While having curricular goals and learning outcomes sets you up to carry out assessment, it’s equally important to align your assessment process with your curriculum. At the course level this means making sure your course learning outcomes are aligned with specific assignments (demonstrations of student learning). At the department/program level this means making sure that your major-wide and minor-wide learning outcomes are aligned with required courses that will have specific assignments to measure those outcomes.
Let’s say you are assessing student learning using the capstone project. If you have not aligned your assessment process with your curriculum it is possible that your students will reach the capstone without actually having learned all the knowledge or skills that you plan to assess using the capstone. After all, they will have learned a great deal in your courses but if you don’t ensure that the relevant skills and outcomes are covered in specific required courses your students may not learn the knowledge or skills that you are targeting.
An Example of Curricular Mapping
Here’s an example using part of a sociology curriculum. This example is not based on actual Sociology Department assessment but represents plausible outcomes.
Upon graduation, Sociology majors will be able to:
- Explain C. Wright Mills’ concept of the “sociological imagination”
- Describe how different institutions contribute to racial inequality
- Carry out an in-depth interview
- Analyze statistical data using appropriate statistical tests
- Write a sociological paper based on original research
Curricular Mapping in Practice
The below table demonstrates where the above learning outcomes would be taught in a subset of Sociology courses.
|Write original sociological paper||X||X||X||X|
In this table each "X" indicates a course in which a learning outcome is definitely covered, while a "?" indicates a course in which a learning outcome may be covered.
It is important to be aware that this table is somewhat simplified; an ideal curricular mapping table does not merely indicate whether a particular course teaches a specific learning outcome but whether that learning outcome is introduced, reinforced, or demonstrated in that course. The ability to compare different schools of philosophical thought might be introduced in a fairly low-level philosophy course and will be reinforced throughout the curriculum; a philosophy department might wait to have students demonstrate the skill until an upper-level course (perhaps a junior or senior seminar) or in their capstone projects, for example.
This curricular alignment worksheet may help you with your alignment process.