HomeFaculty & StaffAcademic RegulationsChapter 3: Curriculum Review Process

Curriculum Review Process


  1. Purpose.  The purpose of this chapter is to provide guidance on the University’s curricular content and review processes as they relate to policies and procedures contained in MCO 1553.4 (Professional Military Education) and policies of the Process for Accreditation of Joint Education (PAJE) and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).  This policy also provides direction for maintaining currency and relevancy of the Marine Corps PME Continuum as a standard representation of the PME requirements and curricula for the educational programs of officer and enlisted Marines.  The Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL) has developed an aligned, but distinct set of processes for curriculum review that is appropriate to its unique education and training mission.  Readers interested in more specific information about CAOCL’s curriculum review processes should consult its policies and procedures.

  2. Definitions.  The PME Continuum and curriculum development model for both officer and enlisted educational programs rests on the following definitions:

    a.Learning Area.  A logical classification of course content according to subject matter areas or overarching themes.

    b.Program Outcome.  A broad statement of a complex and multifaceted outcome intended for graduates to learn as a result of completing an educational program.

    c.Student Learning Outcome.  A concise statement that describes what students are expected to learn as a result of completing a program or course of instruction.  The statement begins with an action verb that indicates the desired level of learning (in accordance with accepted educational taxonomies) and corresponding type of assessment.  The action verb is followed by an explanation of the specific subject matter to be learned.  The assessment measure(s) associated with each Student Learning Outcome form the basis for student feedback and grading.  Directors will publish policy that more specifically addresses student assessment, feedback, and grading within their respective educational program.

    d.Educational Objective.  A concise statement that describes what students are expected to learn as a result of an individual class or lesson within an educational program or course.  Educational objectives are the subordinate elements that must collectively be learned to accomplish the broader expectations of a Student Learning Outcome.  The statement begins with an action verb that indicates the desired level of learning (in accordance with accepted educational taxonomies) and corresponding type of assessment.  The action verb is followed by an explanation of the specific subject matter to be learned.

    e.Educational Program.  A combination of courses for the successful mastery of which a student is awarded complete credit and receives a completion diploma or certificate.  Officer PME programs may be described as “schools” or “colleges” (e.g., Expeditionary Warfare School, Marine Corps War College).  Likewise, Enlisted PME programs are typically described as “courses” in existing naming conventions (e.g., Career Course).  The curricula of MCU Educational Programs are designed to achieve approved Program Outcomes.

    f.Course.  A combination of lessons in a defined subject area for which students receive a final grade based on an achievement of approved Student Learning Outcomes (e.g., MCWAR's "War, Strategy, and Policy" course). 

    g.Lesson.  An individual class, assignment, or other student activity, the aggregation of which comprise the curricula for a course.  Typically, each lesson is focused on the achievement of a specific Educational Objective or Objectives.

  3. Curriculum Review Process. The Curriculum Review Process (Appendix B) consists of four major components: 1) Marine Corps PME Continuum Working Group; 2) Course Content Review Board (Program Level); 3) Annual Assessment of Institutional Academic Outcomes; and 4) Curriculum Review Board (University Level).  For quality assurance, the President, MCU may also prefer to conduct other types of curriculum review, such as a zero-based curriculum review, for all PME programs, which could alter the following process and procedures.  The four major components of the standard Curriculum Review Process are as follows:

    a.Marine Corps PME Continuum Working Group (PMECWG)

    b.Purpose.  The Marine Corps Officer PME Continuum was originally defined and published in 2010.  The original continuum was approved by the President, MCU and made foundational to curricula development for both resident and distance learning programs.  Supplemented by the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program and classified according to Bloom’s Taxonomy, the Marine Corps Officer PME Continuum reflects the range of enduring program outcomes and dynamic Student Learning Outcomes expected of graduates at all levels of Marine Corps PME.  The forthcoming Marine Corps Enlisted PME Continuum is being developed in the same manner.

    c.Responsibilities.  The review and maintenance of the Marine Corps PME Continuum is the responsibility of the PME Continuum Working Group, composed of the deans of academics or equivalent administrative faculty members and VPAA representatives.  This group is responsible for defining and validating the PME Continuum across the Marine Corps by ensuring the currency and relevancy of rank-specific PME elements that must be included in the resident and non-resident curricula.  Additionally, the PME Continuum Working Group provides an opportunity for all colleges and schools to interact with each other and share information to ensure that the PME Continuum coherently connects the curricula from one level of PME to the next.  This group may also identify and recommend policy changes pertaining to MCO 1553.4 (Professional Military Education).  The PME Continuum Working Group will normally meet prior to the designated academic program’s Curriculum Review Board (CRB); this meeting will effectively serve as a pre-brief for the program’s subsequent CRB, and related deliverables will be available should the President wish to discuss any element of the CRB in greater detail. 

    d.Procedure.  The PME Continuum Working Group will convene prior to an academic program’s scheduled Curriculum Review Board.  This venue provides academic leaders with an opportunity to go into greater detail than is required for the CRB regarding the proposed curricula and to address common issues and challenges, ensuring that PME curricula follow a logical progression and each program in the PME Continuum builds  on skills and knowledge  acquired in previous programs.

