Revising or creating a program learning assessment plan module 2: Drafting a curriculum map

Part of a series of modules supporting UD faculty who are developing a program assessment plan.

Module goals

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

  • Develop a curriculum map for your program
  • Use the curriculum map to develop an inventory of student artifacts

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 educational goals are listed on the left-hand side of the table.
    You may list each goal separately or you may organize them 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 are listed across the top of the table.
    It is best practice to indicate the relative emphasis that a program educational goal 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 inclued 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 develop an inventory of student artifacts

Recommended action: Use your curriculum map as a reference to develop an inventory of student artifacts that might be used in program learning assessment.

Once you have an initial draft of your curriculum map, you can use it to develop a listing of the different things that students create or do that can be assessed to provide information about their learning. In nearly every case, these artifacts – papers, presentations, paintings, lab notebooks, etc. – have already been assessed as they were graded by the faculty member(s) who taught the course. So this inventory is largely a listing of information that is already available and can be used for program-level assessment without requiring that it be evaluated again. Additionally, doing this in the context of a curriculum map can help link the artifacts to program educational goals.