The United States educational system is in the midst of reform and new forms. While there are, and will continue to be, federal recommendations and requisites related to accountability such as Common Core State Standards, PARCC / SMARTER Assessments, Race To The Top, No Child Left Behind, high-stakes testing, standards alignment, and instruction based on best practices, many public and private learning organizations want to infuse a 21st century learning-centered mindset and build their educational mission, vision, and goals around an emphasis on students as diverse learners and thinkers.
There are many research-based models designed to help cultivate educational reform and new forms. Based on a desired model (or often times, more than one model), a learning organization creates a framework that necessitates all teachers be involved in the act of learning--teachers as learners, teachers as systemic designers of student learning, students as learners and, at times, co-decision makers, and teachers focusing on best-practice teaching and facilitating.
The curriculum mapping model based on Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs's work (1997, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010) clearly addresses the necessity to synthesize various models and create a framework that focuses on the recommendations, requisites, and desires that affect students' learning and teaching environments.
Udelhofen (2005) states "…the concept of curriculum mapping originated in the 1980s with the work of Fenwick English…" (xviii). Dr. Jacobs embraced and enhanced the earlier work by adding a variety of teacher-driven curriculum maps, horizontal and vertical alignments, cyclic reviews, and professional curricular dialogue. Jacobs (2004) states, "…curriculum maps have the potential to become the hub for making decisions about teaching and learning. Focusing the barrage of initiatives and demands on schools into a central database that can be accessed from anywhere through the Internet can provide relief … Mapping becomes an integrating force to address not only curriculum issues, but also programmatic ones." (p.126).
Hale (2008) adds, "curriculum mapping is not a spectator sport. It demands teachers’ ongoing preparation and active participation. There must also be continual support from administrators who have a clear understanding and insight into the intricacies of the mapping process." (p. xv)
Curriculum Mapping emphasizes the requisite that teachers and administrators focus on the balance between what really took place in individual classrooms with what was individually or collaboratively planned. This data is measured in real time: recorded by months or grading periods. Most types of curriculum maps are recorded monthly. Teachers record what has taken place, or is planned, individually at a school-site level (Diary Map, Projected Map); collaboratively planned curriculum at a school-site level (Consensus Map, oftentimes referred to as a Core Map, Master Map, or Benchmark Map); or collaboratively planned curriculum at a district level (Essential Map).
To gain insight into gaps, absences, and repetitions in a school or district's K-12 curriculum, it is critical to create quality maps. During the initial learning-to-map-phase the most commonly recorded data includes content, skills, assessments, resources, and their alignment to one another other and state (or other) standards. In subsequent and more advanced phases of mapping, additional data such as evaluation processes, attachments of best-practice lesson plans and activities, essential questions, and other curricular information is often included.
Curriculum maps are never considered "done," nor is having maps the ultimate goal of mapping. Maps are a by-product of mapping. The term mapping is a verb. It constiutes active engagement and collegial participation in on-going curriculum work. Curriculum mapping does not perceive education as a static environment since learning, and learning about learning, is in continual motion. As long as teachers have new students, new classes, and new school years, newly designed, revised, and replaced learning and teaching evidence in curriculum maps provides a school or district's ongoing curriculum.
Curriculum maps are never to be used for teacher evaluation or punitive damage. Maps are designed to provide authentic evidence of what has happened or is being planned to happen in a school or throughout a district. Encouraging frequent individual and collaborative revisiting, reviewing, and renewing of available data (e.g., curriculum maps, student assessments/evaluations, teacher-to-teacher instruction observations, formal testing results) through curricular dialogues and collaborative decision making is at the heart of mapping. This mindset is a necessity to reach sustainability and have curriculum mapping become a natural way for conducting curriculum work that continually improves student learning.
Curriculum Mapping focuses on three Cs: Communication, Curricular Dialogue, and Coherency.
