Curriculum Mapping / Curriculum Matrix

Last Updated: 4 March 2024. Click here to view archived versions of this page.

On this page:

  1. What is it? Why do it?
  2. What does a curriculum map/matrix look like?
  3. How is a curriculum map created?
  4. Analyze your curriculum map
  5. Equity-minded considerations for curriculum map review & development
  6. Additional resources & sources consulted

Note: The information and resources contained here serve only as a primers to the exciting and diverse perspectives in the field today. This page will be continually updated to reflect shared understandings of equity-minded theory and practice in learning assessment.


1. What is it? Why do it?

Back to Top

Curriculum mapping is a method to align instruction with desired goals and program outcomes. It can also be used to explore what is taught and how. The map or matrix:

  • Documents what is taught and when
  • Reveals gaps in the curriculum
  • Helps design an assessment plan

Benefits:

  • Improves communication among faculty
  • Improves program coherence
  • Increases the likelihood that students achieve program-level outcomes
  • Encourages reflective practice

2. What does a curriculum map/matrix look like?

Back to Top

It’s a table with one column for each learning outcome and one row for each course or required event/experience (or vice versa: each row contains a course and each column lists a learning outcome).

Excerpt from a hypothetical biology program curriculum map

Key: “I”=Introduced; “R”=reinforced and opportunity to practice; “M”=mastery at the senior or exit level; “A”=assessment evidence collected for program-level decision making

Courses Intended Student Learning Outcomes
Apply the scientific method Develop laboratory techniques Diagram and explain major cellular processes Awareness of careers and job opportunities in biological sciences
BIOL 101 I I   I
BIOL 202 R R I  
BIOL 303 R M, A R  
BIOL 404 M, A   M, A R
Other: Exit interview       A

Example from a PhD program

(SLO=student learning outcome)

PhD Requirements SLO 1 SLO 2 SLO 3 SLO 4
Course Requirements X      
Qualifying Exam   X X  
Comprehensive Exam X X   X
Dissertation X X X  
Final Examination X X X  
Seminar Requirements   X   XX

Example from a program with multiple paths to satisfy degree requirements

Requirements: Track 1 Requirements: Track 2 Requirements: Track 3 SLO 1 SLO 2 SLO 3 SLO 4 SLO 5
Core: CRS 255 (3 credits)
I I I I I
Core: Three theory courses (9 credits)
  I I    
Core: Writing (3 credits)
I     I I
Core: Design (3 credits)
  I   I  
CRS 310, 312, 350       R   R  
CRS 325     R R      
CRS 355       R R    
CRS 405           R R
CRS 410         R    
CRS 450       R R    
CRS 455     R       R
CRS 495     A A A A A
  CRS 215, 315       R R R
  CRS 316     R   R  
  CRS 318   R   R R  
  CRS 320, 415     R   R  
  CRS 420       R R R
  CRS 495   A A A A A
    CRS 352 R       R
    CRS 360   R R    
    CRS 382 R        
    CRS 385       R R
    CRS 460 R       R
    CRS 480 R R   R  
    CRS 485 R R      
    CRS 495 A A A A A

SLO-student learning outcome; I-introduced; R-reinforced/practiced; A-assessed for program-level decision making

Example from Civil and Environmental Engineering

This map shows the extent to which each SLO is emphasized in each course (1=some emphasis, 2=moderate emphasis, 3=substantial emphasis).

Core curriculum linkages to program outcomes

Outcomes
SemesterCourseabcdefghijk
Freshmen: FallEng 100322
Math 24132
Chem 161 & 161L32
FG Global and Multicultural Perspectives3
Math 24232
Freshmen: SpringPhys 170 & 170L332
Chem 16231
EE 160 or ICS 1113113
CEE 2703311113
Sophomore
Fall
Math 24332
Phys 272 & 272L3312
FG Global and Multicultural Perspectives3
DH Hum. Div. Req. or DL Lit. Div. Req.3
CEE 271321
Sophomore
Spring
Math 24432
CEE 370 & 370L2311313111
Biological science elective33
Sp 25132
CEE 30531121111
Junior
Fall
CEE 32033221311
CEE 3611112131
DS Social Sci. Div. Req. Econ. Elect.3
Math Elect – ME403,GG312,Math302/30732
CEE 3303211211223
Junior
Spring
CEE 355333221112
CEE 37513211121222
CEE 3813212
DS Social Science Div. Req.3
CEE 461,
CEE 462 or
CEE 464
3
1
2
1
1
1
21
2
3
3

1
1
1
1
3
2
1

3
1
3
3
1
1
2
1
2
Senior
Fall
CEE 472,
CEE 473 or
CEE 474
1
1
1
1
2
11
1
2
1
1
2
1
2
1
1
2
1
1
2
1
1
2
1
2
Technical Elective 2See below
Technical Elective 2See below
CEE 489B111112
CEE 489C3111
Senior
Spring
CEE 421 or
CEE 431
3
3
23
2
13
3
2
1
2
2
2
2
1
2
3
3
CEE 45531231113
CEE 490333333233
Technical Elective 2See below
Technical Elective 2See below
PROGRAM OUTCOME SUM TOTAL 37025141330152139171848

Notes:

  1. “blank” = no emphasis; 1 = some emphasis; 2 = moderate emphasis; 3 = substantial emphasis
  2. A list of technical electives and their curriculum linkages to program outcomes are provided below.
  3. When calculating the program outcome sum total, the columns are summed using the lowest possible weighting scale if students have a choice among courses (e.g., for outcome a, CEE 462 has the lowest weighting scale among the CEE 46X courses)

Technical electives map

Outcomes

 

