Charting the Course: The Essential Role of Curriculum Mapping in Health Professions Education

This week on the Holistic Success Show, we welcome Beth Legacy-Cole, Senior Consultant and Sales Executive at Acuity Insights, to discuss the importance of curriculum mapping for educational institutions, key challenges, and how to overcome them.

Why is curriculum mapping so critical?

Creating a curriculum map can be a daunting task. A curriculum map should clearly and consistently outline what students can expect to learn in a program. It requires collaboration among all members involved in the educational process to ensure that students are working towards achieving specific learning objectives. The goal is to provide students with a positive and effective learning experience.

A curriculum map must:

  • Ensure concepts and skills are built in logical sequence
  • Avoid gaps or redundancies in the education experience
  • Take into account assessments and evaluation processes to ensure tools align with the content and skills being taught

When a program and its curriculum map are aligned, it:

  • Ensures more accurate and meaningful evaluations of student outcomes
  • Highlights areas of strength and those that may need additional attention
  • Showcases a program’s commitment to quality education and external accountability

What is the curriculum trifecta?

When approaching effective curriculum management, Legacy-Cole recommends the curriculum trifecta. Acuity Insights encourages the trifecta so stakeholders can prioritize ongoing review and revision in their planning to support individuals, program requirements, and accreditation.

The first step in the curriculum trifecta is to map out the curriculum by creating learning objectives. This will help you understand the purpose of each course or learning event. Once you have defined the learning objectives, you can map the courses and programs to standardized frameworks.

Standard frameworks include:

  • Program competencies
  • National test frameworks
  • Content areas
  • Curriculum themes

The second step involves understanding the learning objectives. Standardized frameworks are then used to fill in the steps that will take the learner from where they currently are to where they need to be by the end of their education. To use a metaphor, defining the stops on the road is the first step, while the standardized frameworks are the streets, highways, and roads used to navigate and reach those stops.

The third and final component of the trifecta, which is essential for achieving Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), involves analyzing the learners’ performance outcomes. This helps to identify the areas where they excel and the ones where they need support. Curriculum adjustments can then be made to improve both learner and curriculum outcomes. Did we take the right route, and was the map accurate? Should we avoid certain roads on our next journey? These questions need to be asked and answered to ensure a successful learning experience.

By involving multiple stakeholders in the blueprinting and mapping process, you can clearly communicate how the curriculum will be experienced by staff and learners.

Common curriculum mapping pitfalls

Educational institutions often use separate systems for curriculum management, exams, and assessments, leading to coordination challenges and fragmented data. This siloed approach hampers efforts in CQI, resulting in inefficiencies for faculty, staff, and students. 

Without a comprehensive curriculum mapping strategy, institutions waste time, miss data-driven opportunities, and struggle to identify curriculum gaps. Streamlining mapping processes can address these challenges, enabling better assessment of student performance and improvement opportunities for a cohesive educational experience.

Key Takeaway

Legacy-Cole recommends designating one staff member or committee to maintain standardized lists across curriculum evaluation, assessment, and examination solutions. 

This ensures consistency in competency frameworks, curricular themes, and terminology. By doing so, you’ll find better alignment and ease of reporting, aiding in CQI. While some systems may require more detailed lists, maintaining consistency in domain hierarchies aids data integration. Establishing mapping policies, utilizing standardized databases, and monitoring industry trends ensure comprehensive coverage and support transparency for future team members, preventing the issue of a ‘hidden curriculum.’ 

Learn how to optimize your curriculum with One45 and watch the full Holistic Success Show episode