Analyze Alignment

When and how will students learn?

Use a curriculum matrix to illustrate program coherence


  • Determine program coherence by examining alignment between program learning outcomes and opportunities-to-learn. The end product of this analysis is called a curriculum map
  • An aligned curriculum is characterized by transparent connections between learning outcomes, learning opportunities, and evidence of learning used for assessment. 

Assessment Cycle Image - prepareA 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 coherence 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 expected of matriculating graduates. 

 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).

Map curricular alignment

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. The sample curriculum map below depicts the required courses (top row) in which program learning outcomes (left-hand column) are Introduced (I), Practiced (P), and / or Demonstrated (D). 

sample program curriculum map

What does alignment look like?

Table depicting alignment between outcomes, learning, & teaching