Curricular approach
SLO strives after an integral approach in order to develop relevant, consistent, useful, effective and sustainable curricula. SLO works as follows:
  • the actual development work is preceded by monitoring and trend analysis of scientific, educational en societal information; the results are broadly discussed and lead to the formulation of improvement and innovation projects;
  • the development process is research-informed, including systematic formative evaluation of draft products;
  • from the very start projects anticipate on implementation and upscaling of the development work through cooperation with relevant partners (especially teacher education, both pre- and in-service, and educational guidance).

This integral approach can be visualised in a so-called triptych:

Our approach to curriculum development is based on contemporary curriculum development knowledge, systemic thinking, and collaborative approaches, on the one hand, and our view that professional development is a necessary component for effective curriculum reform, on the other. We believe that broad involvement and ownership of the main stakeholders is key for effective curriculum development and implementation. The curricular spider's web shows how components of curriculum are interrelated.

The core of a curriculum generally concerns the aims and content of learning.
Changes to this core usually presuppose changes to many other aspects of (the plan for) learning. A clarifying way to visualize the relationship between the various aspects is the so-called curricular spider’s web. The rationale serves as a central link, connecting all other curriculum components. Ideally, these are also connected to each other, providing consistency and coherence.



As a non-profit organization, we provide cooperation and support to curriculum development and reform processes on request. We believes in mutual and respectful cooperation with local counterparts and organizations. Countries and organizations seeking SLO’s assistance in developing or reforming their curriculum can trust on high-level and state-of-the-art knowledge of curriculum development and reform processes. We aims at improving curricular knowledge and understanding, in order to enable local staff to perform curriculum development and reform activities, and implement these in the field of education.

Being a center of expertise SLO wants to learn from working in different contexts. The results and cooperative processes of curriculum development and reform add to SLO’s knowledge base on curriculum development. We want to share our knowledge with others, but also want to learn from the contexts we work in.

The importance of research-informed practice

Formative evaluation

The quality of curricular products can greatly benefit from a cyclical approach. In order to test the quality of draft products and to gain suggestions for improvement, we believe that data should be collected during formative evaluation activities. Planning and conducting formative evaluation activities take a number of steps. 

For a closer look at this iterative or cyclical curriculum development approach, please have a look at the following 2-minute clip:

Evaluation Matchboard

To support the planning of formative evaluation Nieveen, Folmer and Vliegen (2012) developed the 'Evaluation Matchboard'. Click on the image below to open the matchboard.

Please refer to the following source for more details: Nieveen, N., & Folmer, E. (2013). Formative evaluation in educational design research. In T. Plomp, & N. Nieveen (Eds.), Part A: Introduction to Educational Design Research. Enschede: SLO.


The back of the matchboard provides the definitions of the various development stages, the quality criteria, the methods and the activities. Also the generic educational design research model is presented and the curricular spider's web is given.

Brief instructions for using the Evaluation Matchboard:

  1. Decide on your formative evaluation question
    For each cycle or iteration in the development phase of an intervention, the kind of value judgment (focus on one or more quality criteria) together with the development stage of the intervention (design proposal, global design, partly-detailed or completed product) provide the building blocks for the main question(s) of the formative evaluation (of a specific cycle or iteration).
    The syntax of these questions is: ‘What is the [quality criterion a, b, c, d, e, and/or f] of the prototype that is in [development stage w, x, y, z].

     For example: What is the relevancy [quality criterion] of the content of a quick reference manual for using Chinese characters that is in a global design stage [development stage]?

  2. Use the Evaluation Matchboard for finding appropriate evaluation methods and activities
    When using the matchboard one needs to combine the stage of development (prototype) [1] with a quality aspect [2] in order to find an appropriate evaluation method [4] with relevant data collection activities [5].

    For example, if design researchers will evaluate a partly detailed product and they wish to focus the formative evaluation on the expected practicality of this prototype, then the matchboard shows a 'match in colors' with respect to a focus group (blue) and a walkthrough (orange), both being suitable methods for this combination of development stage and quality criteria. When deciding to organize a focus group, the matchboard recommends that data can be collected by interviewing the respondents. In case of organizing a walkthrough also using a checklist and carrying out observations are suitable data collection activities according to the matchboard.

More information

For specific support on planning and conducting formative evaluation activities, please refer to (in Dutch).

For more information about Evaluation and Educational design research please refer to the following publication:

Nienke Nieveen, tel +31-53-4840233 or
Elvira Folmer. tel +31-53-4840261