Curriculum Mapping

Where are we with curriculum mapping, seven years on? Teachers have documented 269 courses. The map is publicly available on our website. Curriculum map pages receive approximately 100 page views per day.

What value does the curriculum map have to the school? Most importantly, it demonstrates to families and teachers that we are intentional and thoughtful about our curriculum. It also allows prospective families to see what their child would study in specific grades, teachers from other institutions to learn from our work, and teachers within our school to assess program coherence across subjects and grade levels. The map suggests high accountability to our constituents and accrediting body. The curriculum does not live  behind closed doors. It is visible for all to study and critique.

Launching the curriculum map required a ton of work from teachers seven years ago. It was a new, schoolwide initiative linked to the school’s PNAIS accreditation. Absent the new initiative, it is difficult to keep the map up-to-date each year. It can be difficult for a division head to set aside time for teachers to update their courses when common meeting time is scarce, and so many other pressing discussion topics exits. Without dedicated meeting time, teachers may not consistently update their maps. Keeping course entries up-to-date is part of the annual teacher review rubric, but that, too has more parts than one can address in a single evaluation.

Another way to encourage completion is to lower the workload. Our old system required a site administrator to create new accounts with unique login information. Our new system is integrated into our regular website and network directory service. Editing permissions are as simple as possible — all teachers can edit all courses. The old system required three units (fall, winter, and spring). The new system allows any number of units.

Our current map has eight categories per unit:

  • Essential questions
  • Habits of mind
  • Content
  • Skills and processes
  • Assessment
  • Resources
  • Multicultural dimension
  • Integrated learning

We could lower the workload by reducing the number of categories. Habits of mind is only used by our preschool and kindergarten teachers. As much as I would like to document habits of mind for all courses, we’re trying to reduce, not increase, the workload! Multicultural dimension and integrated learning do not really match the other categories. While important, they should be evident through the content in the other fields. Perhaps we don’t need to call them out separately. What about other schoolwide themes, such as global education, sustainability, and urban education?

We could produce a style guide for teachers, some of whom write tremendous amounts of content. This is time-consuming to create and subsequently edit. Creating a common style guide with examples could help teachers keep their entries succinct and manageable.

A word about the tool: we use built-in Drupal functionality to store and edit our curriculum map. We use two content types (course and unit) linked through a node reference field. We then set up views to display course lists and to display the units in a single course.

We are also considering connections between curriculum map entries and classroom pages. The latter present so much more than the curriculum. Classroom pages document the life of the school, present teachers’ pedagogical ideas, and show student work. However, wouldn’t it be great if we automatically embedded a link to the essential questions for the current unit of each course?

Does your school use a structured curriculum mapping tool? What lessons have you learned, and what would you most like to change about your system?

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