Curriculum Planning and Content Creation

Image of person who wrote blog.
Séan McFadden, Deputy Principal, Mulroy College, Milford.

Staff from most of our schools have been working on a Curriculum Planning and Content Creation project for the last number of years, funded by the Department of Education’s Schools Excellence Fund. The project has been coordinated by our Mulroy College Deputy Principal Séan McFadden and in this blog he tells us more about the initiative.

As the coordinator of this project I had the privilege of working closely with our Director of Schools Dr Martin Gormley in leading this initiative, with the support of our Chief Executive Ms Anne McHugh and the head of IT Mr Ciaran Cunningham. This project started initially in 2015 with a group of eight teachers sitting in Donegal ETB’s Administrative Offices with a couple of chart papers looking at planning for both the new Science and English Junior Cycle specifications. The powerful conversations that followed led to a realisation that the only way people could navigate this challenge was by coming together, collaborating and sharing their own experiences and resources. Our vision was simply to provide a way for this to happen.

We were coming from a background where Donegal ETB was instrumental in developing instructional leadership practices in our schools and had already laid strong foundations in implementing and embedding formative assessment practices, a key component in all Junior Cycle specifications in our classrooms.

The biggest challenge we encountered was developing a unit plan that captured what we wanted the students to learn, how we wanted our students to learn, how we were going to monitor that they were actually learning and when this was delivered. This unit plan, which was approved by Department of Education Inspector Seamus Knox, ensured consistency across all subject areas as the Junior Cycle rollout unfolded.

What followed was the development of high-quality units of learning designed purposefully for students in various contexts that allowed teachers from other schools to then use this teaching resource and amend it if needed to suit their individual contexts and needs. Students were surveyed throughout and the feedback from them was extremely positive so we knew this new approach, with the integration of digital technologies as a tool to support learning in the classroom, was improving the learner outcomes and enriching their learning experiences. The lesson design was a balancing act on how to integrate traditional methodologies along with the newly innovative ones. Our success lay in the careful consideration given to key learning and the front loading of assessments from the outset which differentiated the work for the students and ensured that if students missed classes or were willing to move on themselves, this instructional platform allowed for the pacing of student learning.

On reflection that was not the biggest success, nor was it the main achievement of this project: the biggest success was the professional development and the personal growth, the confidence building of the teachers involved and how they displayed this in assuming leadership roles in their own schools across Donegal ETB and other support services. This all started by having professional conversations with colleagues at school level, but also across the ETB, which led to them hosting their own CPD sessions also.

This model then was adopted by Donegal ETB’s Further Education and Training (FET) Service, where some of our teachers trained others in utilising the G Suite facility and the different apps.

The worth of this project was highlighted during the pandemic when our school leaders were able to support and lead others, at both the school and ETB level, by showing them their work and putting measures in place to support others in their schools. The use of G Suite for education apps, in particular Google Classroom, was already embedded in our work at this time which benefitted so many other teachers.

In summary and from a personal perspective, it was an amazing experience and opportunity to lead a group of teachers in implementing change across Donegal ETB schools by providing new and innovative learning opportunities to support their learners. The standard and the high expectations that this group demonstrated to others in developing units of learning, but also in providing support materials in the CPD sessions delivered, was exceptional and I was very proud of leading this and being a part of it.

In conclusion, this group will continue to lead curricular change within Donegal ETB  while keeping a close eye on the recently published Digital Strategy for Schools to 2027. If you’d like more information, take a look at the group showcase website: or check out this video.