Creating Curriculum Maps


Program Learning Outcomes tell us “This is what students will take away from our program”; curriculum maps tell us “This is where students will be studying and practicing those ideas, skills, or methods.” Simply put, curricular maps tell a story about a major, visually denoting (a) in what courses, and (b) at what level students are expected to achieve PLOs. 

Annotated Map example:

In the map, we can see that Students will be introduced to PLO 6, “Organize and write an analytical essay that sustains an argument,” in CLASS 39W (with moderate emphasis) and 55W (with significant emphasis), will practice PLO 6 in the CLASS 180 series, and will demonstrate their mastery of PLO6 in CLASS 185 and the 195 series courses.


In this way, curriculum maps show concisely how a student—progressing through a program’s courses—will develop increasing sophistication in each PLO. 

* All departments are required to review (and submit any updates to) their curriculum map every three years, as a part of their assessment report and plan. Reviewing this map is a great opportunity for department faculty to discuss together the current flow of a program, noting any needs or questions, opportunities for coordinating or investigating, (see below) that the program might want to pursue. The map and PLOs themselves are also a great resource for students and colleagues alike to quickly understand the program as a whole.



Make a simple table. On the left-most column of that table, list all required courses (along with any relevant milestones). Along the top of the table, list all PLOs. For each course or milestone, indicate the extent to which each PLO is covered. Most often, departments use a three-point scale: 

  • Introduced (I): for any course or milestone where a student is first introduced to the knowledge, or first tries out the skill, described in the PLO.
  • Practiced (P): for any course or milestone where a student has the opportunity to practice and develop the skill or knowledge described in the PLO.
  • Demonstrated (D): for any course or milestone where a student has the opportunity to demonstrate high-level achievement of the skill or knowledge described in the PLO.

All faculty should review the curriculum map in order to give a meaningful and accurate portrayal of the curriculum. The visual story of the major as demonstrated by the curriculum map can help faculty identify gaps in the curriculum or questions that further assessment can investigate. Below are some prompts to encourage these discussions:

  • “Are there any PLOs that are not sufficiently covered by our course requirements or milestones?”
  • “Do we rely too much on electives to cover certain PLOs, and is this working well for our program or are students missing certain learning opportunities depending on the electives they choose to take?”
  • “How much does the coverage of a PLO depend on the instructor who teaches it?”
  • “How well do our courses map onto our PLOs, and does this lead us to want to change any of our courses or PLOs?”

Need help or have more questions? Contact Assessment Coordinator Josh Kuntzman.