Curriculum Mapping

The third step of the assessment cycle is an assessment tool referred to as a curriculum or experience map. Program curriculum mapping is the process of finding the relationships between the curriculum or student experiences and the existing learning outcomes, as well as identifying where and how students demonstrating that learning. This process can be accomplished by both curricular and co-curricular programs and is essential because it provides an approach to identify any gaps between the curriculum/experiences and the learning outcomes. Mapping the learning outcomes to the curriculum or experiences also help faculty and staff reach consensus regarding the curriculum/activities, increase the chances that students will achieve the learning outcomes, provides faculty and staff an opportunity to reflect, achieve program coherence, and can serve as an advising tool that helps students understand the role of each course and the order in which they take those courses.

Characteristics and Layout of Curriculum Maps
Curriculum mapping utilizes a chart containing one column for each learning outcome and one row for each course or required event/experience (the opposite is possible when each row contains the learning outcome and the columns include each course). There are different approaches that can be taken with filling out a curriculum map including the simple matrix design, the embedded assessment design, and the skill level format. More information is provided below for each design.  It may be helpful to also include a column to the right of the courses and experiences that details each of the course or experience learning outcomes. For cocurricular programs, the main difference is that learning experiences or activities would be listed instead of courses. For example, an activity may be a workshop on resume writing or a session on bystander intervention.

Simple Matrix Design uses check marks or x’s to identify those courses that address a specific student learning outcome.


  Program Learning Outcomes
Courses and Experiences SLO 1 SLO 2 SLO 3 SLO 4
PSY 101 X X   X
PSY 202 X X X  
PSY 303 X X X  
PSY 404 – Capstone X   X X
Internship       X


>Embedded Assessment Design is used to enter detailed information about which embedded assessments in each course is tied to the specific learning outcome. This is useful for programs that want to know which courses in the curriculum produce direct measures of student performance that could be used specifically for assessment of the learning outcomes.


  Program Learning Outcomes
Courses and Experiences SLO 1 SLO 2 SLO 3 SLO 4
PSY 101 exam exam   exam
PSY 202 presentation class project exam  
PSY 303 reflective paper poster session research project  
PSY 404 – Capstone capstone portfolio   capstone portfolio capstone portfolio
Internship       interview
Skill Level Design identifies the level of skills students are expected to attain for a student learning outcome in each course. This type of curriculum map help programs determine whether courses within the curriculum are sequenced appropriately and also to determine if students are provided with sufficient chances to acquire and practice with the disciplinary skills before they are expected to demonstrate mastery.


  Program Learning Outcomes
Courses and Experiences SLO 1 SLO 2 SLO 3 SLO 4
PSY 101 I I   I
PSY 202 R R I  
PSY 303 R M, A R  
PSY 404 M, A   M, A R
Internship       A

Key: “I”=Introduced; “R”=reinforced and opportunity to practice; “M”=mastery; “A”=assessment evidence collected

Steps Taken to Create a Curriculum Map

Programmatic curriculum mapping can be achieved by one individual, but then program faculty and/or staff would miss out on the opportunity to discuss where learning occurs in the program and reflect on how it should all be aligned. By having these discussions, everyone can get on the same page and determine how to improve the alignment, based upon the identified gaps. Before beginning this process, it is important to determine the purpose for participating in curriculum mapping and what will be done with the gathered information, identify which type of curriculum map to use, who will be involved in the discussion, what is being left out of these important discussions, and how and with whom the maps will be shared (published online, shared during advising meetings, etc.). The below curriculum mapping process is based upon the use of the skill-level design (the third one displayed above):

Step 1: Faculty and/or staff members begin with:
  • The program’s intended student learning outcomes.
  • Recommended and required courses or experiences/activities.
  • Course outcomes (if available) – this can help better map between courses and programmatic learning outcomes.
  • Direct assessments being used in the program courses.
  • Any indirect assessment such as focus groups, surveys.

Step 2: Create the “map” in the form of a table (see two options provided in the document below); This can be done by drawing the map on an oversized sheet, posterboard, or post-it; then use small, different colored post it notes to identify how the courses/experiences are aligned with the learning outcomes.

Step 3: Enter the student learning outcomes and courses and events/experiences into the map that currently address those outcomes.

Step 4: Determine where each learning outcome is introduced, reinforced, mastered and assessed based upon the courses/experiences listed. Keep in mind that no course is expected to contribute to every student learning outcome, but every course should contribute to at least one program-level student learning outcome. It may be helpful to have each faculty/staff involved select how they believe that each learning outcome aligns with each course/experience. This can help determine if there are any differing opinions. The next step is to reflect as a group and reach consensus.

Step 5: Faculty and/or staff members reflect upon the curriculum map and should answer the following questions (Jankowski & Marshall, 2017):

  • Are all the learning outcomes addressed in an order that makes sense throughout the courses/experiences? (Do they build upon each other accurately?).
  • Is there a plan to assess each of the learning outcomes?
  • Is there a plan for each course/experience to cover at least one of the program learning outcomes? (Remember they don’t need to be covered in each course/experience, but they need to be addressed at least once throughout the program.).
  • Are the learning outcomes addressed at the same level?  (Is one being addressed more often and if so, is that on purpose? Is it more important than the other outcomes?).
  • Are all outcomes first introduced and then reinforced?
  • Are the students provided with the opportunity to have their learning reinforced and mastered for each of the learning outcomes?
  • Are all learning outcomes addressed (introduced, reinforced, mastered) before students are assessed?
  • Are the levels of learning appropriate for each of the courses? (You probably wouldn’t have the higher-level learning addressed in 100 level courses, such as analysis or synthesis).
  • Are there consistent themes that are addressed across the electives and align with the learning outcomes? (Is there common learning that takes place regardless of a student’s electives?).

Step 6: The curriculum map should be published and communicated to both students and faculty.

Curriculum Map Templates