Align Goals & Opportunities-to-Learn

Mapping alignment (literally)

When and how often do you provide students with opportunities to learn?

Map the alignment of opportunities & goals


  • An aligned curriculum includes equitable opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning; reflects program-level and institutional goals; and informs course-level student learning outcomes.
  • Curriculum Alignment is an iterative process of examining the curriculum to determine the degree to which it is intentionally and explicitly designed to provide sufficient opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate their learning (with respect to the PLOs).
  • The end product of the curriculum alignment process is called a curriculum map

We "need to consider how curricula are structured to advance student learning and how courses within curricula are linked to help students make connections, transfer learning, and reach the goals we set for them in learning outcomes" (Jankowski & Marshall, 2017, p. 27).

A university degree designates that a person has successfully displayed increasingly complex levels of mastery of disciplinary content, skills, and /or dispositions. Learning rarely happens in a vacuum. As Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, Lovett, & Norman (2010) explain: "To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned" (p. 4-6). 

Analyzing program alignment allows faculty to determine the degree to which a curriculum creates opportunities (in classes or other required learning activities) for students to develop mastery of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they will be expected to demonstrate as matriculating graduates. We cannot hold students responsible for mastering learning outcomes unless we systematically provide opportunities for them to achieve those outcomes.

Characteristics of an aligned curriculum

  • The relationship between outcomes and opportunities is clear. 
  • Opportunities to learn skills / knowledge related to the PLO are sufficient and sufficiently scaffolded.
  • Opportunities to demonstrate learning of the PLO are also sufficient and sufficiently scaffolded.

Mapping curricular alignment

“Mapping is a strategy for visualizing the areas where we think learning is happening as it relates to specific learning outcomes” (NILOA, 2018, p. 7).

The process during which faculty examine the alignment between program learning outcomes and learning opportunities is called curriculum mapping; its end product is a curriculum map, which is a visual representation of the intentional sequencing of learning opportunities across a program.

A strong curriculum map includes the requisite information:

  • All courses / activities required for the program
  • All program learning outcomes (PLOs) 
  • Clear indication of which PLOs are addressed in which required courses / activities;