    e.The three elements listed below will be reviewed during a PME Continuum Review Board (subject to change depending on circumstances).

    i.Curriculum Description: a breakdown of courses and associated lessons that comprise the curriculum.

    ii.Learning Area Assessment: a listing of the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for the curriculum, broken down into the Learning Areas of the Marine Corps PME Continuum.

    iii.Joint Learning Area (JLA) Assessment:  a matrix reflecting coverage of the OPMEP JLAs for those programs certified by the CJCS J-7 Process for the Accreditation of Joint Education (PAJE).

    f.The results of the PME Continuum Working Group will be documented by VPAA and recommended changes to the PME Continuum forwarded for approval by the President, MCU.  The President, MCU is the final approval authority for all modifications regarding the PME Continuum.  The goal is to update the Marine Corps PME Continuum on a biennial basis.

    g.Aside from the scheduled meetings of the PME Continuum Working Group, proposed revisions to the PME Continuum, from a dean or director, may also be submitted to VPAA through the Director, Academic Support Division using the PME Continuum Change Template (Appendix C).  The PME Continuum Working Group will consider these submissions during the next scheduled meeting of the group.  Using the process outlined above, proposed modifications to the continuum will be considered in an integrated fashion based on the inputs from the academic programs.

    h.Course Content Review Board (Program Level). During the academic year, each educational program utilizes its own internal academic program review and curriculum development process known as the CCRB, which is accomplished within the context of the mission and director’s general educational guidance for the overall program.  The educational program director determines the exact composition of the CCRB that includes both faculty and administrators.  Board membership is typically comprised of the director, dean of academics, course directors, and members of the teaching faculty.  VPAA representatives will attend CCRBs on a case-by-case basis in order to ensure accuracy of the curriculum review process and to capture best-practices.  A CCRB is conducted for each major block of instruction or course within a curriculum.  Board participants analyze the data and feedback from student learning outcome assessments, periodic student and faculty course surveys, and surveys from graduates and their reporting seniors regarding the perceived relevance of the instruction presented in courses or subsequent lessons. Faculty members will also discuss the completed MCU Four Column Matrix (Learning Outcomes, Assessment Measures, and Summary of Results, Use of Results), to ensure that the data is accurately captured.  Upon conclusion of all program CCRBs, directors will approve the completed Four Column Matrix to indicate what changes will be incorporated in the next iteration of the curriculum (see Appendix D).  Based on this analytical process, the faculty determines whether existing academic content should be maintained, revised, or deleted, or if new material should be added to the curriculum, thereby ensuring its content, quality, and effectiveness.  Directors will ensure the CCRB record of proceedings is documented and forwarded annually with their Annual Assessment Report (also referred to as the “Director’s Report”) to the Director, Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning (IRAP).  The record shall include the educational program directors’ decisions and recommendations relevant to modifying the curricula and identifying any substantive changes that may be needed in accordance with the SASCOC policy “Substantive Change for Accredited Institution.” Changes are based on analyses of the data related to student achievement of the approved learning outcomes conducted by the faculty and administrators. More information on the CCRB can be found in Chapter Four (Institutional Effectiveness and Institutional Research).

    i.Annual Assessment of Institutional Academic Outcomes.  The Director, IRAP works closely with the Academic Support Division and each educational program director to assist them in developing assessment measures for column two of the MCU Four Column Matrix. In addition, the Director, IRAP assists with survey design for course evaluation as well as surveys of graduates and reporting seniors of graduates.  Annually, the Director, IRAP presents the President, MCU a statistical analysis of each program’s completed MCU Four Column Matrix, focusing on a discussion of student success with mastering the MCU President-approved learning outcomes. This Annual Assessment Report for the President captures student mastery of learning outcomes, survey results, and approved changes to subsequent iterations of the curricula.  Refer to Chapter Four for detailed information on data collection and analysis related to institutional effectiveness.

    j.Curriculum Review Board (University Level).  The Curriculum Review Board (CRB) is the formal University oversight mechanism to direct long-range strategic planning, coordination, and approval of academic programs, and to evaluate the integration and progression of academic curricula within the PME Continuum.  Course content and assessment data related to the achievement of established Student Learning Outcomes are reviewed biennially to ensure a progressive, systematic building-block approach is utilized throughout resident and distance education curriculum development.  Additionally, curricula are evaluated for adherence to mandated PME requirements, the needs of the Marine Corps, and the accreditation policies of the PAJE and SACSCOC, as well as to ensure correlation between the various educational programs and academic rigor.  Specific responsibilities and requirements of the conduct of the CRB are outlined below.


    i.Review curricula to assess academic rigor, adherence to the PME Continuum, and accomplishment of approved Student Learning Outcomes.  Provide curricula recommendations to the President, MCU for approval.

    ii. Review major, new education program initiatives and significant curricular changes to ensure they have well defined, measurable Student Learning Outcomes that support the established PME Continuum (refer to Chapter Five for the MCU Substantive Change Policy).

