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Mapping Program Learning Outcomes

In outcome-based assessment, it is commonplace for particular courses to teach and assess for some but not all program learning outcomes. As students progress toward graduation, they are expected to perform with greater independence and to engage program learning outcomes in their full complexity. In order to optimize course sequences and overall program coherence, each degree program's faculty creates a curriculum map that shows which courses teach and assess for particular program learning outcomes and whether the outcome is being introduced, developed, or mastered in a course.

Truncated schematic of a curriculum map of program learning outcomes at Pacific

Program's Required Course Learning Outcome 1 Learning Outcome 2 Learning Outcome 3 Learning Outcome 4 Learning Outcome 5
Course 1 I I I I I
Course 2 I D D I   
Course 3 D D D D
Course 4 M D M M
Course 5    M M M   
And so on               
Elective Courses               
Course 1 D    D    D
And so on               
I = Introduced (learning outcome introduced at entry-level complexity; perhaps an aspect of outcome. through one assignment of limited length)
D = Developed (learning outcome developed/reinforced with at least an aspect of its complexity engaged)
M = Mastered (learning outcome mastered at its integral complexity as appropriate for graduation)


Program faculty use their curriculum map to ensure that cumulative learning opportunities are effectively designed to lead students to mastery. In addition to mapping the contribution of required courses to the student's development of the learning outcomes, faculty may separately map the contribution of elective courses. Programs store their curriculum maps in the Taskstream Assessment Management System, which is where they also report on their annual assessment of student achievement of program learning outcomes.  When initially developing a program of study, faculty use curriculum mapping to identify any gaps in students opportunities to learn the intended program learning outcomes. When later collectively deliberating on assessments that show the degree to which students have achieved the intended program learning outcomes, faculty use their curriculum map as a conceptual tool to identify where learning experiences might be strengthened. With a map in hand, faculty discussion can more readily consider a range of particular ideas for improvements while keeping the big curriculum picture in mind. They might consider, for instance, how assessments in particular prior courses might emphasize feedback in areas found to be weaker than expected in a capstone assessment. Faculty might then use the map to deliberate on whether additional courses or prerequisites are feasible, as well as desirable.

In short, a curriculum map is a tool for analyzing and talking about curriculum, which is a complex dynamic system. Faculty may use a number of other curriculum mapping tools that provide a finer grained look at the curriculum (for instance, mapping key assessments and learning experiences to the learning outcome). They might also graphically display broad relationships among other various curricular elements (for instance, mapping relationships to general education courses, to internships, or to thematic concepts across courses). Some programs have made connections to the university-wide core competencies in their map of how courses relate to program learning outcomes.


  • Pacific Curriculum map template (word)
  • Curriculum map mock example (pdf)
  • Assessment Workshop 2015 - General Session (ppt)
  • Curriculum map advice (blog by Linda Suskie)

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