Improving Instructional Practices and Curriculum Design

This course of study is the most flexible master’s online option at the University of San Diego (USD). It allows you to choose your specialization courses from across the School Leadership, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), Inclusive Learning: Special Education and Universal Design or the Literacy and Digital Learning offerings. With these courses, you will focus on the design, delivery, and assessment of lessons, units, and programs. The Master of Education online program teaches you to systematically examine both your own practices and leading national and international exemplars and considers how the Common Core Standards play a role in curriculum development. If you are a transfer student to USD, this specialization may make the most sense for you.

Get the comprehensive advantage that the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction offers! View the curriculum below.

Course of Study

Earn this University of San Diego Masters Degree in Education by completing 10 courses (3-units each) for 30 units of coursework. Your Masters in Education online program consists of five foundation courses including a capstone action research project as well as five specialization courses. You may begin your study in any semester with any of the courses offered. The Capstone Seminar is the final course in the program and builds on knowledge gained in the research and specialization courses.

Ranked by Best Value Schools as one of the best Masters in Curriculum and Instruction Programs in 2021

Program Course Curriculum

The Master of Education with Curriculum and Instruction specialization program spans over five different semesters which includes a mandatory orientation course. Each semester is fourteen weeks and is split into two different courses. The first course is seven weeks and the second course is seven weeks. Below is a sample outline of what the span of the Master of Education with Curriculum and Instruction specialization program may look like:


Course Units
Master of Education Orientation

This course introduces you to the University of San Diego and provides important information about the program. Throughout the orientation, you will learn to successfully navigate through the Blackboard learning environment and locate helpful resources. You will practice completing tasks in Blackboard as preparation for success in your online graduate courses. This orientation course will be available to you as a reference tool throughout the entirety of your program.


Semester 1

Course Units
Social Justice and Educational Equity

Analysis of the American educational system with a particular focus on issues of diversity, inequity, conflict and social justice within a school context. Historical case studies, contemporary policies and practices, and international comparisons compel consideration of the social construction of education.

Teaching Digital Readers

Exploration of digital texts, online comprehension skills, multimodal annotation, and other new literacy practices required in digital reading environments. Students will investigate their own pedagogy, integrating new literacies pedagogies into their practices, and closely studying the impact on student learning.

Teaching Students on the Autism Spectrum

Exploration of our evolving understanding of autism in the research literature, educational practice, and popular imagination. Examination and application of instructional strategies for supporting autistic students in communication, organization, and social interaction.

Artistic Modeling and Representation in Science and Math Education

An exploration of educational strategies and classroom approaches that leverage the multi-dimensional connections between artistic, scientific, and mathematical knowledge, modeling and representation to strengthen K-12 students' content understanding, critical thinking skills and capacity for innovation. The course will prioritize connections to the crosscutting concepts described in the next generation of science and math standards.

Data Driven Decision Making

Rigorous exploration of how school leaders use data, including standardized and school-based assessments, to drive continuous improvement through site-based decision-making for the express purpose of promoting equitable and culturally responsive opportunities for all students. (PSEL #3 & 10).

Only Social Justice and Educational Equity [EDUC 520] is a core course, students can choose any 1 elective from the other listed courses.

Semester 2

Course Units
Cognition & Learning

Explore key cognitive studies on human cognition and learning. You will critically discuss research and contemporary debates on cognitive processes, learning, memory, reasoning, problem-solving, developmental mechanism, cognitive styles, motivation, and the socio-cultural foundations of learning with an emphasis on the implications for educators and educational researchers.

Critical Media Literacy in the Classroom

An examination of important new media literacy skills and their application in the K-12 classroom. Students will actively consider, analyze, construct, and synthesize digital content while considering issues of identity, ethics, and privacy.

Identifying and Responding To the Needs of Diverse Learners

Examination of variability of ability and experience among students. Investigation and application of assessment tools and instructional design strategies that provide differentiated support for the success of all students.

STEAM and Special Student Populations

Investigation of classroom practices that contribute to historical and contemporary inequities in learning outcomes in STEAM subjects for students based on gender, race, language, and need. Exploration of how STEAM methodologies provide opportunities to increase equity and improve outcomes for all students.

