Let Your Curriculum Mapping Process Change with Your School

By Nora G. Murphy, Librarian and Curriculum Resource Specialist, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy

Next Level Curriculum Mapping

What comes after the curriculum mapping process feels “done” and your faculty is ready to call it a day?

In the beginning, our school mapped because the accreditation board told us we needed to articulate the curriculum beyond the row of binders that had been collecting dust in the Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction’s office for a number of years. I’m sure we also mapped because it’s a great idea, but as these things go (as I am sure you know) new initiatives can feel cumbersome and temporary at the same time. Nevertheless, we persisted.

Six years later, we had a very complete picture of our curriculum and a successful follow-up from the accreditation board. I could sense teachers thinking, “well, that’s done!” and calling it a day when it came to mapping. I couldn’t blame them! It occurred to me that we were going to need to re-envision our mapping process in order to make it newly relevant. We had an articulated curriculum, so now what? Below are some steps we’ve taken to look to the future of curriculum development and mapping. Here’s to the next six years of curriculum work!

Results of the Initial Curriculum Development Process

There are two key products that were a result of our initial 6-year curriculum mapping process that I would be remiss to omit from this post. Articulating the curriculum using Rubicon Atlas allowed our teachers to take an efficient look at the vertical alignment of single-course curriculum in each department, thus creating Scope and Sequence documents for each discipline. These are invaluable tools when new courses are proposed or new teachers join the faculty. This process also allowed us to analyze how teachers were describing the skill sets they teach, resulting in the production of internal skills/standards documents that outline all of the work students will do over the course of four years. These were both major accomplishments.

How the Curriculum Mapping Process Changes

What we need to know about our curriculum isn’t the same as it was all those years ago. We no longer need to gather data on the language teachers use to describe skills they are teaching; we’ve done that and codified it in our new Core Skills documents. We no longer need to catalog prerequisite skills for each class; our Scope and Sequence documents can tell us what those are.

So the question arose: what do we need to know? What are we doing that needs to be tracked, flagged, or otherwise made visible when we are analyzing our work?

It turns out that there are lots of things happening at our school now that weren’t happening when we started (because the process created a tidal wave of curricular changes). We need to know which school initiatives are happening when and where, who is deliberately integrating the school’s mission, where specific instructional strategies are happening (especially ones that we’ve spent time and money developing professionally).

We changed our template. We streamlined it so that it’s easier to map. We consolidated fields that were becoming redundancies. We eliminated some content that no longer served us. I say don’t be afraid to change your template! Once you are deep into this process, your needs will change. If they don’t, well, I would ask why.

From a Mapping Committee to a Curriculum PLC

Near the end of our mapping cycle (and accreditation process) our original mapping committee died. There is only so much you can ask of one committee, and this one had done its due diligence. It also made sense to assemble a new team to do a new job, so we enlisted one member from every department and launched a new Curriculum PLC. This group brought new life to the process and each member is now working with some curriculum PLCs (equity & inclusion, STEAM, research, service learning, student experience) to develop our program and identify how mapping can be most useful in that work.

Advice for Your Mapping Process

As we move ahead, I am confident that mapping will be a seamless part of the work we do, adding value to the curriculum development process as we build our newest program initiatives. From this process I have learned three big lessons. First, it’s critical to take the time and acknowledge what you’ve accomplished, no matter how small it may seem. Second, don’t be afraid to change things up if you have new needs or something isn’t working. And third, sometimes people need a break, while other people are revved up for this work; human resources are key!

For more PD on curriculum mapping – from establishing your school’s process to evolving and changing it – click here!

Nora has been Librarian at FSHA since 2011, where she developed and facilitates a 4-year research curriculum. Before that, she was a Teacher-Librarian and classroom teacher in LAUSD for eleven years. Nora loves curriculum work, particularly the use of good, practical data to drive decision-making processes. She loves collaborating with teacher-leaders to develop initiatives and units of study.

Murphy-ISLE - Nora Murphy

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