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Curriculum Mapping and Alignment

After developing program learning outcomes (PLOs), the next step in the assessment process is to identify which courses will be assessing which outcomes within a program. Curriculum maps are created to help achieve this. Typically, the outcomes are on the left side of the curriculum map, and the courses align along the top. "I" indicates courses that introduce the PLO, "D" indicates courses that develop the PLO, and "M" indicates courses that result in a mastery of the PLO.

Curriculum maps are designed by program chairs, academic directors, faculty, and the assessment team at Graziadio. After a course and an outcome are identified and aligned together, an assessment plan is developed to schedule which outcomes will be assessed in which academic years. Since outcomes need to be assessed twice within five years according to AACSB, it is important to schedule and organize this.

Curriculum Map Guidelines

  • A curriculum map template can be found here
  • It helps to invite faculty members who teach the program's curriculum when creating a curriculum map. This engages faculty and leads to more accurate curriculum maps.
  • Courses should be listed in the correct course sequence in order to visually present how student learning will progress throughout the program.
  • With the course structure listed chronologically along the top, it should be clear that students are introduced to the corresponding learning outcomes in the beginning of the program, develop learning in the middle, and master learning at the end of the program.
  • Assessment occurs at the mastery level, so it is important to keep in mind that the courses that are identified as mastered will be the courses that outcomes are assessed in.
  • There should be a balance of the portion of courses that "introduce," "develop," and "master" outcomes; no single mastery level should dominate in the majority of courses.
  • No course should be left unmapped to any outcomes; there should be no vertical gaps in the map.
  • If you are unsure of where a course should be mapped, it helps to contact faculty who teach that course, review their syllabi, or as a last resort look up the course description in the academic catalog (link to the current catalog is available on our home page).
  • Avoid trying to map every outcome to every course and be realistic with where you map each outcome.


The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) provides the following questions to ask when creating a curriculum map in its Curriculum Mapping Toolkit:

  • In the key courses, are all outcomes addressed, in a logical order?
  • Do all the key courses address at least one outcome?
  • Do multiple offerings of the same course address the same outcomes, at the same levels?
  • Do some outcomes get more coverage than others?
  • Are all outcomes first introduced and then developed?
  • Are students expected to show high levels of learning too early?
  • Do students get practice (introduced, developed) on all the outcomes before being assessed (assessment occurs at the mastery level), e.g., in the capstone?
  • Do all students, regardless of which electives they choose, experience a coherent progression and coverage of all outcomes?
  • What do your electives, individually and collectively, contribute to the achievement of your student learning outcomes?