Blog Post

Curriculum Mapping and Assessment Mapping to Improve Higher Education Learning

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Benefits of Assessment Mapping for Students and Faculty

Regardless of grade level or subject area, virtually every teacher is familiar with the concept of curriculum mapping. Some are actively engaged in the process. This is also true, albeit to a lesser extent, in higher education. Due to the structure of higher education programs, faculty sometimes find themselves focused on their own courses with a bit less awareness of the program at large.

But What is Curriculum Mapping and Why is it Important?

Curriculum mapping is the process of identifying where specific learning outcome-related content is taught to ensure that it is thoroughly addressed in the program. Curriculum mapping can provide an overview of the program and the student experience including the identification of strengths and gaps in the program as well as suggest course sequences. The process of curriculum mapping also helps rationalize the inclusion of specific courses in the programs. Curriculum mapping is all about teaching and answers the questions of where, how often, and to what degree specific content is presented to students.

How is Assessment Mapping Related to Curriculum Mapping?

Assessment mapping is curriculum mapping turned on its side. Like mapping of the curriculum, assessment mapping requires that you look at the program in its entirety and somewhat holistically. Rather than focusing on the instruction of specific concepts, assessment mapping is all about where those concepts are assessed.

With an emphasis on where, how, and how often students are assessed on student learning outcomes, faculty can learn much about the students, as well as the courses and the program itself. Analyzing the data collected as a result of ongoing assessment can actually help identify where learning happens!

Preparing Faculty for Assessment Mapping

Faculty are familiar with the process of curriculum mapping and often look forward to coming together to talk about their teaching. Assessment mapping is no different, but you may find that faculty who are unfamiliar with the process need a little more preparation. When your faculty is properly prepared, completing an initial assessment map of a program should take less than an hour.

Before beginning, talk about the questions that will guide your process. Only consider assessments that are currently in place and do not map assessments that do not yet exist.

Looking at the program in its entirety, ask the following questions:

In which courses are students assessed on the concepts identified in the student learning outcomes?

These may be the same courses where the concepts and skills are taught, but they may be assessed in other courses as well.

Do students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their competencies of the concepts?

Ideally, students should have more than one chance to show they understand a concept or perform a skill to an expected level of competency. For students, multiple opportunities for assessment mean that they can see their growth over time and reflect upon the process. For the program, multiple assessment opportunities allow you to track student growth throughout a program and drill into the data to learn even more.

Is the assessment distributed throughout the program?

Assessment mapping allows you to determine specifically where assessment takes place and if some courses are heavily loaded with the assessment of learning outcomes while others are skipped. We are not suggesting that you force assessment where it is not natural or assess every concept or skill every time it is presented. It is likely that you will have some courses that easily address multiple student learning outcomes and others that do not as much and the assessments follow that line.

Strategic Educational Assessment to Provide the Right Data to Support Student Learning

More is not always better. Many folks find that they are assessing the same outcomes over and over and ignoring others. Other times they may feel they are assessing too much. There may be courses without assessments that fit into the assessment map, and that might be okay.

Strategic assessment is your target with your ultimate goal of gathering information about student learning that can be shared and used for program reform or revision. You will have data to support your instincts. Always remember that the assessment map is not an end, but provides information to be used for improvement.

To find out more about assessment, download the Guide to Successful Accreditation through Proactive Educational Assessment.

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