Curriculum mapping

Update

The project has had a small realignment in its aims to focus more on the question of alignment rather than just curriculum mapping. Curriculum mapping is a part of the project, however, the broader aim is to investigate how to make changes to the L&T environment within universities to make consideration of alignment (curricula, instructional, constructive etc) a more visible part of the everyday practice of academics.

Old introduction

This is the start of a page to hold information about the planning and thinking about a project to try and make curriculum mapping actually useful for academics. It will grow and develop over time.

Currently, this page is becoming the place holder for any and all information about the project. At the moment it includes:

What’s it about

The most recent attempt to explain the project is this post. A quick summary follows.

The problems:

  • Curriculum mapping is become increasingly important and prevalent in universities.
  • It’s mostly being done for purposes of stakeholders (e.g. accrediting agencies, university quality control etc.) other than those of teaching academics.
  • It’s generally being implemented (or at the very least being perceived to be implemented) in a way that adds work for academics, rather than integrates and builds upon what they already do.
  • It’s usually done with really primitive tools (Word documents and Excel spreadsheets) – that don’t provide any real scaffolding to improve the quality of the task and its outcomes and don’t easily integrate with existing systems or allow significant reuse – or with specially written curriculum mapping software – that doesn’t integrate with the tools or processes academics currently use.
  • It’s embodies knowledge and skills that most academics don’t necessarily have.
  • Consequently, most of it is probably somewhat less than useful in terms of quality and match to reality.
  • The end result – the curriculum maps – are one off documents that don’t enable academics to build upon or do anything useful with the information. They are usually static documents that become dusty until curriculum mapping is required yet again.

The fundamental problem is that curriculum mapping is in danger of becoming an academic or “filling in the boxes‟ activity (Delgaty, 2009). This connects with the broader problem is that the vast majority of teaching and learning within universities is not being improved by most of the current practices. The aim is not to repeat that mistake and make curriculum mapping actually useful for academics.

The proposed solution:

  • The intent is to use an adopter-focused methodology – see Developer versus adopter focused methodologies below – to develop an approach to curriculum mapping that is useful to academics and also fulfills other requirements.
  • Through this type of process the aim is to modify Moodle to allow outcomes, GAs etc to be mapped against any and all activities and resources within a Moodle course.
  • Use existing data to use this Moodle functionality to “map” existing course sites.
  • Modify Moodle so that when a course is rolled over to the next offering and edits are made (it is proposed that this is main approach academics use for course sites) Moodle prompts, encourages and makes it easy for the mappings to be changed so as to maintain correctness.
  • Having established “correct” mapping of courses, work with academics to develop “maps” – really applications – built on that data that serves purposes that are seen to be useful and easy to use for the academics. i.e. encourages them to continue using.
  • Also build applications that are useful for external agencies and students.

Use cases

This section is being used to hold ideas for potential ideas about how the curriculum mapping process or tools might work.

It’s important to note that the following are just some ideas. The real aim of this project isn’t just to implement this list of functionality, it’s to work closely with the academics and identify uses of curriculum mapping that helps them do their job with greater ease, effort and quality.

LMS based recording of mappings.

For better or worse, the LMS is the main tool used by academics for learning and teaching. Modify the LMS so that learning outcomes, graduate attributes etc can be associated with all the activities and resources within the LMS. This produces the raw data for the curriculum mappings. Other software, some of it also integrated into the LMS or other systems, can be used to generate the curriculum maps – which can range from documents through to applications that do something useful for someone.

Pre-populate the mappings in the LMS course

The majority of what academics do is to teach courses that have already been taught. Creation of brand-new courses or radical re-designs of existing courses is rare. Link with this by drawing on existing data about a course to pre-populate the mappings in the LMS course to use as a starting point for the teaching staff.

Showing holes, changes and over emphasis

Produce a map that summarises – for single or groups of courses – any

  • holes;
    Outcomes not covered by activities/resources.
  • changes;
    Outcome/activity-resource mappings where the activity-resource has changed since the original mapping. e.g. a different assignment or task which now test a different outcome.
  • over-emphasis.
    Highlight any outcomes that are over-emphasised.

