Align Goals & Opportunities-to-Learn

Mapping alignment (literally)

When and how often do you provide students with opportunities to demonstrate their learning?

Curriculum mapping as an equity-centered practice


  • Curriculum alignment is the process that (ideally) results in an aligned curriculum.​
  • Curriculum mapping is the process that results in 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).

Curriculum Alignment

We cannot hold students responsible for demonstrating mastery of learning outcomes unless we provide sufficient number and sufficiently varied opportunities for them to achieve those outcomes. This is true at the course- and program-level. Curriculum alignment is an iterative process of examination to determine the degree to which students have equitable opportunities to develop and demonstrate their attainment of the PLOs. 

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 enables faculty to determine the degree to which the 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. 

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.

Curriculum Mapping

“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:

  • All courses / activities required for the program
  • All program learning outcomes (PLOs) 
  • Clear indication of which required courses / activities provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their attainment of one or more PLOs--including the level of engagement the course provides.
  • Does the program provide sufficient (and sufficiently scaffolded) opportunities for students to learn and sufficient (and sufficiently scaffolded) opportunities to demonstrate their learning?​
  • Are the opportunities accessible & transparent for all?​