Communication -- 21st Century curriculum maps are most often developed and maintained using an Internet-based commercial mapping system. This technological venue provides teachers and administrators with easy access to both the planned and actual horizontal (same grade level and/or same discipline) and vertical (different grade levels and/or different disciplines) curricula for present and past school years. The commercial systems' search features allow teachers to gain instant information in regard to mapping data to aid in curricular dialogue. This means and level of communication is unprecedented. In the not-to-distant past data had to be printed out, copied, distributed, and an in-person meeting held to view and discuss the documents. Curriculum Mapping encourages innovation and thought about meeting differently and in new ways.
Curricular Dialogue -- Teachers take part in collegial relationships wherein they make data-based decisions about grade-level, cross-grade level, disciplinary, and cross-disciplinary curricula and instructional practices. Teachers become Teacher Leaders. Curriculum Mapping has two guiding principles: Jacobs (2004) states that teachers and administrators must consider "…the empty chair…" which represents all students in a given school or district, and "…all work must focus on Johnny, and all comments and questions are welcomed as long as they are in his best interest" (p.2). Second, if it is in the students' best interest to change, modify, stop, start, or maintain curriculum practices, programs, and/or other related issues, there must be data-based proof to do so (Jacobs, 2002). These two principles are logical, rational, and well-founded. One may consider them easy to implement, but oftentimes proves difficult in practice. Barth (2006) refers to the "…elephant in the classroom—the various forms of relationships among adults within the schoolhouse might be categorized in four ways: parallel play, adversarial relationships, congenial relationships, and collegial relationships" (p.10). Not surprising, the first three ways do not elicit vigorous curricular dialogue. Barth contends "…empowerment, recognition, satisfaction, and success in our work—all in scarce supply within our schools—will never stem from going it alone … success comes only from being an active participant within a masterful group—a group of colleagues" (p.13). Therefore, it is of utmost importance to provide teachers with ample professional development to hone their skills in all facets of curriculum mapping and collegial, curricular dialogue. Allowing teachers time to build personal ownership in the mapping process empowers them, and subsequently, improves student learning.
Coherency -- A combination of 21st Century communication plus curricular dialogue eventually equals curricular coherency. Many teachers are currently engaged in what Dr. Jacobs (2001) refers to as "…treadmill teaching." Running breathless on grade-level or content-area treadmills trying desperately to get everything they believe needs to be taught, taught. If teachers took the time to slow down their treadmills and personally document and evaluate both the planned, and most importantly, actual learning, they may well discover that they are perpetuating a potentially incoherent curriculum. Curriculum Mapping is designed to ask teachers to record, reflect on, study, and revise their individual and corporate work. This cyclic endeavor eventually leads a school or district to developing and maintaining an aligned curriculum that makes sense to all—and most importantly—to students!
Curriculum Mapping necessitates that teachers play an active role in making curricular decisions. Looking at this historically, it is not the educational norm. Empowering teachers to become Teacher Leaders is paramount, and a top priority when introducing the concepts of Curriculum Mapping. Administration, as always, plays a critical role in this endeavor. Lyle (2006), a Curriculum Mapping Coordinator in Marion, Illinois, wrote an excellent article pertaining to the issue of Curriculum Mapping, leadership, and change. Here is an excerpt:
|Curriculum mapping involves a second-order change. Marzano, R., Waters, T., and McNulty, B.A. (2005) state that second-order change "…involves dramatic departures from the expected, both in defining a given problem and in finding a solution" (p. 66). Curriculum Mapping may be considered a second-order change for our district because it challenges the status quo of historical practices and therein may result in resistance. However, it has the potential of resulting in transformative learning. Weinbaum (2004, cited Merzirow & Associates, 2001) in stating "…transformative learning involves the process by which we revise or change our fundamental assumptions, perspectives, and worldviews" (p.16). Curriculum Mapping results in reflective practices that expand teacher perspectives and responsibilities for student learning from a micro to macro level. Jacobs (1997) states