Ethical Leadership in an Era of School Reform

Contextualized within the evolving high stakes accountability context of public K-12 education, this course will consider the challenges and opportunities facing educational leaders. The course will examine the history and impact of national, state, and local reform movements, and explore how educational leaders develop, advocate for, and enact a shared mission and vision for excellence and equity within schools and districts. The course will include a focus on ethical and professional norms for school leaders and address legal rights and responsibilities. (PSEL
Standard #1 & 2).

Only Cognition & Learning [EDUC 521] is a core course, students can choose any 1 elective from the other listed courses.

Semester 3

Course Units
Educational Research Methodology

Introduction to the major educational research methods and paradigms with an emphasis on reflective, practitioner-directed inquiry. The course encompasses quantitative methods, qualitative methods, mixed methods, and action research frameworks. Particular emphasis is placed on action research as a reflective and collaborate inquiry for improving educational practices.

Teaching Digital Writers

Investigation of theories about how and why we write and how we teach writing in 21st century classrooms. Exploration of how these theories inform pedagogy, professional learning and research.

Co-Teaching: Collaborating in an Inclusive Environment

Examination of research, policy, and practice of co-teaching and collaboration models that support general education and special education students in inclusive classrooms.

Communication, Technology and Curriculum Design

Theoretical and practical exploration of the use of technology to transform learning and teaching in the K-12 classroom. Investigation into the use of social networking, online learning, mobile technology, and web-based applications to facilitate and strengthen science and math education.

Leading Professional Learning Communities

Investigation of strategies used to build and sustain effective site-based professional learning communities. Targeted focus on how to structure school operations and leverage resources to prioritize professional learning, continuous improvement, and each student’s academic success and well-being. (PSEL #7 & 9).

Only Educational Research Methodology [EDUC 522] is a core course, students can choose any 1 elective from the other listed courses.

Semester 4

Course Units
Qualitative Methods in Educational Research

Applied exploration of qualitative research methodologies such as ethnography, grounded theory, case-study and cross-case comparisons, surveys, observations, document analyses, focus groups and interviews. Opportunity to learn and apply a variety of techniques to analyze data and interpret findings.

Participatory Learning in 21st Century Classrooms

Theoretical and practical foundation to consider what it means to teach and learn within participatory networks and affinity groups. Topics explored include motivation, assessment, collaboration, and creativity.

Disability in Education Policy and Law

Investigation of the historical, philosophical, legal, political and sociological constructions of disability in education. Analysis of application of current law to classroom and school policies and practices.

Engineering Design Process in Math and Science Education

Investigation of the intersection between conceptual understanding and real-world application with a focus on the engineering design process. Drawing on NASA's Beginning Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) program, students will explore strategies for engaging K-12 students in structured inquiry learning to enhance disciplinary understanding and ensure knowledge transfer.

Instructional Leadership

This course addresses the development, implementation, and assessment of rigorous and coherent systems of curriculum, instruction, and assessment designed to promote each student’s academic success. Targeted focus on effective strategies to develop the professional capacity of teachers and other school personnel through effective hiring, coaching, mentoring, and accountability structures. (PSEL #4 & 6).

Only Qualitative Methods in Educational Research [EDUC 523] is a core course, students can choose any 1 elective from the other listed courses.

Semester 5

Course Units
Capstone Pathways

For the concluding phase in the program, Masters candidates have the option of three culminating final projects: studies employing action research, studies employing other methodologies, or the curriculum research project.

Youth and Digital Media

Consideration of the ways in which young people leverage digital media for composing, accessing information, finding new audiences, and creating communities or practice and purpose. Examination of implications of youth practices with digital media on content instruction, schooling, and learning in and out of school.

Creativity and Innovation in STEAM

Examination of points of convergence and divergence in the creative processes of artists, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. Students will develop a strong foundation of theoretical and applied STEAM knowledge, practical guidance in the development of their own unique STEAM toolkits, and opportunities to experience and experiment with STEAM learning in their classrooms.

Designing Learning Environments For All

Theoretical and practical exploration of the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Investigation of brain research into recognition networks, strategic networks, and affective networks and consideration of how these networks can inform instructional design decisions.

Family, School, and Community Partnerships

This course will address strategies used by effective school leaders to build and sustain reciprocal family and community partnerships and explore approaches designed to leverage these partnerships to cultivate an inclusive, caring, and culturally responsive school community. Targeted focus on working with stakeholder groups to support special populations including English Language Learners, Title I students, and Special Education students. (PSEL Standard #5 & 8)

Only Capstone Seminar [EDUC 550] is a core course, students can choose any 1 elective from the other listed courses.

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