Curriculum design mapping

Curriculum design

There are many different approaches to curriculum design. When designing a program of study, it is useful to take a holistic whole-of-program approach and consider the following:

  • Take a backwards design approach. Have a clear picture of what a graduate of the program needs to be able to do, feel and know, and work backwards from that point to unpack the content that needs to be covered and the learning outcomes that need to be achieved to get there.
  • Consider the sequencing of the program. What are the prerequisites, how does the program need to be sequenced to ensure knowledge and skills essential at the beginning of later courses are covered in earlier courses and linked.
  • Scaffold the learning. Both within courses and across whole programs. To provide initial support to guide students through mastery of foundational concepts and skills and to move them towards more independent, critical and reflective work.
  • Ensure the knowledge, skills and volume of learning is appropriate for the AQF level for the given qualification type. For more information, visit Tertiary Quality Assurance.
  • Vary the assessment approaches between courses. Don't have every course within a program use the same type of assessment e.g. summative essay or exam. Vary the assessment approaches between courses and think about how assessment approaches could build across the duration of a year or program.
  • Ensure work, examples and assessments are up-to-date and situated within real-world experiences.Where possible make connections to industry and workplaces and develop authentic assessment practices to better prepare work-ready graduates.
  • The accreditation needs for specific vocational programs, e.g. nursing, education etc. Refer to your School and accrediting body for more information. For more information, visit Industry Accreditation.

Curriculum mapping

Curriculum mapping is a process for collecting and recording curriculum-related data that identifies core skills and content taught, processes employed, and assessments used for each subject area and grade level. The completed curriculum map then becomes a tool that helps teachers keep track of what has been taught and plan what will be taught.

The purpose of a curriculum map is to document the relationship between every component of the curriculum. Used as an analysis, communication, and planning tool, a curriculum map:

  • allows educators to review the curriculum to check for unnecessary redundancies, inconsistencies, misalignments, weaknesses, and gaps;
  • documents the relationships between the required components of the curriculum and the intended student learning outcomes;
  • helps identify opportunities for integration among disciplines;
  • provides a review of assessment methods; and
  • identifies what students have learned, allowing educators to focus on building on previous knowledge.

Best practices

  • Build in practice and multiple learning trials for students: introduce, reinforce, master. Students will perform best if they are introduced to the learning outcome early in the curriculum and then given sufficient practice and reinforcement before evaluation of their level of mastery takes place.
  • Use the curriculum map to identify the learning opportunities (e.g., assignments, activities) that best produce the program's outcomes.
  • Allow School members to teach to their strengths. Allocate particular outcomes to those best suited for the task.
  • Set priorities as a program. Everyone working together toward common outcomes can increase the likelihood that students will meet or exceed expectations.
  • Communicate: Publish the curriculum map and distribute to students and staff. Each School member can make explicit connections across courses for the students. For example, at the beginning of the course or unit, a School member can remind students what they were introduced to in another course and explain how the current course will have them practice or expand their knowledge. Do not expect students to be able to make those connections by themselves.

Need resources, strategies or assistance?

Need resources?

  • Lattuca, L. & Stark, J. (2009). Shaping the College Curriculum: Academic Plans in Context. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Vanderbuilt University - Centre for Teaching (2016) Understanding by design. Website:
  • Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Need strategies?

Need assistance?

Contact your Director, Learning and Teaching for support and resources with curriculum design and mapping processes within your program.