How to Leverage Curriculum Mapping to Meet Your Institution’s Needs

March 16, 2022 Watermark Insights

A curriculum map can be an incredibly useful tool in identifying opportunities for continuous improvement in your academic offerings. Curriculum mapping is one of the best ways to ensure teacher effectiveness in today's data-driven world.

Here's a look at how to utilize a curriculum map effectively for improving learning outcomes and enhancing the student experience.

What Is Curriculum Mapping?

A curriculum or course alignment map illustrates where within a curriculum student learning outcomes are taught and can be assessed. This process ensures that alignment exists between the expected learning outcomes and what is taught in a curriculum, allows you to identify gaps, and provides opportunities for improvement. In addition, curriculum mapping provides a visual representation of where students will demonstrate or master skills and competencies and can be a powerful tool for engaging faculty and communities in meaningful discussions around the assessment of student learning.

Curriculum maps can also be used for other assessment purposes, which will be discussed later in this post.

Technology can simplify the curriculum mapping process and highlight gaps and misalignments more clearly. In this post, we’ll share tips and tricks for building and using curriculum mapping to improve learning with Watermark Planning & Self-Study.

The 4 Components of Curriculum Mapping

The 4 Components of Curriculum Mapping

Within Planning & Self-Study, there are many useful ways to build out your curriculum map. While the curriculum maps are dynamic in nature, they are typically comprised of four main parts:

  1. Intended outcomes: The set of outcomes you are seeking to meet with this program (the y-axis along the left side).
  2. Alignment: The courses aligned to the curriculum for that program or course (the x-axis across the top).
  3. Outcome classification: Tags to indicate the nature of an alignment — whether a given course introduces, reinforces, or enables a student to master a particular outcome.
  4. Assessment: Alignments to the specific measures used to assess the outcome in a given course.

In these examples, you can see where the outcomes are being introduced, reinforced, and mastered in the courses listed on the left, as well as where there is an associated assessment activity to measure outcome achievement.

Using Keys To Evaluate Course Outcomes and Identify Gaps

Every curriculum map created in Planning & Self-Study comes with a default key that classifies learning outcomes into three levels:

  1. Introduced: Students learn core concepts of their discipline in the classroom and can demonstrate a basic ability to apply that information in the real world.
  2. Reinforced: Students practice and deepen their understanding of introduced concepts, expanding their abilities to use their knowledge within the field.
  3. Mastered: Students can demonstrate mastery and proficiency in the knowledge and skills they have learned throughout their course of study.

Using Keys To Evaluate Course Outcomes and Identify Gaps

These classifications provide a bird's-eye view into the overarching story of your data. They enable you to easily determine how each course fits into your overall curriculum and the order in which each course should be taken.

The visual element of a curriculum map can also reveal where learning gaps exist, which can facilitate discussions about potential areas for refinement or optimization. For example, you may discover that students in your nursing program are missing opportunities for reinforcement of new concepts that have become essential in the field.

How To Align Course Content to Learning Outcomes

Learning how to use a curriculum map is a straightforward process with the right software at your disposal. The process for aligning outcomes and course content usually follows this process:

  1. Classifying all courses and cocurricular learning experiences according to their level within the program.
  2. Using a software program to create a curriculum map that includes all of the above data.
  3. Examining the curriculum map within a group or committee.
  4. Identifying opportunities to cover gaps within the curriculum as well as ideal points for further assessment.

The Planning & Self-Study platform makes it easy to affiliate courses and outcomes in just a few clicks. You can also choose the Introduce, Reinforce, and Master labels to indicate the value of alignment for each course. And after taking an action, your curriculum map will automatically update to reflect your changes.

Analyzing Learning Outcomes 

Planning & Self-Study supports analysis of two types of outcomes:

  • Learning outcomes: These are the skills and knowledge students develop through participating in classroom education and cocurricular learning experiences. Institutions typically measure learning outcomes through formative assessments such as capstone projects, quizzes, performances, and exams.
  • Success outcomes: These are non-academic measurements that track the effectiveness of continuous improvement initiatives for accreditation and internal reporting. They can also help determine the success of non-instructional efforts such as enrollment and retention.

Individual programs can also link course assessments in the curriculum map to provide additional depth. Faculty and staff can use this information to gain clear insights into how each course fits into the program's overall goals for students. 

You can also use this map to determine the best points for program assessments. Faculty can review and manage exactly where these assessments take place as well as the extent to which student efforts within each course contribute to achieving the intended outcomes — which will help assessment professionals plan future evaluations and collect data more effectively.

Use Curriculum Mapping To Improve Outcomes at Your Institution

Use Curriculum Mapping To Improve Outcomes at Your Institution

Institutional use of curriculum maps allow faculty, administrators, and other stakeholders to see the bigger picture of assessment activity and the alignment of assessment efforts across campus to identify gaps and help with planning.

Overall, creating a curriculum mapping process that involves producing curriculum maps can be a useful — and satisfying — way to make the assessment process more engaging for your faculty and staff. It can be used for any set of program outcomes, institutional goals, or accreditation standards for which you need a visual supplement.

Discover how Watermark’s assessment and accreditation software solutions can streamline your curriculum mapping and assessment process by requesting a demo today.

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