Curriculum mapping provides your school with a method to continuously improve your curriculum through teacher feedback and the development of best practices. However, this process only works if your entire school community is actively engaged in the curriculum mapping process.
At a very basic level, curriculum maps should be used to keep track of what has been taught and figure out what should be taught next. This document will not necessarily tell you HOW to teach, but rather indicate the content that must be covered throughout the class and how the understanding of this content will be assessed.
What is a Curriculum Map?
In simple terms, curriculum mapping is a process that enables districts to gather data on what is actually being taught and what students are actually learning. The result of this process is a curriculum map that teachers can use as a tool to stay organized and as a framework for daily lesson planning. Curriculum maps are created for each subject and grade level.
A curriculum map for a subject consists of a collection of unit plans that align with a set of content standards. The unit plans define the scope of the content being covered by considering the desired learning outcomes. The unit plans are also tied to a defined sequence based on the appropriate scaffolding of the content standards. This is commonly referred to as the scope and sequence’ document.
Effective curriculum is planned backward from long-term, desired results through a three-stage design process (Desired Results, Evidence, and Learning Plan). This process helps avoid common problems such as treating the textbook as the curriculum rather than a resource, or activity-oriented teaching in which no clear priorities and purposes are apparent.
We go more in depth into the stages of designing effective curriculum in our free guide.
Learn more about how to work on curriculum mapping with 3 informative on-demand webinars with Dr. Jacobs. Watch them here!
Why curriculum map?
The greatest benefit to curriculum mapping is its ability to improve the links between curriculum, assessment, and instruction in schools.
Teachers take pride in delivering lessons that engage their students, but they must also consider how their work aligns with standards.
Curriculum mapping supports teachers’ efforts to track how many of the required standards, content and skills have been addressed and what remains to be covered.
How do curriculum maps help teachers? / Benefits of Using a Curriculum Map
The purpose of a curriculum map is to document the relationship between every component of the curriculum. Used as an analysis, communication, and planning tool, a curriculum map:
- Allows educators to review the curriculum to check for redundancies, inconsistencies, misalignments, weaknesses, and gaps
- Identifies what students have learned, allowing educators to focus on building on previous knowledge
- Teachers gain a more thorough understanding of the curriculum by associating learning goals to the standards, resulting in improved practice
- Enables a better understanding of how you can build on what your students already know while minimizing gaps and repetition in the district wide curriculum
- Provides a review of assessment methods
- Educators gain greater insight into curriculum structures, student progress throughout the discipline, and awareness of curricular content
- Teachers feel more comfortable contributing to the curriculum taught in their classroom, reducing their reliance on textbooks
- Documents the relationships between the required components of the curriculum and the intended student learning outcomes
- More efficiently collect data about the operational curriculum and further increase transparency to stakeholders
- Helps identify opportunities for integration among disciplines
- With online tools that aid transparency across a district, curriculum maps become the vehicle to enhance interdisciplinary teaching strategies, knowledge sharing and resource across the districts
Balance content across grade levels
Teachers and administrators gain the opportunity to look into each class and understand what students actually learn. This information is used to identify redundancies or gaps in the course content. This also helps teachers and administrators assess the structure of the course, and the plan of when specific lessons or concepts are taught.
This goes back to the horizontal alignment mentioned earlier. If there are 3 different Grade 9 Math classes at the school or district, each class will cover the same amount of content, and receive the same quality of instruction.
The Role of Teachers
Recording throughout the term
Curriculum mapping is not a spectator sport. It demands teachers’ ongoing preparation and active participation. These maps should be referenced as part of your regular lesson planning process. This allows for an idea of what really took place in individual classrooms versus what was originally planned. The content that has been taught, and the strategies used to teach that content, should be measured in real time. It is recommended that data is recorded at least once a month in order to ensure that important details are not missed.
Curriculum mapping is never “done”
As teachers are continually adding more information to curriculum maps, they are never actually finished. The notes added by the teacher each year address how varied student needs were accommodated within a lesson plan. Curriculum maps undergo ongoing development, in order to improve student learning and content quality across schools.
We go more in depth into the role of teachers in the curriculum mapping process in our free guide.
The Role of Administrators
Curriculum maps should be viewable by all teachers and administrators within a school or district, ideally on a secure server that can be accessed through the internet. Administrators should have a clear understanding of the intricacies of the mapping process and must provide continual support to teachers. Administrators at all levels should understand that curriculum mapping is a complex process with many moving parts. It must be well planned and executed until all teachers are involved. If curriculum mapping is not carried out in this manner, there is a good chance that curriculum mapping will fail or have to be restarted.
Curriculum map review and approval
Administrators will conduct the curriculum review process, allowing changes to be planned for the following year. We provide a detailed walk through of the curriculum map review process and approving changes in our free guide!
Curriculum mapping is an important step in ensuring that every teacher has the tools they need to be successful in their role. It is extremely important that your curriculum mapping integrates directly into each teacher’s workflow in order to create living documents. A curriculum document that is created once and then forgotten is not a curriculum map. Throughout the school year, encourage your teachers to use curriculum maps daily. Consider using software tools to make this process easy and seamless. Professional learning communities are also incredibly useful throughout this entire process.
Curriculum mapping allows teachers and administrators the freedom to adapt their curriculum to meet the needs of every student. Teachers will have the best strategies for teaching the necessary content in their courses and can return to what matters most — their students.
This video by Heidi Hayes Jacobs shares how to work and create a curriculum task force. Watch below:
Standards provide a high level benchmark for what students should be able to achieve at various levels of their educational journey. These are often vague and can be difficult to translate into actionable lessons and assessments.
Curriculum maps help to create a bridge between standards and lesson plans, by bringing curriculum into the classroom. This has implications on every stakeholder within the school district community.
Teachers are already analyzing, synthesizing, and organizing their curriculum, to find gaps and repetitions in how standards are actually carried out. A curriculum map built for the teachers would ease this process and allow them to go more in depth. With this in mind, teachers can begin to formulate their own cross-curricular connections between subject matter and enhance an interdisciplinary approach to learning.
Curriculum mapping results in changing the instructional focus towards the deeper understanding beyond basic content acquisition. Curriculum mapping is a learning process for the teacher and helps them take ownership of the curriculum.
Good curriculum maps at a district follow a common format that enables educators to have conversations around effective teaching and increase transparency across grade levels and subject areas.
Curriculum maps will benefit every stakeholder in your institution. Teachers, administrators, students, and parents will all benefit by understanding the link between standards and day to day lessons. But curriculum maps cannot just be created and forgotten. In order to truly enhance education at your school, they must be living documents that are continually used, reviewed, and updated.
Additional resources: check out How to Create a Curriculum Map [Infographic] or Self Assessment: Am I Ready to Refine My Curriculum Mapping Process.