    iii.Ensure appropriate educational assessment measures are instituted to validate learning outcomes and ensure student learning.

    iv.Recommend the most effective education resource allocation to meet requirements of the PME Continuum within the MCU curricula.

    v.Make recommendations to the President regarding mission, program outcomes, learning outcomes, and major curriculum changes proposed by the schools.

    vi.Serve as a body to present problematic or irreconcilable PME and academic issues, with recommendations for solutions, to the President’s Planning Council (see Chapter Five).


    i.Chairmanship.  The President, MCU is the convening authority for the CRB and is the final decision-making authority.  The President shall chair each biennial curriculum review board wherein each academic program submits its curriculum for approval.  The President will specifically approve each academic program’s mission statement, program outcomes, and Student Learning Outcomes.  In addition, the President will approve, in general terms, how the academic program intends to achieve the mission and outcomes.

    ii.Academic Program Director.  The appropriate director or dean of academics will submit an electronic copy of the program’s CRB presentation to the Director, Academic Support Division at least five working days prior to the convening date of the CRB.

    iii.VPAA.  Upon receipt of the presentation, the Director, Academic Support Division ensures that the package is complete and is in accordance with the approved format.  A VPAA representative will disseminate electronic copies, along with the time and location of the meeting, to the members of the CRB for advanced review and consideration prior to the convening date of the CRB.  A VPAA representative will also keep the meeting minutes and attend to the administrative matters associated with the Board’s business operations.  Meeting minutes will be kept on file in the office of VPAA.


    i.A CRB will be convened biennially for each academic program.  For Officer PME programs, these CRBs will occur during even-numbered years, unless otherwise directed by the President’s Planning Council.  These briefs will occur in sequential order – from EWS through MCWAR – in order to highlight the linkages between programs and to provide leadership with an integrated view of learning outcomes across the Officer PME Continuum.  For Enlisted PME programs, the following CRB-cycle will be used: 1) odd-numbered years – senior programs (e.g., Career Course, Advanced Course, and Senior Enlisted PME Course); even-numbered years – junior programs (e.g., Sergeants Course, Corporals Course).  Non-resident programs will present curricula to the CRB according to the timelines outlined above; however, an appropriate interval following the resident program CRB will be authorized to allow for incorporation of resident program changes.

    ii.An “off-cycle” CRB may also be convened whenever an academic program desires to modify any of the three curricular elements specifically approved by the President, MCU – mission statement, program outcomes, and/or Student Learning Outcomes – or if there are significant changes to how the academic program intends to achieve the mission and outcomes.  These changes must be reviewed and approved by the President, MCU prior to being incorporated.  Depending upon the scope, and at the discretion of the President, MCU, the approval of the proposed “off-cycle” changes may not require the convening of the full CRB.  Likewise, newly mandated PME requirements may require a CRB to be convened, as academic program curricula would likely be affected by such changes.

    iii.Presentation Format.  Directors presenting CRB deliverables for biennial approval are required to utilize the presentation template for CRBs described below. Schools proposing changes to their curricula outside of the regularly scheduled biennial review will present appropriate elements of the presentation template as directed by VPAA. CRB briefs will be appropriately scoped to reflect the major elements of information required by the President, MCU to approve the proposed curricula.  The elements listed below will be reviewed during a CRB (subject to change depending on the circumstances).  The language of Elements 1-3 will be specifically approved by the President.

    1)Mission Statement: highlighting any proposed changes.

    2)Program Outcomes: highlighting any proposed changes.

    3)Student Learning Outcomes: highlighting any proposed changes.

    4)Assessment Overview: general information regarding the type and frequency of measures used to assess program outcomes and Student Learning Outcomes.

    5)Curriculum Design/Overview:  a graphic description of the overall design and flow of the curriculum.

    6)Course Description: an overview of each of the courses that comprise the curriculum.

    7)Semester Hours: a roll-up of the calculated Semester Hours of the program (as depicted in the MCU Catalog).

    8)Major Changes to the Curriculum: a summary of the proposed changes to the curriculum for approval by the President, MCU.

    iv.The results of each CRB will be documented and maintained by VPAA.

    n.Membership.  The MCU CRB is a body of fifteen standing members, comprising the academic leadership of the University.  This standing membership is augmented as necessary by other subject matter experts and external stakeholders for the purpose of enhancing MCU’s process of shared governance.  Academic deans are expected to attend CRBs, as well as designated faculty members.  The fifteen standing members are as follows:

    i.President, Marine Corps University

    ii.Executive Vice President/Chief of Staff

    iii.Vice President for Academic Affairs

    iv.Vice President for Distance Learning

    v.Vice President for Education Integration, Operations, and Planning

    vi.Vice President for Business Affairs

    vii.Director, MCWAR

    viii.Director, SAW

    ix.Director, CSC

    x.Director, EWS

    xi.Director, EPME

    xii.Director, CAOCL

    xiii.Chair, Faculty Council

    xiv.Director, Institutional Research, Assessment, and Planning

    Director, Academic Support Division