5 essential steps to mapping your medical education curriculum

Curriculum management is a structured set of activities designed to assess and adjust your curriculum. Good curriculum management processes help prevent curriculum drift and keep your curriculum up-to-date and relevant.

The process of curriculum mapping is a critical part of good curriculum management. This guide takes you through the five essential steps of an effective curriculum mapping process.

Essential Steps to Mapping MedEd Curriculum

Step 1: Define with the reports you want

The key to a good curriculum mapping process is to start with the curriculum reports that you want, and work backwards from this goal. Some common report types that are of interest to accreditation bodies and curriculum committees are:

  • Keywords/hot topics reports
  • Competencies reports (how competencies flow across the curriculum)
  • Teaching and instructional methods reports

Step 2: Determine the standardized lists you need

Once you have determined the reports you need, the next step is to determine the competency lists that will allow you to generate those reports. For each report type below, consider the following standardized lists:

For Keywords/hot topics Reports:

  • Keyword list
  • National Board examination topics

For Competencies reports:

  • School competencies
  • Curriculum themes

For Teaching types and instructional methods reports:

  • Assessment methods
  • Instructional methods
  • Teaching resources

Step 3: Map a portion of the curriculum fully

The actual process of mapping your curriculum involves setting up your curriculum hierarchy, linking learning objectives to the standardized lists you selected in Step 2, mapping events, and repeating these steps at all levels. You may also want to tie learning objectives together in a hierarchy, relating session objectives to course objectives, which are then linked to overarching program objectives. For best results, start with one portion of your curriculum and map it fully to see if you can generate all the reports you need. Then, move on to the rest of your curriculum.

A) Setup your curriculum hierarchy

The first step to mapping your curriculum is defining your curriculum hierarchy. It should accurately define all the courses and various lectures, labs, and other learning events that take place in your program.

Next, create a mapping between a learning objective and multiple competency lists. For example, map the objective “Describe basic principles of embryology” to AAMC competencies, USMLE Step 1 and 2, and LCME hot topics.

C) Map events

Once you complete your course objective mappings, you can add other types of mappings such as assessment methods and instructional methods.

mapping competencies to course learning objectives

D) Repeat for all levels

When all your course-level mappings have been completed, repeat the same steps for other levels of your curriculum. For example, map lecture-level objectives to the same competency lists that you selected in the previous step.

E) Tie objectives together in a hierarchy

Finally, consider how your curriculum hierarchy and session objectives relate to your course objectives. For example, you may want to map a session objective to a course objective so that they are associated with one another.

Step 4: Run your reports and check the results

After you’ve fully mapped a portion of your curriculum, run some test reports and see if it will give you the information you need. The following section describes some report types you may want to consider.

A) Keywords report

A keyword search allows you to find every instance where a topic appears in your curriculum. Searching on a single keyword often yields many results, and you may want to use advanced search fields to narrow down your search to pinpoint the specific information you are looking for. You can indicate, for example, that a particular keyword is part of a learning outcome, in order to find more applicable results.

Using a keyword search to locate topics in your curriculum

B) Accreditation hot topics report

Accreditation site visits often require reports on hot topics. For example, your accreditor may want to know every instance where the topic “Biomedical Informatics” is taught. An accreditation hot topic report will show every course or session in which Biomedical Informatics was taught.

accreditation hot topics report shows which courses or sessions covered a specific topic

C) How competencies flow across the curriculum

Reporting how your competencies flow across the curriculum can help you discover any gaps or redundancies in your curriculum. This type of report allows you to compare your intentions to teach a topic against what was actually taught. Your curriculum committee can review this type of report on a course-by-course basis, or across the year to look for any gaps or redundancies.

gap/redundancy analysis report for curriculum management

D) Teaching and instructional methods report

Another type of report that is often required during accreditation site visits is around “contact hours.” For this type of information, you can generate a summary report that shows how many hours were spent on each teaching method. 

Step 5: Repeat and augment 

By following the process outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to systematically build a curriculum map that you know will be operational on a day-to-day basis. Once you have a set of reports that you are happy with, you can then perform advanced analysis and share the information with your students and facilitators so that they can search the curriculum map as well.