Curriculum writing seems to be a never-ending process in education, whether it be writing curriculum for new courses or adjusting curriculum for existing courses. A few years ago, the Assistant Superintendent of the school district where I work decided that a new curriculum revision project was to be started, and the department in which I teach would be the first to go through the process. The entire department curriculum needed to be adjusted to meet the requirements of yet another state-mandated test. And so we began the initial meetings to plan a new scope and sequence for K-12 science in the district followed by the actual preparation of the adjusted curriculum documents. The revisions were moving along well, and were nearly complete when the Assistant Superintendent was fired and ultimately replaced.
The new Assistant Superintendent had a different vision for the end product of this project. He decided that having the curriculum documents link to all of the activities that would be done in each lesson of each unit would be beneficial. In addition, all of the documents needed to be put in a new template so that they could be posted on the district website. So even though the majority of the work was complete, we now have to go back and change the formatting on all of the documents to fit the new template and link all of the resources we have available for our lessons. This change in the scope of the project has caused significant stress in our department. It was expected that this project would be completed by the end of this June, which is impossible now. And because the district needs to compensate us for our work, the cost of the project will increase as well.
The additional expectations added to this project are a classic example of scope creep, which is defined as “the natural tendency…to try to improve the project’s output as the project progresses” (Portny et al., 2008, p. 346). Specifically, this type of scope creep is known as “Feature creep – requirements changing during development” (Crabtree, 2000, para. 1). As with the curriculum project described here, feature creep is likely to cause problems with schedule, with budget, or with both. However, if a project manager monitors the project and protects against significant changes, it can be controlled. Clearly identifying how the suggested changes would affect budget and schedule are key when deciding how to make the adjustments to the scope (Crabtree, 2000).
The curriculum project we are working on has become much more complex than was originally anticipated. Unfortunately, in this case the project manager instigated the feature creep. His priority is not the schedule or the budget, but the added features he has decided are necessary to have in the curriculum. If I were the project manager, I would want to determine if these changes are really necessary and then communicate a new schedule for the completion of the project, both of which are important steps in dealing with scope creep (Portny et al., 2008). I’m not sure that the time and effort we are going to put in to link all of the activities to the curriculum is worth it. There is nothing to indicate that parents/students need this service, and the teachers who will be using these documents already have access to the activities through other means. And as things stand, the teachers working on this project have not been given any idea when the work will be done or when it is expected to be completed. Finishing the curriculum without the feature creep would have been enough, and then taking the time to determine if the added features were necessary could have been the start of a new project.
Crabtree, S. (2000). Killing feature creep without ever saying no. Retrieved from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131534/killing_feature_creep_without_ever_.php
Portny, S., Mantel, Jr., S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. (2008). Project management. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.