Curriculum maps pave the way for the decision-making process in teaching and learning. But what exactly is curriculum mapping? It is the process of planning and diagramming curriculum to spot the academic needs of students, identify gaps, reduce redundancies, and eliminate irrelevant content to ease the learning process. In addition, it aims to upgrade the consistency and coherence of content.
Curriculum mapping encompasses all the steps educators and instructional designers need to partake in to design the subject matter students will learn over the semester or the year. Another goal of the process is to align the learning objectives with the teaching standards of the institution. But, let’s not forget that it also engaged in the alignment of various elements entailed in educating students, including assessments, OER material, assignments, lesson content, textbooks, and instructional techniques.
Education globally is driven more by standards and the concrete quality of what’s taught. This has pushed a better evaluation standard of the course content and continuous examination of the material taught to achieve the level that’s been benchmarked worldwide. Because of this, more and more instructional designers and educators are undertaking curriculum mapping to assess if their course meets the needs or not.
Curriculum mapping is essential because it allows teachers and course designers to focus on balancing the content across curricula. It allows them to look into each course, analyze what students will learn, and assist them in assimilating data.
A curriculum map allows instructors to analyze what has already been done in their courses, either by them or someone else. Based on that, it serves as a tool that can help develop a plan of action or an instructional manual for the course. When designed carefully and methodically, curriculum maps can serve as a roadmap for the faculty to investigate the efficacy of their classes with relevance to each other.
In addition, they increase the prospects of overall synergy in the grade-to-grade increase in student outcomes. This means that when instructors create a curriculum map that can be shared, it gives their fellows a chance to map and identify areas in which they can reinforce or enhance learning for their past, current, or future students.
Before we move this further, let us clarify this one fundamental thing that puzzles a lot of educators. A curriculum map and a lesson map are not the same things. Curriculum maps are your long-term roadmap or an overview of your objectives and the course specificities for the school year. They can cover an entire semester or even a whole year if what you teach is divided across two different semesters.
On the other hand, a lesson plan is one unit. It details what will be taught, the topics that will be covered, the mode of instruction, how the lectures will be delivered, and what resources will be used to prepare the lesson.
The lesson plans mostly cover single classes or are short-term course plans. They do not summarize the entirety of your teaching objective and the road you need to follow to get there.
The purpose of course mapping will be lost if the syllabus is not coherent. A coherent curriculum is integral to fulfilling your course maps' true purpose and delivering the objectives the way they should be. Here are three things that constitute a coherent curriculum:
1- The curriculum should be purposefully articulated and organized to deliver its intended meaning. The intention should be to facilitate the learning process and to make it as seamless as well.
2- There should be repetition only if there is a need to reinforce a particular topic for better understandability. Even in that case, it is recommended to stretch the lesson plan to several classes or weeks to solidify the idea. There should be no academic gaps to ensure the standardization of content quality.
3- There should be the correct alignment between lessons, subject areas, and the students' academic level. These three should fit perfectly to guarantee that what’s taught matches the academic expectations of the course taught and the students.
Ensuring these three while designing a course will result in a curriculum map that will further help plan the modules, lesson plans, and other materials.
As indicated, coherent curriculum mapping is vital and aids in achieving specific goals. The main benefit of it is to achieve the following:
1- Vertical Coherence,
2- Horizontal Coherence,
3- Subject-area Coherence, and
4- Interdisciplinary Coherence.
Let’s discuss them one by one:
A vertically coherent curriculum means that what students learn in a single lesson, course, or semester sets a foundation for what’s coming next. The motive could be to prepare them for the next class, course, or semester.
With vertical coherence, curriculum mapping fulfills the educational criteria all schools seek to achieve. It structures teaching and learning in a logical and purposefully articulated manner. It helps students learn the content they are supposed to - by progressively building on the knowledge they have acquired previously. Finally, it prepares them for higher-level thinking required for the future.
When a curriculum is horizontally coherent, it is in harmony with the standards set for that education level. In simple terms, what students learn in the finance course for MBA second semester in one university mirror the level of what other students learn in the same class for the same program in a different university.
When education levels are standardized to an extent (which isn’t particularly possible for higher education), course maps aim to ensure that the content material, including assessments, lesson plans, etc., is comparable to the curriculum of a similar lesson, course, or grade level.
When a curriculum is subject-area coherent, it aligns the subject (finance, HR, psychology, etc.) goals within and across semester levels. When designing subject-area curriculum maps, the instructors must ensure they work toward the same learning standards in similar courses.
Think of it as four instructors teaching the same course to a different group of students. All these students should be learning the same content quality and instruction level across the subject-area courses.
When a curriculum is interdisciplinary coherent, it aims to set the standard of teaching quality for the institution. Although different programs and courses have different demands, an interdisciplinary coherence seeks to achieve the alignment of multiple subject areas within and across semester/ year levels.
Mapping the course for interdisciplinary coherence focuses on developing skills and habits that help students pass on from one level of education to another. These skills are spread across different subjects to achieve the final result.
Curriculum maps are integral to the academic development of students. However, they should never be considered done, and educators, designers, and institutions should continuously strive to improve the learning experience. As new students enter the institution and the same courses are taught, the curriculums should be evaluated, assessed, and revised. This should be done per the students' changing needs, education, and the job market.