What is Curriculum Mapping?

Before defining curriculum mapping, let’s first focus on what curriculum means. The term is typically used by educators and encompasses everything that students are taught in a school or course, including instructional materials and techniques. Essentially, this is the “bread and butter” of instruction in a classroom.

Now that we have established what curriculum itself is, let’s discuss curriculum mapping and what it entails. Curriculum mapping is the process of laying out and analyzing curriculum to identify and address academic discrepancies, redundancies, and misalignments for purposes of improving the overall unity of a course of study and its effectiveness to a specific audience. The specific audience, in this case, is the students for which the educators are responsible.

Curriculum mapping can also refer to the alignment of learning standards and teaching. Educators, administrators, instructional coaches, and more can assess how well and to what extent they have matched the content that students are taught with expectations that are outlined in learning standards. Items such as assessments, textbooks, lessons, instructional techniques, etc. can also be included in curriculum mapping. It provides teachers with the “what” and the “how” based on their given group of students. Then, teachers can modify anything necessary to meet the needs of their learners.

Generally, a comprehensible curriculum needs to be well organized and purposefully designed to facilitate learning. It also needs to be written without academic gaps or recurrences and clearly aligned across lessons, grade levels, and courses and subjects. When educators map and analyze a curriculum, they work to ensure that what students are taught matches the grade-level and subject expectations.

Educators used to create curriculum maps on paper prior to technology advances that we see today. Now, educators are very likely to utilize spreadsheets and software of some kind. The final product, known as the curriculum map, helps educators strategically use them to plan courses, lessons, and teaching strategies. This can be done on an individual school level or on a district-wide level.

What are the Goals of Curriculum Mapping?

While the specific approach used to map a curriculum may vary, the process typically strives to achieve four different goals. The first goal is known as vertical coherence. This is when a curriculum is vertically aligned so that what students learn in one lesson, course, or grade prepares them for what’s next. The teaching should be sequenced across grade levels appropriately so that students are building upon what they have learned previously. Additionally, skills learned will prepare them for more challenging, higher-level work.

Next, another goal is known as horizontal coherence. When a curriculum is horizontally aligned, it shows what students are learning in the same grade level, but in different sections. For instance, it will show what students are learning in a sixth-grade ELA course, and it should mirror what another class of sixth-grade ELA is learning. The aim is to ensure that the assessments and other methods teachers use to evaluate learning achievement are based on what has been taught to students. Also, it is to ensure that students are mastering learning standards that they are expected to meet in a course, subject area, or grade level.

Another goal of curriculum mapping is subject-area coherence. When a curriculum is coherent within specific subject areas, those subjects may be aligned both within and across grade levels. The aim is to ensure that teachers are working toward the same learning standards in similar courses. For example, if there are four different fourth-grade math courses all taught by different teachers, the goal would be to ensure that all students within the separate courses are learning the same amount of content and receiving the same quality of instruction.

Finally, the last goal is interdisciplinary coherence. This is when a curriculum is coherent across multiple subject areas, such as math, ELA, and social studies. Curriculum mapping for interdisciplinary (across different subjects) coherence may focus on skills that students need to succeed in any academic course, such as reading and writing skills, technology skills, and critical-thinking skills.

How to Get Started with Curriculum Mapping

As for new teachers, this idea of curriculum mapping can seem a bit overwhelming, but there are some components and tips to be aware of. First, they should become aware of student abilities in the classroom before creating a curriculum to engage students with.

Next, new teachers should have conversations with administration regarding what their initiatives are. That way, administration can clarify the expectations they have. This conversation can also help new teachers prioritize.

Additionally, new teachers should be aware of materials they have such as textbooks and guides. Also, they must consider how they will pace their instruction with these materials. These ideas go hand in hand. It is beneficial to examine all items received, read them thoroughly, meet with administrators, and figure out the best way to approach the curriculum.

Finally, new teachers need to set expectations for their students’ learning based on the curriculum and plan for assessments of learning. This should all be done with room for flexibility as well. Although it will seem like a daunting task, if teachers have a plan of action in place for curriculum planning and mapping, they should be set for success. It is also beneficial to have a firm understanding of curriculum itself and what is entailed in that prior to planning out any curriculum mapping.

*Updated December, 2020