The "Why" Behind Curriculum Mapping

February 17, 2021 Nikki Kowbel

Curriculum mapping is a key part of the assessment process, offering valuable insights into your programs’ ability to meet specific outcomes. We define curriculum mapping as a method of showing the connections between the expected outcomes of an academic program and the specific courses where this learning is taking place. But it really serves to lay a strong foundation for your assessment process so that you know where to look when it comes time to report on progress.

What is the purpose of curriculum mapping?

Why map learning outcomes to courses? There are quite a few benefits to a well-defined curriculum mapping process:

  • Planning a sequence for instruction. You can identify in which course a student should first be introduced to a concept and in which course that student should be deemed “proficient” – and make sure outcomes are spread out evenly throughout the program.
  • Identifying gaps in your program. Are all of your learning outcomes covered in the current courses? Is the student’s path to proficiency clear? Better to find that out in the planning stages!
  • Finding opportunities for assessment. When outcomes are mapped to courses, you can then define how to monitor student progress along the way.
  • Improving the learning experience. When you are assessing student learning as they move through a program, you can spot negative trends and adjust the program accordingly (for example, adding new courses or modifying syllabi and assignments).

The curriculum mapping process also helps faculty and program chairs better understand how their given course fits into the big picture of their students’ educational experience and define expectations for student growth as they take additional courses. By outlining outcomes introduced in one course and then reinforced in a later advanced course, you can ensure students are developing their knowledge and skills across the curriculum.

In addition, academic chairs are able to confirm that outcomes are being taught throughout the program, while faculty are able to take more responsibility for teaching a specific outcome. It can also help students themselves understand the path they’re on, see how the courses they take will help them achieve their goals, and gain clarity around what is expected of them as they work through the program.

To learn how to simplify your curriculum mapping process, check out Assessment Foundations: Curriculum Mapping.

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