Ensuring Effective Curriculum Approval Processes: A Guide for Local Senates

Curriculum Committee


Curriculum is the heart of the mission of every college.  College curriculum approval processes have been established to ensure that rigorous, high quality curriculum is offered that meets the needs of students. While some concerns may exist regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of local curriculum processes, all participants in the process must remember - and remind external stakeholders - that the faculty of the California community colleges have long worked to ensure that their college curriculum approval processes are sufficiently robust and deliberative to ensure that standards for high quality and rigor appropriate for college curriculum are met and maintained.  Through their local senates and curriculum committees, California community college faculty are entrusted not only with the professional responsibility for developing high quality curriculum but also with the professional responsibility for establishing local curriculum approval processes and ensuring that local curriculum approval processes allow curriculum to be approved in a timely manner.  Students are best served when curriculum approval processes are efficient and effective and when they ensure a focus on the quality and rigor of the curriculum.  Therefore, local senates should periodically review their curriculum approval processes to determine if any improvements are needed and implement any necessary changes.

In recognition of the need for local senates to be provided guidance on ensuring the effectiveness of their local curriculum processes, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) adopted Resolution 9.01 S15:

Whereas, Colleges and districts have a variety of local curriculum processes, including timelines indicating when courses and programs are submitted to technical review committees, curriculum committees, academic senates, and governing boards;

Whereas, Timely curriculum processes are required for all disciplines and programs; and

Whereas, Colleges would benefit from a paper outlining effective practices for local processes on curriculum approval;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges survey curriculum chairs on the timeliness of their local curriculum approval processes by Fall 2015 and develop a paper on effective practices for local curriculum approval and present it to the field for adoption at the Fall 2016 Plenary Session.

As an initial response to the directions provided by Resolution 9.01 S15, the ASCCC Curriculum Committee drafted a survey on Curriculum Efficiency and Communication that was distributed to curriculum chairs and chief instructional officers in the spring of 2015[1].  The survey results, summarized in Appendix A, based on 143 responses from the field, provide an informative snapshot of the status of curriculum approval processes of the California community colleges as of spring of 2015.   The most notable results gathered from the survey include the following:

  • Seventy-seven percent stated that it takes less than six months to get curriculum through their local processes, from submission to the curriculum committee to submission to the governing board.
  • Ninety-five percent have a technical review process, and 86% stated that faculty typically require less than six months to prepare curriculum proposals for technical review.
  • Sixty-seven percent stated that their curriculum committees have been delegated the authority to make recommendations directly to the governing board.
  • Sixty-one percent stated that curriculum is submitted to the governing board for consideration monthly.
  • Fifty-eight percent stated they were from multi-college districts.  Of those, 56% stated that they have common/coordinated or aligned curriculum, and 44% stated that approval by a district curriculum committee is required.
  • Eighty-six percent stated that they provide training to the faculty on their curriculum committees.

The results of the 2015 survey demonstrate that a significant majority of colleges have relatively efficient curriculum approval processes.  However, local curriculum processes can still benefit from regular review and evaluation to identify areas of possible improvement.  As with any institutional process, and as a matter of good practice for ensuring the overall quality of the institution and its curriculum, local senates should regularly review, evaluate, and improve as needed their curriculum approval processes.

With the November 16, 2015, approval by the Board of Governors of the Report of the Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy(CCCBOG, 2015) that was focused on career and technical education (CTE), as well as with the development of the Community College Baccalaureate Degrees Pilot created by SB 850 (Block, 2014), effective and efficient curriculum approval processes are increasingly a subject of interest at the local and state level.  Many of the task force recommendations relate directly to curriculum and, more specifically, to ensuring that local curriculum processes function in ways that allow for community college CTE programs to respond effectively and in a timely manner to changes in industry and the workforce as well as to the needs of the communities they serve.  Although the recommendations focus on CTE, effective and efficient curriculum approval processes are beneficial to all programs.  Furthermore, accreditation requirements are also important factors that push colleges to establish efficient and effective curriculum processes that ensure a high-quality curriculum.

As a further response to Resolution 9.01 S15, and as an initial response to the Fall 2015 recommendations in the Report of the Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy, the ASCCC Curriculum Committee drafted the white paper Ensuring Effective and Efficient Curriculum Processes – An Academic Senate White Paper (ASCCC, 2015), and the Executive Committee approved this document in October 2, 2015 and distributed it to the field in November 2015.  The white paper provided the field with guidance focused on reviewing and revising curriculum policies and procedures as needed, and included examples of good practices for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of curriculum approval processes.  Finally, in recognition of the need for local senates to take leadership roles in addressing the Workforce Task Force recommendations at the local level and begin the process of evaluating their curriculum approval processes as soon as possible, the ASCCC adopted Resolution 9.08 F15 at the 2015 Fall Plenary Session:

Whereas, The Recommendations of the California Community Colleges Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy (August 14, 2015) identified six recommendations for improving curriculum processes, including the recommendation to “evaluate, revise and resource the local, regional, and statewide CTE curriculum approval process to ensure timely, responsive, and streamlined curriculum approval”;

Whereas, The reported inefficiencies of local curriculum processes are often cited as the reason courses and programs are not approved in a timely enough manner to meet student, community, and industry needs; and

Whereas, Colleges may benefit from an evaluation of their local curriculum processes that leads to improvements in the effectiveness and efficiency that allow for more timely responses to student, community, and industry needs;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges strongly urge local senates and curriculum committees to evaluate their curriculum approval processes in order to ensure that curriculum is developed, revised, and implemented in a timely manner, while preserving the integrity and rigor of the review process.

The subjects of this paper are to provide guidance to local senates and curriculum committees on effective practices for curriculum approval processes and to focus on the participatory governance aspects of curriculum.  While guidance and effective practices for developing new courses and programs are beyond the scope of this paper, other ASCCC papers address these practices (ASCCC, 2008).  The contents of the Fall 2015 white paper are incorporated in this document, with additional guidance provided regarding professional development and training related to local curriculum approval processes, providing sufficient resources for the college curriculum team, and guidance on separate distance education approval requirements.

[1] The narrative summary of the survey results is included in Appendix A.


  • Review and evaluate the effectiveness of local curriculum processes.
  • Ensure that local senate purview over curriculum and the connection between the local senate and the curriculum committee are well-understood.
  • Ensure that the curriculum committee structure includes a diverse array of faculty, academic administrators, students, and staff that can provide a variety of expertise and perspectives without weakening faculty primacy over curriculum.
  • Ensure that the process for the initiation of new curriculum and revisions to existing curriculum is clear, the technical review process is streamlined and effective, and curriculum committee meetings are run efficiently.
  • Streamline the curriculum approval process by ensuring a sufficient frequency of curriculum approval opportunities by the curriculum committee and the governing board, establishing an expedited approval process for time-sensitive proposals, and providing individual colleges in multi-college districts autonomy over their curriculum.
  • Provide professional development at the appropriate level for faculty, administrators, students, and staff, with more detailed training provided to those most closely involved with the local curriculum process.
  • Advocate for sufficient resources to support the work of the college curriculum team, including reassigned time or additional compensation, and for the provision of ongoing funding and access to professional development opportunities.
  • Ensure that faculty initiators of distance education proposals are provided with professional development on effective practices for ensuring regular and effective contact and compliance with accessibility requirements.

Other Related  documents:

An Effective Curriculum Processes Primer Approved October 1, 2016 by the ASCCC Executive Committee