Curriculum Maps

A Curriculum Map identifies how courses in a degree program contribute to the degree program’s learning outcomes.  It can answer such curricular questions as:

  • Where do desired and undesired redundancies, overlaps, and gaps occur in our curriculum?
  • What skills are taught in each course?  Are they over taught?  Or under taught?
  • How and where is our curriculum coherent and well-sequenced for student learning?
  • What conclusions can we make about our student learning priorities?
  • How do the required assignments and learning experiences of our curriculum accumulate to create a graduate of our program?

Purpose of Curriculum Maps in Assessment

Click here to read more about the purpose of curriculum maps in assessment

An effective curriculum map provides a visual representation of how a degree program’s learning outcomes are connected to its course requirements.  Its purpose is to create a meaningful and transparent image of your program’s curriculum that can be understood and implemented by every faculty member.  More highly developed maps delve more deeply into the curriculum, providing information about everything from course learning outcomes, to assignments, to activities (field or lab experiences).  Adding an element such as course assignments to a curriculum map enhances faculty understanding of how assignments contribute to the curriculum and enables faculty to convey this understanding to students.  Simply by collecting the information to create a curriculum map, we are able to raise our perception and awareness of our degree programs in a manner that leads to changes that continue to strengthen and enhance student learning.

Curriculum Mapping enhances assessment in three ways, to:

1. Develop Useful and Meaningful Assessment Questions

The development of a Curriculum Map frequently leads faculty to question whether their curriculum accomplishes the learning experiences they most desire for students.  By examining their Degree Program from a visual perspective, faculty members are better equipped to develop useful and meaningful assessment questions that transform assessment from “that-thing-we-have-to-do-again” into a fascinating exploration of a question about student learning for which they have a strong desire to find the answer.

2. Tie Assessment Findings Back to Curriculum and Learning Design

Faculty members become frustrated with assessment when they review their findings and are uncertain where to make changes in program or course curricula or in course learning design to improve student learning.  A curriculum map allows professors to directly use their data to target curricular improvements and learning design modifications by knowing where, and even how, program learning outcomes are being addressed.

3. Develop Feasible, Manageable Assessment Designs

It can assist a department to target specific courses for assessment, and thus use their time and energy for data collection and analysis efficiently and effectively.

UAC Criteria for Curriculum Maps

Click here to view the UAC's criteria for curriculum maps

An effective Curriculum Map demonstrates where the degree program’s learning outcomes occur across the degree program’s course requirements (primarily staying within the prefix of the degree program).  Degree Programs having emphases would identify how their “common core” set of program learning outcomes (those similar to all emphases) occur across courses, and also identify where emphasis-specific learning outcomes occur across courses. 

Distinguished Curriculum Maps also identify two additional layers of information.  The first layer adds information about how the degree program relates to requirements from other disciplines (areas outside of the degree program’s prefix), and Liberal Studies, Diversity, and other University-wide initiatives.  The second layer adds information about how the Program Learning Outcome is addressed within the course.  For additional information, please see the examples below. 

 

Needs Improvement

Effective

Distinguished

3. Curriculum Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Programs with Emphases:

  • Maps only a sub-set of program student learning outcomes to degree program (Major) course requirements
  • Maps only a sub-set of degree program (Major) course requirements to program student learning outcomes

  

 

 

 

 

  • Does not map a “common core” of program student learning outcomes to course requirements for all emphases or a unique set of program student learning outcomes to course requirements for each emphasis
  • Maps all degree program (Major) course requirements to all program student learning outcomes

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Mapsa “common core” set of program student learning outcomes to course requirements for all emphases

AND

  • Maps a unique set of program student learning outcomes to course requirements for each emphasis
  • Maps all degree program (Major) course requirements to all program student learning outcomes

AND

  • Maps all undergraduate degree course requirements (Liberal Studies, Diversity, etc.) to courses
  • Indicates the extent to which program student learning outcomes are introduced/ reinforced/ mastered within each course

 

Examples of Curriculum Maps with Explanations Aligning with UAC Feedback Rubric Criteria

Mapping all degree program (major) course requirements to all program student learning outcomes

Click here to explore mapping your degree program course requirements to your program student learning outcomes

When you begin the process of developing a Curriculum Map, the easiest place to start is to create a “basic curriculum matrix.”  A basic curriculum matrix contains only two variables: (1) the Program Learning Outcomes of your degree program, and (2) the courses required by your degree program.  An effective curriculum map will contain within it all of the degree program requirements for the major and demonstrate their connection to all program learning outcomes.  Including all courses and learning outcomes will allow your department to identify where and how courses are contributing to students’ learning across the degree program.

The time you invest developing your curriculum map will save time later in the assessment process, because it will help you identify useful and meaningful assessment questions, and design effective assessment strategies that will be successful within the resource and time constraints of your faculty.  If you find that you are spending a large amount of time or becoming frustrated, it is time to stop and ask for help.  If that happens, please contact us, and let us help you simplify things.

Click here to view an example of a basic curriculum matrix.

Example process for mapping degree program (major) course requirements to all program student learning outcomes

Click here to view an example process for developing a basic map

 

A common method for developing a basic curriculum matrix for a smaller group of faculty (4 to 8 members) is to:

  1. Identify the courses you will be mapping to your program learning outcomes
  2. List the courses across the top of a large white board, sheet of paper, or chalkboard
  3. Place the program learning outcomes down the right side of the board or paper
  4. Convene the faculty teaching within your degree program for 1 to 2 hours
  5. Using sticky notes or markers, have faculty identify on the board the program learning outcomes they are covering in their courses
  6. Transfer the finished map into Word or Excel once it is complete
  7. ALWAYS follow up the creation of the Map by engaging faculty in an examination of the Curriculum Map (see below)

     

     

    Example process for engaging faculty in an examination of the map, and using their engagement to create your Assessment Question(s)

    Click here for a common process used to engage faculty in an examination of the Curriculum Map and use their engagement to create your Assessment Question(s)

    1. Have the leader or a small group develop a set of questions based upon their observations of the map (such as: Where do desired and undesired redundancies, overlaps, and gaps occur in our curriculum?, How and where is our curriculum coherent and well-sequenced for student learning?, What conclusions can we make about our student learning priorities?, etc.)

    2. Send the completed map and the questions to the faculty in your department with a meeting time.  Prior to meeting, direct faculty members to each note 3 to 5 observations and perspectives of their degree program based on the Map.

    3. Begin the discussion prompting faculty members for their observations, keeping track of new ideas either on a whiteboard or through taking notes.  Identify and discuss these observations.  While listening to the discussion, determine which of these observations appear to be most salient to your faculty, particularly areas wherein faculty members:
    a. establish a strong academic goal or direction of inquiry, and/or
    b. demonstrate strong curiosity or motivation to learn about how/ what/ where/ why students are learning and 
    how their learning is connected to the design of the curriculum.
    If multiple areas appear to be of interest for further discussion and exploration, determine whether (1) there is time/ energy to pursue multiple areas; (2) whether there are relationships and connections across the areas (e.g., two birds with one stone); and/or (3) whether you need to prioritize these areas of exploration.
    4. Once you have identified an area, talk through how you might collect information about how well students are learning, or how faculty are teaching in that area.  Identify what information will assist you in “assessing” how well the current curriculum design is working for your program’s learning outcomes and academic initiatives.

    5. By identifying what information you are going to collect, and how you are going to use that information, you have developed your assessment question.