Curriculum mapping allows educators to use computer software to evaluate the effectiveness of classroom instruction. Its basic premise is that student learning can be improved by documenting and evaluating what is being planned and what is being taught in the classroom. In other words, a curriculum map is one way to hold schools accountable for teaching "standards" or what students are supposed to learn.
The concept of curriculum mapping first appeared in the 1980s. In 1997, a model for curriculum mapping was formed by Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, president of Curriculum Designers, Inc., an online organization that provides international school curriculum consultations. The company also hosts an annual Curriculum Mapping Institute.
In most places, classroom lessons are geared toward national, regional, and school district requirements that set what must be taught. Teachers generally do not have a lot of time to add in information they personally find interesting. Curriculum maps are one way to organize the various requirements and evaluate if they are being met. Additionally, curriculum maps can be used as a planning tool to ensure all required topics are being covered during a school year or a certain time frame.
Teachers usually work together when building curriculum maps, which are typically kept online. Keeping the information online allows teachers and administrators easy access to the information. The data can be reported monthly or by grading periods. For example, a curriculum map may list what students were taught during a particular time frame and what assessments were used to determine if students learned the material. The data collected by curriculum mapping can be compared by subject, grade level, or an entire school system.
In short, curriculum maps can help educators evaluate what works and what does not work. Carefully-designed curriculum maps can uncover gaps or repetition in what teachers are teaching. This data may be used to make decisions to change or eliminate practices that are ineffective or do not line up with the standards.
The data can also uncover classroom activities that are effective. Just as standards are forever changing, so are curriculum maps. They are always a work in progress that changes with new courses, students, and standards.
Curriculum maps are not intended to evaluate whether a teacher is competent. Rather, they are an evaluation tool that can improve student learning and make the delivery of classroom material as relevant as possible. Curriculum maps work best if teachers buy into the concept, and they are properly trained and supported in using them.