Course

a b c d e f g h i j k
CEE 424 3 3 2 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 3
CEE 432 3 2 1 1 3 1 2   1 1 3
CEE 471 1       1 1   1 1 1  
CEE 476 1   2   1 1   2 2 2 2
CEE 482 3       2       1   2
CEE 485 3 3 2 2 3 1 2 1 2 2 2
CEE 486 3   3   3 1 1 1 2 2 2
CEE 491a 1   3 3 2 1 3 3 2 2 2
CEE 491b       2     3 2   1 3
  1. Sustainable Construction
  2. Policy and Infrastructure

3. How is a curriculum map created?

Back to Top

  • Faculty members begin with
    • the program’s intended student learning outcomes,
    • recommended and required courses (may include General Education courses if appropriate), and
    • other required events/experiences (e.g., internships, department symposium, advising session, national licensure exams)
  • Create the “map” in the form of a table
  • Mark the courses and events/experiences that currently address the outcomes. For example, mark the cell with an “X.” Alternatives are possible, for example,
    • Enter an “I” to indicate students are introduced to the outcome
    • “R” indicates the outcome is reinforced and students afforded opportunities to practice
    • “M” indicates that students have had sufficient practice and can now demonstrate mastery at the degree exit level
    • “A” indicates where evidence might be collected and evaluated for program-level assessment (note: collection might occur at the beginning and end of the program if comparisons across levels are desired)
  • Faculty members analyze the curriculum map. They discuss and revise so that students receive adequate exposure/practice on each outcome, or, so that students are appropriately introduced to each outcome, have it reinforced/practiced, and then demonstrate their level of outcome mastery or achievement. Tip: each outcome should have an “A” or other mark (e.g., ” * ” to indicate that evidence will be collected for program-level assessment.

4. Analyze your curriculum map

Back to Top

  • Does each course contribute to the degree/program student learning outcomes? If not, what’s the recommendation?
    • Tip: each course should have at least one “X” or equivalent mark.
  • Does any course try to do too much? If yes, what’s the recommendation?
    • Tip: a single course can typically address 1-3 outcomes (exception: capstone and culminating experiences may be able to address more).
  • Overall, do students have enough exposure to meet exit-level expectations? If no, what’s the recommendation?
    • Tip: the appropriate amount of exposure (i.e., the number of “X”s in each column) will depend on the outcome, the students, and exit expectations. Two examples: (1) high-level cognitive skills require more practice (exposure) than low-level skills; (2) if all students enter underprepared, more exposure and practice are needed.
  •  If the program allows students to select courses from a group (e.g., choose 2 of these 4 courses), is it possible for students to make a selection that results in insufficient exposure to an outcome? If yes, what’s the recommendation?
  • Where might learning evidence be collected for program-level decision making? What recommendations do you have?
    • Tip: when investigating exit performance, collect learning evidence (student work) near the end of the program such as from a capstone course, or from a culminating experience such as the PhD oral defense and dissertation.
  • Once assessment results have been collected and analyzed, return to your curriculum map. At this stage, your map exists not only as a tool for better understanding assessment results, but also as a living document that must be adjusted iteratively based on student needs.

5. Equity-minded considerations for curriculum map review & development

Back to Top

Good PracticeEquity-Minded Considerations
Transparency: Publish the curriculum map and distribute to faculty and academic advisers as well as students to increase transparency.Transparency is a core tenet of equity-minded assessment practice. Students should know and understand pathways to program goals and outcomes as early as possible. A curriculum map gives students a sense of direction and progression.
Explain Curriculum Connections: Each faculty member should make explicit connections across courses for the students.At the beginning of the course or unit, a faculty member can remind students what they were introduced to in another course and explain how the current course will have them practice or expand their knowledge. Do not expect students to make those connections by themselves.
Set priorities as a department/program to focus on strengthening a particular program SLO. Everyone working together toward common outcomes can increase the likelihood that students will meet or exceed the faculty’s expectations.Include student input in the process of setting priorities. Listening to student voices and experiences can illuminate unseen equity gaps.

Invite multiple perspectives (e.g. faculty, students, potential employers, co-curricular staff) in collaborative decisions on program priorities.
Build in practice and multiple learning opportunities for students, e.g. introduce, reinforce, master. Students will perform best if they are introduced to the learning outcome early in the curriculum and then given sufficient practice and reinforcement before evaluation of their level of achievement takes place to determine exit level performance.When considering what is a sufficient amount of practice, keep students with the most need in mind – not just the average students’ needs.

Provide high performing students with increased academic challenge through electives.
Use the curriculum map to identify the learning opportunities (e.g., assignments, activities) that produce the program’s outcomes.Prioritize the assignments and assessment tasks that are relevant to students’ cultural background and meaningful to their current and future professional lives.

Select multiple locations in the curriculum to collect learning evidence and examine students’ learning strengths through multiple occasions and means that are inclusive of multiple groups of students. For example, collecting evidence from upper-level courses will be more likely to include transfer students than from lower-level courses. 
Keep the student population in mind. Consider that there are different groups of students within the population that may have varying strengths and needs.Consider what is known about students’ prior learning. For example, transfer students and first-time freshmen bring different levels of learning, therefore the pre-requisite requirements should be different for these two groups.

Consider what checkpoints for learning achievement are needed given the different groups in your student population. Can non-traditional students, those who come back to school with job experience, be allowed to test out of a class? If so, where in the curriculum should faculty advisors or course instructors check their progress?
The Assessment and Curriculum Support Center can tailor a curriculum mapping workshop for your program. Call or email airo@hawaii.edu to schedule.

6. Additional resources & sources consulted

Back to Top

Additional resources: videos, workshop presentation slides and handouts:

Sources consulted (July 2008):

Other sources:

Contributors: Monica Stitt-Bergh, Ph.D., Yao Z. Hill Ph.D., TJ Buckley.