Link to the evidence

Have curriculum maps/applications that allow the viewer to drill down to the actual real data. i.e. the discussion forum thread where a particular outcome was addressed, the assignments submitted by students, the quiz question, the blog posts etc.

Support for multiple mappings in a single course

Delgaty (2009) shows that even within a heavily prescribed medical program different teaches within that program have radically different conceptions of what the curriculum map should look like. The interface to connect outcomes etc with activities/resources within the LMS could support “mappings” made by multiple different authors and then provide tools and support for comparison and discussion of these differences. This might help – a little – avoid the problem with “static templates or pre-set formats that interfere with what is actually happening” identified by Delgaty (2009), which subsequently contributes to the danger of curriculum mapping “becoming an academic or ‘filling in the boxes’ activity” (Delgaty, 2009)

Support for multiple different types of outcomes/attributes

As well as multiple people doing the mappings of activities/resources to outcomes etc. Support for having different sets of “outcomes etc” associated with courses, activities and resources could be useful. i.e. Allow a single (or group) course and its activities/resources to be mapped along multiple different sets of outcomes – learning outcomes, graduate attributes, blooms levels.

In addition, there’s the potential possibility/lure/flaw/mistake to take this up a level of abstraction and have the “outcomes etc” become a collection of meta-data…..Want to avoid that I think, at least at the start. Few things cause the eyes of non-librarians to glaze over faster than the phrase “meta-data”.

Curriculum map as the course representation

In addition to the traditional representation of the course web site, provide the ability to represent the course and links to its activities and resources via the learning outcomes, graduate attributes etc.

Good foundation for “e-portfolios”

Increasingly students are being asked to maintain their own record/evidence of the learning they have done to achieve certain goals. Once the mapping information from outcomes etc are within Moodle, a system that also has information about what the student has done, it shouldn’t be too hard to make this information available to the student (directly or via other systems) that allow them to generate e-portfolio “maps”.

Developer versus adopter focused methodologies

Organisational implementation of curriculum mapping is usually developer-led (developers = curriculum designers, quality folk, graduate attributes etc.). Such approaches assume the better approach (curriculum mapping) will automatically replace traditional practice (ad hoc methods for creating and reviewing courses). The follow quote is from Jones and Lynch (1999) and draws heavily on the developer/adopter focused distinction described by Surry and Farquhar (1997)

In contrast to the developer-based approach, the adopter-based approach focuses on the human, social, and interpersonal aspects of innovation diffusion. Developers are interested in the individual who will ultimately implement the innovation in a practical setting as the primary force for change. The adopter-based theories reject the assumption that superior products will automatically be attractive to potential adopters. They ’seek to understand the social context in which the innovation will be used and the social function the innovation will serve’.

By not involving users in the process we are more likely to develop systems that users find difficult to use. As well, if we involve users in the process too late, after we have already decided that the system will be developed, we may produce systems that are not useful to the users. That is, if users are consulted only about the look and feel of the system and not about the nature or focus of the system then we may develop systems that are easy to use but which no one wants to use because they are not useful.

References

To get

Johnson, M.R., 1967. Definitions and models in curriculum theory. Educational Theory, 17(2), 127-140.

Kern, D.E., 1998. Curriculum Development for Medical Education. Boston: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Koppang, A., 2004. Curriculum mapping: building collaboration and communication. Intervention in School and Clinic, 39(3), 154-161.

Ross, A., 2000. Curriculum Construction and Critique. London: Falmer Press.

Schiro, M.S., 2008. Curriculum Theory Conflicting Visions and Enduring Concerns. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Stenhouse, L., 1975. An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development. Heineman: London.

Willet, T.G., 2008. Current status of curriculum mapping in Canada and the UK. Medical Education, 42, 786-793.

Used

Delgaty, L. (2009). “Curriculum mapping: Are you thinking what I’m thinking? A visual comparison of standardized, prescriptive programs.” Annual Review of Education, Communication and Language Science 6: 35-58.

Surry, D. and J. Farquhar (1997). “Diffusion Theory and Instructional Technology.” Journal of Instructional Science and Technology 2(1): 269-278.

9 thoughts on “Curriculum mapping

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