Curriculum Mapping

Introduction

Curriculum mapping is an assessment method which is used to determine where, when, and how learning outcomes are taught and assessed within a degree program. It provides an effective strategy for articulating, aligning and integrating learning outcomes across a sequence of courses, and explicitly identifying to students, instructors, administrators and external stakeholders how student learning outcomes are delivered within a degree program (Uchiyama and Radin, 2009; Kopera-Frye et al., 2008; Bath et al., 2004).

The University of Guelph has developed a curriculum mapping software tool (CurricKit™) which is designed to assess the intended and delivered curriculum across a sequence of courses. It distributes a questionnaire , asking each instructor the following questions:

  • What methods of instruction do you use in your course?
  • What methods of assessment are used in your course?
  • Which program-level learning outcomes are developed in your course?
  • What level of complexity/depth is expected for each of the learning outcomes?
  • Please specify how each of the learning outcomes are taught and assessed in your course.

“Although much of the national conversations about assessment focus on measurement issues, encouraging the use of assessment data to guide change is much more about collaboration with colleagues to decide what to improve… Evidence forms the basis for these collaborations.”
Banta and Blaich (2011, p.23)

curriculum map graphic

Figure 1: Key stages to an evidenced-based approach to collaborative curriculum decision-making

The value of curriculum mapping is demonstrated when instructors collaborate to review data collected from the questionnaire to identify strengths, gaps, redundancies and inconsistencies in the curriculum (Uchiyama and Radin, 2009; Kopera-Frye et al., 2008; Willet, 2008). Based upon the aggregate data related to the intended and delivered learning outcomes, instructors discuss strengths and establish specific recommendations for improvement (Figure 1). They can evaluate the range and frequency of instructional and assessment methods, and examine how the depth and complexity of student learning experiences varies across the degree program. Curriculum mapping provides an opportunity for instructors to reflect upon and have meaningful discussions about the curriculum and to engage in broader discussions related to teaching and learning within their discipline (Kopera-Frye et al., 2008).   

Questions to Guide Curriculum Mapping Discussions

The following questions may be used to help effectively guide collaborative curriculum discussions based on curriculum mapping data.

Instructional & Assessment Methods

  • What instructional/assessment strategies are we most/least using?
  • Are the instructional and assessment methods used in the courses congruent with the discipline and our program’s/College’s/Institution’s mission/vision?
  • Are the instructional and assessment methods used in the courses congruent with the discipline’s signature pedagogies?
  • In terms of supporting student learning, how well are the instructional and assessment methods that we use actually working?  

Learning Outcomes

  • What learning outcomes are we most/least emphasizing?
  • Where are the strengths and gaps in the teaching and assessment of these learning outcomes?
  • Do the instructional and assessment methods that we are using best align with the intended learning outcomes?
  • Are these learning outcomes appropriate? Are there any omissions?  Is clarification warranted?

Workload and Progression

  • How is student workload distributed across the semester?
  • Have students/faculty expressed concern over workload at particular times of the semester? Is there opportunity to more evenly distribute the workload?
  • How is student learning progressing for each of the learning outcomes?
  • Are students provided adequately with an opportunity to progress towards their achievement of each learning outcome?

General

  • What data presented most surprised you? Why?
  • Where are our strengths?  What are we doing well?
  • Do these results align or conflict with any other curriculum assessment results or past program reviews (e.g. student/faculty/employee feedback)? Why?  How so?  Where are there areas of congruency or divergence?
  • What are the next steps we can take improve, align, and integrate our curriculum?

References:

Bath, D. Smith, C., Stein, S. and Swann, R. 2004 Beyond mapping and embedding graduate attributes: bring together quality assurance and action learning to create a validated and living curriculum. Higher Education Research and Development 23(3): 313-328.

Banta, T. W. and Blaich, C. (2011) Closing the Assessment Loop. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 43: 1, 22-27.

Kopera-Frye, K., Mahaffy, J., and Svare, G.M. 2008. The map to curriculum alignment and improvement. Collected Essays on Teaching and Learning 1: 8-14.

Uchiyama, K.P. and Radin, J.L. 2009. Curriculum mapping in higher education: a vehicle for collaboration. Innovative Higher Education 33: 271-280.

Willet, T.G. 2008. Current status of curriculum mapping in Canada and the UK. Medical Education 42:786-793.