Curriculum Maps Guidelines

Guidelines and sample curriculum maps. Information on how to use curriculum maps as a part of program assessment.


Curriculum maps can be useful assessment tools for program-level assessments. A curriculum map can identify courses in which departments might collect assessment data for specific learning outcomes. These maps also provide an overview of the structure of the curriculum and the contribution of individual courses to the goals of the program. Curriculum maps can identify program strengths - student learning outcomes that are thoroughly addressed. Curriculum maps can also help departments identify gaps (learning outcomes that are addressed by only a few courses) and suggest whether students take courses in an optimal sequence. Finally, curriculum maps can serve as useful advising tools that provide students with an overview of the role of each course in the curriculum and why some courses should be taken in a particular order.

Curriculum maps can be created using various sources of information. The following examples describe curriculum maps based on three different types of information: evidence the course addresses a program-level learning outcome, presence of assignments that evaluate a learning outcome, and level of skill expected of students on a given learning outcome. For effective tracking of changes in curriculum maps over time, departments should add a creation date to the curriculum map.


Components Expected of a Curriculum Map Posted to the CUTLA Web Site

Departmental curriculum maps should be documents that can be understood without extensive reference to other documents. Identify the department and the degree program described in the map and include the creation date for the map. Identify the names and course numbers of each course included in the map and clearly communicate each of the learning outcomes for the degree program. Links to two examples of curriculum maps with these program-specific details are the curriculum map for the undergraduate degree program in Chemistry and the master’s program in English.

B.S. Chemistry Curriculum Map

M.A. English Curriculum Map


Examples of Curriculum Map Formats

Simple Matrix Format

The simplest curriculum map is a simple matrix of courses and learning outcomes in which departments provide a check in the matrix cells for those courses that address a specific student learning outcome. The decision to identify a course that addresses a specific learning outcome might be based on instructor feedback or an analysis of learning outcomes listed on the course syllabus. Simple Matrix Sample Curriculum Map

Assignments and Embedded Assessments Format

This curriculum map enters descriptive information about the type of embedded assessment included in courses for each learning outcome (exam questions, assignment graded with a rubric, student project, student presentations, etc.). This type of curriculum map is useful to departments that would like to identify specific courses in the curriculum that generate direct measures of student performance that could be harvested for a meaningful assessment of a student learning outcome. Embedded Assignments Sample Curriculum Map

Level of Skill Format

This curriculum map describes the level of skill students are expected to achieve on a given student learning outcome in each course. This type of curriculum map helps departments determine whether courses within the curriculum are sequenced in appropriate ways and to determine whether students are experiencing adequate opportunities for acquisition and practice with disciplinary skills before they are expected to demonstrate mastery. Level of Skill Sample Curriculum Map

Curriculum with Clusters of Required Courses (Menu-type Curriculum)

Some programs structure the curriculum with sets of courses that students can select among to meet one or more core areas. This curriculum map identifies several core clusters (menus of two or more courses that will satisfy a core requirement) and provides descriptive information about the level of skill students are expected to achieve on a given learning outcome in these courses. Core-Course Cluster Sample Curriculum Map


Curriculum Maps as Assessment: Interpreting patterns to evaluate curriculum coherence

Faculty can use a curriculum map to evaluate the coherence of its program curriculum. The sample map presented in this section represents a flawed curriculum that has some strong characteristics for student learning outcomes but has several problematic features. The curriculum map identifies the level of skill expected for student learning and student work products in required courses. Sample Flawed Curriculum Map

Strengths of this Curriculum

The curriculum map indicates that three student learning outcomes (Content SLO1, Content SLO3, and Integrity/Values SLO1) are well-represented in the curriculum. These learning outcomes are introduced in some courses, students are provided opportunities to practice these skills in subsequent courses (learning is reinforced), and assessed for mastery in the capstone course. (These SLOs are highlighted in yellow in the sample curriculum map.)

Weaknesses in this Curriculum

This curriculum map presents evidence of several areas of weaknesses in the curriculum. The SLOs associated with these problems are indicated by arrows and the evidence of a problem is circled on the curriculum map.

  • One learning outcome (Critical Thinking SLO 1) is introduced in two courses and reinforced in a third course, but is never assessed for mastery.
  • Two learning outcomes (Communication SLO 2 and Project Management SLO 2) are addressed in only one course, where the SLO is introduced, although the SLO is assessed for mastery in the capstone. Faculty in this program should not be surprised to find that student performance on these two outcomes in the capstone assessments is frequently disappointing.
  • One learning outcome related to integrity (Integrity/Values SLO 2) is addressed in only one course, where it is introduced. This learning outcome is never assessed.

Faculty in this program can use this curriculum map as the basis for a discussion of the curriculum.

  • Do students get adequate practice in a skill before they are expected to demonstrate mastery? Should faculty restructure one or more courses to improve the frequency and depth of practice that students encounter for some learning outcomes?
  • Are the learning outcomes addressed in a logical order that allows students to progress from novice to greater levels of expertise?
  • Do all required courses contribute to one or more program-level student learning outcomes?

Updated: 05/06/14  tjf

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