has input through their local school board. The real question is how do you address student voices in the adoption process?  Hamilton (2018), encourages teachers to partner with students to determine curriculum choices. This is of particular interest to me because the example is with middle school students. The teacher clearly has standards to address and teach to, but she has spent the time building community and interest in her subject matter in such a way as to allow students to drive the learning for the second half of the year. Students came up with the topics that they wanted to explore based on their experiences in the classroom. My wondering is, how would that work if you work in a district that has a strict curriculum pacing guide and how do you account for that in the adoption process?

Another method for evaluating curriculum, that includes the checklists above, is proposed by Hosie, Schibeci, & Backhaus (2005). They argue that checklists are useful for evaluating online curricula but that higher education faculty need more data than can be provided by a checklist. They advocate for the use of context-bound evaluations which is an evaluation with the intended audience of the learning materials. This would be similar to when schools do a pilot program for different curricula prior to purchasing. This not only gives students a voice, but it allows teachers to experience what it is like to teach the materials. While this study focused on higher education, I firmly believe and advocate in allowing for student voice at the secondary level as well. This is a wonderful opportunity to perform pilot programs for new curricula that are being proposed. 

When we allow for student and community involvement, we begin to address the need for culturally relevant material that is aligned with the standards, ISTE Coaching Standard 3b. According to Will and Najarro (2022), culturally relevant pedagogy is a combination of student learning, cultural competence, and critical consciousness. Culturally responsive teaching is taking the students’ customs, characteristics, experience, and perspectives into account in order to create a better classroom learning environment. These customs, characteristics, experiences, and perspectives can and should be taken into account when going through the curriculum adoption process. Allowing for student voice will help to determine if the curriculum is culturally appropriate for the intended student body.

Based on my research I have developed a blended checklist from the above sources and my own input based on the curriculum adoption process in the district where I work: 

Digital Curricula Evaluation (Dunworth, 2022).

The reason I decided to put together my own tool is that from my research, I realized that there simply is not a one-size fits all approach that will work for curriculum adoption of any kind. Secondary schools have different laws and regulations that they must comply with, as opposed to higher education and adult education. In addition to the laws and regulations, secondary schools are also bound by state standards. I wanted to develop something that I could bring back to my district that I knew would check all of the boxes for our community. 

Another important thing to keep in mind when adopting a new digital curriculum are the following challenges: digital immigrants. According to a 2017-2018 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, 28.1% of teachers in the United States are 50 or older (NCES, 2017-18). Meaning that many of these teachers may not be 100% comfortable with adopting online/digital curricula. Prensky (2005) also talks about the one-to-one barrier that many schools are still facing 17 years after his article was published. Covid-19 has shown us just how much our schools are lacking in digital resources. At the start of the pandemic, spring 2020, only 45% of public schools were able to send devices for learning home with students, that number dropped to 20% in private schools (NCES, 2022). While more schools are moving towards 1-to-1 devices, it is a sometimes slow and laborious process, not to mention expensive. Many districts, especially the more rural ones, are lacking the infrastructure to go digital, in addition to the financial resources for purchasing devices in  large quantities.

There is no perfect rubric for evaluating online curriculum. Part of the reason for this is because the digital education field is constantly evolving and changing. The other part of the reason is that every learning institution is different. They have their own needs, requirements, and each community is unique.


Anstey, L., & Watson, G. (2018, September 10). A rubric for evaluating e-learning tools in higher education. EduCase Review.

Choppin, J., & Borys, Z. (2017). Trends in the design, development, and use of digital curriculum materials. Mathematics Education, 49, 663-674.

Dunworth, M. (2022). Culture, Community, & Student Voice

Dunworth, M. (2022). Digital Curricula Evaluation.

Dunworth, M. (2022). Digital Curriculum Word Cloud.

EdReports. (n.d.). Selecting for quality: 6 key adoption steps. EdReports.

Education Elements. (n.d.) Curriculum adoption & strategy: Develop a school district curriculum strategy that recognizes that changing needs of students. Education Elements.

Hamilton, H. (2018, May 21). Guiding students to drive their curriculum: A structured framework for engaging middle school students in planning out their own lines of inquiry. Edutopia.

Hosie, P., Schibeci, R., & Backhaus, A. (2005). A framework and checklists for evaluating online learning in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 30(5), 539-553.

Hudson, T. (2014). Best practices for evaluating digital curricula. DreamBox Learning, Inc.

International Society for Technology in Education. (n.d.). ISTE Standards: Coaches. International Society for Technology in Education.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2017-18). Average and median age of public school teachers and percentage distribution of teachers by age category, sex and state: 2017-18. National Center for Education Statistics.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2022, February 22). Schools took immediate steps at the beginning of Covid-19 to connect students to online learning, NCES report shows. National Center for Education Statistics.

Prensky, M. (2005, December 2). Shaping tech for the classroom. Edutopia.

Sztabnik, B. (2020, December 18). 3 Questions to contemplate before adopting new technology. Edutopia.

Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (2020). Instructional material adoption: Roles and responsibilities in the process.

Will, M., & Najarro, I. (2022). What Is Culturally Responsive Teaching? Education Week, 41(33), 16–18.Workforce EdTech. (n.d.). Tool evaluation criteria. Workforce EdTech.

4 replies on “Digital Curriculum Adoption Processes”

Hi Melissa, I love the checklist that you created! It’s great that you can create something that’s more tailored to your district’s needs. Just like you said, a one-size-fits-all approach does not work. I also like the idea of context-bound evaluations. Piloting a new curriculum and testing it out with students seems like the best way to ‘test-drive’ it and get authentic feedback from staff and students. Thank you for sharing!

Thanks for sharing a great post, Melissa. Your Digital Curricula Evaluation checklist is impressive and inspiring for educators adopting the curriculum. I love your last statements that the other part of the reason is that every learning institution is different. They have their own needs and requirements, and each community is unique. Therefore, your rubric model will inspire and invite other adjustments and developments.

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