Curriculum Mapping

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

Structure of a Curriculum Map

  1. Program learning outcomes are 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 are listed across the top of the table.[1]
    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, E=Emphasize/Apply 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 the program faculty plan and carry out systematic assessment of the program with a minimum of new, additional assessment activities.

Examples

An example of a basic curriculum map and a more advanced curriculum map can be found in this Google Sheet.

Our colleagues at the University of Illinois Springfield have a large collection of curriculum maps from many of their programs available on their website.

Considerations as you conceptualize the progression of learning activities in your program curriculum that link to program outcomes:
  1. Identify core courses, which are required of all students in the program.
  2. Identify specializations and / or elective courses in the program.
  3. Identify 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. Identify faculty mentored instructional engagement with individual students e.g., independent study, thesis or dissertation research, laboratory research, supervised field work, community outreach.
  5. If your program is accredited by an external accrediting agency, overlay your program learning outcomes with learning competencies required by the external accreditor. Some accrediting agencies may focus on demonstration of program excellence via provision of specified curricular activities. It is recommended to translate these curricular activities into learning outcomes by asking: What are students gaining from participating in these activities?
Other considerations
Consider the context of your program and its distinguishing attributes as they provide necessary background for your curriculum map. You may address the following questions:

  • How does your program advance university and college goals?
  • How does your program contribute to the needs of the state of DE? (e.g., educate future leaders at the state level)
  • What external factors impact your program?
  • What are the characteristics of your student population?
  • What are the characteristics of the faculty in your program?
  • What resources are involved in program delivery?
Potential uses of the curriculum map
  • Consistent and transparent communication of the nature of the program to various constituents.
  • Transparency of students’ graduate career path to inform student decision-making and ownership of their graduate experience.
  • Consensus building among faculty and faculty ownership of all program aspects.
  • Determination of resource allocation for program delivery.
  • Identification of program areas for potential growth and specialization.
  • Making a case for the excellence of the program to raise program profile nationally and internationally and attract funding, sponsorship and partnership opportunities.

Some material on this website was adapted from:

Innovation Network, Transforming Evaluation for Social Change. Logic Model Workbook.
Maki, P. (2004). Assessing for learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
Maki, P. et al. (ed.) (2006). The assessment of doctoral education: Emerging criteria and new models for improving outcomes. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.