The data generated in curriculum maps can provide information that enables teachers to identify and address curricular gaps and repetitions. Curriculum Mapping is built on a foundation of collaborative inquiry groups in which "…teachers construct knowledge from questioning their own practice and looking closely at their own students and their work" as well as the relationship between individual teacher's works in terms of the big picture of the student's K-12 experience (Weinbaum, 2004, p. 18). Lambert (2003) states "…schools in which staff members discuss student learning outcomes during continuing professional dialogues tend to reflect upon and improve practice as a result" (p. 54). The reflective process of Curriculum Mapping as well as the variety of collaborative inquiry groups has the potential of significantly impacting student achievement. However Curriculum Mapping can not be sustained without the proper leadership, support, and teacher "by-in." Effective Curriculum Mapping requires nurturing, supporting, and encouraging teacher leadership so that the impetus for systemic change is fostered by a bottom-up approach rather than a top-down system. Lambert (2003) suggests:
Fostering teacher leadership, shared vision, and "trusting" collaborative inquiry groups is the cornerstone of a curriculum mapping initiative that results in sustainable change. Barth (2001) notes that teacher leaders often:
Curriculum Mapping results in a redefining of teacher and administrator roles and responsibilities.
Critical to understanding Curriculum Mapping and its collaborative design, one must recognize that mapping is not an external program or process that "comes and then goes" in a few years—it is an internal, interactive process that becomes a natural component of a school or district's infrastructure. In an interview for the Journal of Staff Development (Sparks, 1996), Michael Fullen shared
People in schools should not take shortcuts in their search for clarity and solutions. They need to engage with all kinds of ideas to improve what they are doing, but not adopt external programs that foster dependency … In my view, teaching is an intellectual and scientific profession, as well as a moral profession. That means that schools have to constantly process knowledge about what works and that teachers have to see themselves as scientists who continuously develop their intellectual and investigative effectiveness … The cognitive sciences teach us that if information is to become knowledge, a social process is required. This makes great pedagogical sense. Information stays as information until people work through it together in solving problems and achieving goals ... Changing the culture is even more important because it establishes norms of continuous interaction. So, information becomes knowledge through a social process, and knowledge becomes wisdom through sustained interaction.
This connection between enabling teachers to create quality data-based curriculum maps and using the maps for curricular dialogue is critical for a successful Curriculum Mapping initiative. Fowler Elementary School District, in Phoenix, Arizona, has a district motto: Curriculum Mapping is not one more thing on our plate—it is the plate! This motto is 100% true, but this reality does take time (from my personal experience, up to three years) to get the majority of teachers in a school or district to cognitively and emotionally understand the complexity of the processes and function in a vigorous, self-challenging manner.
Based on current educational demands, success is based on measurable, improved student learning. Curriculum Mapping addresses this concern, but goes much deeper. It travels to the heart of our profession: caring about the journey a child takes upon entering as a Kindergartener, exiting as a high-school graduate, and enrolling in a higher-education learning environment ... To be successful for a lifetime: Prek-16+.
Be advised: Curriculum Mapping is not a quick fix. Curriculum Mapping has a learning curve to it. For a time, your teachers will be students. They must be afforded the cognitive processing time needed to learn something new, and be well-supported throughout the process. Some will learn faster than others; some will need more support; and still others may refuse to learn. Just as curriculum's root meaning is: a path taken in small steps, it is important to allow teachers to likewise take small steps.
Learn as much as you can about Curriculum Mapping by continuously reading, attending conferences and networking to aid in developing your school or district's strategic plans, realistic action plans, and short-term goals. Please use my website to help gain insight into the world of Curriculum Mapping and support your present or future work. If you would like to e-mail me or call me to discuss questions or wonderments, please feel free to do so at any time.
Jacobs, H.H. (2002). Keynote address. National Curriculum Mapping Institute. Park City, Utah.
(Vol.24, No. 1).
Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.