What is Curriculum Mapping?

Instructor: Esther Bouchillon

Esther has taught middle school and has a master's degree in gifted education.

In this lesson we will discuss what a curriculum map is. Topics we will cover include what to include in a curriculum map, who writes a curriculum map, and what things to consider when writing a curriculum map.

Road Trip

Imagine going on long road trip with no GPS. You have written down which route numbers you need to take, but you don't know in what order the turns should be made or how long you need to stay on each road. It probably wouldn't be a very successful road trip! Knowing the order of the turns and how long to drive on each road would help you reach the final destination much more efficiently.

Essentially, in education, that is what a curriculum map does. Such a map provides a teacher with an understanding of the order in which the major units of study should be taught. It also dictates how much time should be spent teaching each state standard in order to fully cover the required information in the time available. Most importantly, it helps teachers plan to complete their instruction before end of the year or the standardized tests.

Curriculum Maps

In the same way that different GPS and mapping systems vary, there is no standard format for a curriculum map that is widely accepted, although a chart layout is commonly used. Each school district may have its own requirements for a curriculum map or teachers may be allowed to create their own in whichever format they desire.

However, regardless of the format, there are essential pieces of information that will be included in every curriculum map. These components include the order in which units of study should be taught, state standards that are covered in those units, and approximate amount of time to be spent on each topic.

Some curriculum maps are very detailed and also include a resources section with references to corresponding textbook chapters, books, lab equipment, and websites for more information. An activity section might also be included on a curriculum map with specific lesson ideas within the major ideas. A few other sections that might be included are skills, essential questions, and assessments.

The authors of such maps vary widely, as well. Some states provide a sample curriculum map with an example of the order in which the standards could be taught. Other districts, especially large ones, may employ district or school level specialists for each of the core subjects whose job is to make curriculum maps for each grade level. The subject area department chairperson in secondary schools may design the maps or, within a school, a group of teachers may work on designing maps together. In some cases, if there is only one teacher assigned to a certain course, he or she could even write the curriculum map for that class!

Things to Consider

When deciding how much time to spend on a particular unit or standard, it is important to consider both the complexity of the topic and the percentage of the standardized test that will address that topic. State education departments usually publish standardized test guides with this information.

For example, let's imagine that in a life science class, the scientific method has been previously taught to students and the map indicates that most of the unit should be a review of previously-learned material. Separate from the scientific method, mitosis (a process of cell division) is an entirely new concept for students. However, the standardized test spends 30% of the questions on scientific method and only 10% on cells. Even though the scientific method should be a previously known concept, a bit more time should be spent on it to make sure students fully remember it due to the weighting of the test, even if the curriculum map recommends spending more time on mitosis.

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