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Monday, November 28, 2011

Curriculum Mapping

Do you understand curriculum mapping? Janet Hale does. In this blog we take a look at what curriculum mapping is and why it is important.

So, you have a curriculum that aligns to standards set by the state, your program, or your faculty and now it is time to make sure that everything is getting covered in the best way possible, is being understood by the students and is being taught within the allotted amount of time, a.k.a. curriculum mapping.

Curriculum mapping is the process of constantly reviewing and updating a district’s curriculum in order to reduce gaps and repetition and to ensure that the required standards and competencies are being covered and understood. Curriculum mapping helps a collective group of teachers teach in a much more efficient manner, but it also requires some work on their part.

Janet Hale explains: “The term mapping is a verb. It constitutes active engagement and collegial participation in on-going curriculum work. Curriculum mapping does not perceive education as a static environment since learning, and learning about learning, is in continual motion.”

We have all heard the famous quote from Isaac Newton – “Every object in a state of uniform motion remains in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” This does not only have physical implications but also metaphysical implications. Teachers do not want to be that external force that stops the progression of learning for their students. In order to actively engage students, the curriculum must continuously evolve and build upon itself. Curriculum mapping guides and helps teachers to do just this.

Hale states, “Maps are designed to provide authentic evidence of what has happened or is being planned to happen in a school or throughout a district. Encouraging frequent individual and collaborative revisiting, reviewing, and renewing of available data (e.g., curriculum maps, student assessments/evaluations, teacher-to-teacher instruction observations, formal testing results) through curricular dialogues and collaborative decision making is at the heart of mapping. This mindset is a necessity to reach sustainability and have curriculum mapping become a natural way for conducting curriculum work that continually improves student learning.”

She defines 3 main foci for curriculum mapping: “Communication, Curricular Dialogue, and Coherency, and we agree.

Communication is the key to effectively evolving a district’s curriculum.

Nowadays the most efficient form of communication is electronic. A lot of districts are embracing technology to centralize, share, and communicate their curriculum not only with teachers but also with parents and the community. Web-based curriculum management systems allow curriculum to be updated in real-time and accessed by peers in the same field of study. Teachers do not need to wait for a monthly meeting in order to adjust their curriculum.

It also facilitates collaboration. Teachers can work together to build a common curriculum or complementary curriculum. With curriculum mapping teachers must realize the significance of their course in combination with the courses of their peers and see their role from the perspective of the school and the district. By altering their focus to include other classes, they can increase communication, decrease redundancy and organize lectures in a meaningful and beneficial way for the student who is going through many of these classes at one time. This focus helps each school and ultimately each district graduate students with the right amount of knowledge and practice to take them to the next step in their lives.

Communication adds an element of transparency. Online curriculum mapping programs allow teachers to see the what, when, and how of the curriculum being taught by other teachers across the district.

More data = Better Curricular Dialogue = Better decision making

As Hale explains, an effective curriculum mapping process allows teachers to take ownership and get involved with the curriculum. Curriculum mapping puts the curriculum in front of them giving them the tools to “make data-based decisions about grade-level, cross-grade level, disciplinary, and cross-disciplinary curricula and instructional practices.”

Coherence - Is incoherent curriculum a problem for some school districts?

It most definitely is.

It is a common complaint of teachers that they are expected to teach too much in too little time and while that may be true, it may also be true that there are too many redundancies or miscommunications is the curriculum mapping process that are not being resolved and that are causing teachers to do more work than is necessary. While the initial endeavor of mapping out everything that is being taught in a classroom and aligning it to the required standards may seem daunting; over time with practice and better communication amongst peers as well as using technology to do it, this will become second nature and the benefits will greatly exceed the time and energy spent on mapping.

The efficiency in communication and teaching caused by continuous curriculum mapping translates into two important things. 1) Teachers are more in sync with one another and better prepared to make necessary changes and adjustments in their curriculum based on the level of knowledge that each group of students requires, and 2) Students have enough time to grasp all that they need to in order to feel confident in taking the next step onto whatever path they choose.

Curriculum mapping is a “let me help you help them” sort of system and it works if everyone does their part.




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