Revising or creating program educational goals module 3: Drafting a curriculum map

Part of a series of modules supporting UD faculty who are revising or developing program educational goals.

Module goals

After successfully completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Develop a curriculum map for your program
  • Use your curriculum map to inform your draft program educational goals

Steps and recommended actions

1. Review examples of curriculum maps to develop an understanding of the maps and their uses

Recommended action: Review examples of curriculum maps to develop an understanding of the maps and their uses. (Additional examples have been collected by colleagues at the University of Illinois at Springfield.)

The curriculum map is a communication tool that visually aligns a program’s educational goals and student learning experiences e.g., courses. It provides insight into curricular coherence and content emphasis. It offers shared context for all stakeholders to communicate criteria and standards of program excellence, logic of program design, implementation and assessment, and faculty contributions. The curriculum map serves as a living document that should be revisited periodically to reflect curricular enhancements or changes in program mission.

At its best, it serves as a road map for student progression to degree and articulates significant milestones in achieving learning outcomes, such as:

  • Successful completion of core courses
  • Field experience/Practicum
  • Qualifying exams
  • Comprehensive exams
  • Dissertation proposal
  • Dissertation defense

A curriculum map is typically a 2-dimensional table or grid. A common structure for a curriculum map includes:

  1. Program learning outcomes listed on the left-hand side of the table. You may list each learning outcome separately, or you may organize learning outcomes based on overarching competencies they reflect. For example, Scholarly Writing Competencies (overarching competency): Identify research question and formulate thesis statement, Synthesize pertinent literature on specific topic, Document reference and citations according to MLA (specific program learning outcomes).
  2. Core courses, program activities and learning experiences listed across the top of the table. It is best practice to indicate the relative emphasis that a student learning outcome received in a core course or learning experience. For example, you may use I=Introduce, R=Reinforce, M=Master or H=High Emphasis, M=Medium Emphasis, L=Low Emphasis.

It may also be helpful to include the primary assessment methods used in the courses, activities, and experiences included in the map e.g., essay, team project, presentation, case analysis, exam, thesis, lab activity, manuscript. This can help you plan and carry out systematic assessment of the program with a minimum of new, additional assessment activities.

2. Draft a curriculum map for your program

Recommended actions: Draft a curriculum map for your program using this worksheet.

As you begin to draft your curriculum map, consider starting simple and using each cell in the table to indicate whether a course or other experience addresses each program educational goal. After this initial draft has been developed, you can always add more information e.g., indicate the level at which each course or experience addresses each goal, include specific assessments or artifacts where student learning is demonstrated.

Additional considerations or information included in your curriculum map may include:

  1. Core courses or experiences that are required of all students in the program.
  2. Specializations or elective courses in the program.
  3. Program activities that may occur outside of core courses and may reflect areas of specialization and link to program outcomes e.g. field work, internships, practicum, and affiliation with research centers.
  4. Faculty-mentored instructional engagement with individual students e.g., independent study, thesis or dissertation research, laboratory research, supervised field work, community outreach.
  5. Courses or experiences that occur outside of your unit e.g., a required math course taught by faculty in the math department.

Finally, it is not uncommon to confront the reality – perhaps an uncomfortable or undesireable one – that the same course has different outcomes depending on who teaches it. For the purposes of creating a curriculum map, it is usually most practical to include only one entry for the course and to only note the program educational goals that all versions of the course address i.e., code the lowest common denominator.

3. Use your curriculum map to review your draft program educational goals

Recommended action: Compare your curriculum map to your draft program educational goals and make appropriate edits and follow up plans to resolve identified issues.

Once you have an initial draft of your curriculum map, you are well positioned to examine the map to determine:

  1. Are all program goals adequately addressed throughout the program’s curriculum? In most cases, goals should be addressed multiple times throughout a student’s career at UD to provide them with ample opportunities to practice and receive feedback. If a goal is not addressed multiple times, this raises several possible questions, including (a) does the curriculum need to be revised to add additional opportunities to address that goal and (b) is that truly a program-level goal or should it be removed from the list or otherwise clarified or edited?
  2. Are there courses or other learning experiences that do not appear to address any or enough program goals? In some cases, that indicates a need for curricular revision e.g., the course or experience needs to be changed so it hews closer to the intended program goals, the course or experience is a good candidate for removal from the curriculum. In other cases, that may indicate that one or more program educational goals are missing from your draft list of goals.
  3. Are the courses and learning experiences properly sequenced? For example, the map can help identify if students are prepared for advanced courses where they are already expected to have particular skills or knowledge. The map can also indicate other potential sequencing problems such as courses that are not helpfully ordered, goals that are addressed in too many courses (especially if the same goals are introduced multiple times, perhaps to the same students), and goals that are introduced but not sufficiently practiced or reinforced in later courses and experiences.

This is also a good time to revisit any program educational goals that are imposed on your program e.g., UD general education objectives expected of all undergraduate program, program-specific accreditation standards. If all of those goals are not already subsumed by your draft program educational goals, tt can be very helpful to also include those goals in your curriculum map so that you can ensure that they are being met, too.

4. Revisit original plans for successfully developing and submitting PEGs for your program

Recommended action: Review and update the plan you created in Module 1 for developing and submitting PEGs for your program.

At this final step of these self-guided modules, you have draft program educational goals that have been informed by discipline-specific resources and examples, other appropriate goals required of your program (if any), a curriculum map comparing your curriculum to your goals, and regular collaboration with some of your colleagues. When you and your colleagues are finished editing your draft goals, you are ready to share them with all of the faculty in your program for their review and input. In many cases, you will also want to obtain formal approval of these goals by requesting a vote, perhaps during a faculty meeting, before submitting them to the Faculty Senate via Curriculog.

This is also an excellent time to revisit the original timeline that you developed in Module 1 to ensure that you’ve completed or are on track to complete all of the major tasks outlined there.

Finally, keep in mind that for the initial collection of program educational goals in the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 academic years Curriculog submissions using the purpose-built form for collecting these goals are only accepted through March 1, 2023 (here are some instructions for accessing and using that form). Submissions made after that date will have to be made during the 2023-2024 academic year using the program revision form.