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

Curriculum maps for an academic program should be documents that a reader can understand without reference to other documents. A good curriculum map describes how required courses align with and support program-level student learning outcomes. The map illustrates how skills associated with each learning outcome become increasing expert as a student completes degree requirements.

Identify the department and the degree program (as it appears in the UWF Catalog), provide a URL for the Department web site, and include the date the map was created.

Column headings identify the name and course number of each course included in the map. Include only courses that students must complete to earn the major. These might include multiple courses that are one of several options for a required curriculum component (e.g., a core cluster). Do not include electives (e.g., a curriculum requirement to take three additional courses in the major).

Row headings reproduce each program-level student learning outcome as it is articulated on the Academic Learning Compact (undergraduate programs), Academic Learning Plan (graduate programs), or in a list of program SLOs for a certificate program. Do not abbreviate or truncate the SLO. Do not replace the SLO with a word or phrase.

Cells in the curriculum map describe what contribution (if any) a course makes toward promoting student learning on a student learning outcome. No course is expected to contribute to every SLO. But every course should contribute to at least one program-level SLO. Every course included in a cluster of core courses (multiple options that meet a core requirement) should contribute to the SLO(s) the cluster supports. In a well-constructed curriculum, students should not be able to avoid a program-level SLO by selecting an option in a core cluster that does not address this SLO.

Curriculum maps can be complex. They are easiest to construct using an Excel file. A link to download a template for a curriculum map as an Excel file appears in this section. Instructions for using the template, including examples of two approaches a department might use to describe how a course contributes to an SLO (level of expertise, embedded assessments), appear in the PDF of a Curriculum Map Example.

Curriculum Map Example

Curriculum Map Template

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) Curriculum Mapping Toolkit

The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) offers a 17-page guide to creating and using curriculum maps to understand how a curriculum supports student learning.

NILOA Curriculum Mapping Toolkit >

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

A coherent curriculum is one in which required courses work together to support the acquisition and development of skills identified by program-level learning outcomes. This curriculum map provides evidence for coherence and coordinated development of skill across multiple courses for several program-level student learning outcomes. Students are introduced to these learning outcomes in some courses. They encounter opportunities to practice and reinforce these skills in several subsequent courses. And their mastery of these learning outcomes is assessed in the capstone course. If a student completes courses in the sequence described by the order of courses in the map, successive courses create a developmental progression for mastering these learning outcomes.

Weaknesses in this Curriculum

This curriculum map presents evidence of four areas of weaknesses in the curriculum. Sections of the curriculum that indicate problems (inadequate coverage, poor coherence) are indicated with red outlines in this map.

  • One course (the Intermediary Course) contributes little to the achievement of program-level learning outcomes. This course introduces some disciplinary content (SLO 1) but make no other contribution to program-level learning outcomes. A reasonable person might question why the program requires all students to complete this course.
  • No courses provide students with an opportunity to learn or practice oral communication skills (SLO 7). But students will be assessed for mastery of these skills in the capstone course.
  • Students are introduced to interpersonal and team skills (SLO 8) in one course but encounter no other opportunities to practice these skills before they are assessed for mastery in the capstone course.
  • Disciplinary ethical standards (SLO 9) receive scant attention in the curriculum. The Research Methods course introduces students to these skills. The Practicum course creates an opportunity for students to develop these skills. But the skills are never addressed again or assessed for mastery.

Updated: 04/11/16  gb