May 16, 2019

Curriculum Maps: Building a strong foundation for liaison work

As instruction librarians, we are always examining and evolving our practice. What we are often missing is a focused, structured way of looking at our instructional program. That’s where curriculum mapping can help. While curriculum mapping is defined as “a process for evaluating the various components of a curriculum for cohesiveness, proper sequencing, and goal achievement,” it has potential beyond this basic description.[1] Over two blog posts I’m going to walk you through the process of mapping, using examples from my curriculum map for the undergraduate programs in the School of Art & Design (SOAD) at Western Carolina University. I will discuss also discuss various options for applying this information to various duties often associated with academic librarianship. While I’m sharing my experiences and approaches to this activity, I must start by acknowledging that curriculum mapping was brought to my attention by my colleague Heidi Buchanan, who co-authored an article in 2015 on this topic.[2] Heidi organized an effort within our department to get all the subject liaisons to mapping their programs and created a task based walkthrough to help us. I would recommend reading Heidi’s article (or any number of others) if you want more background on what curriculum mapping is and how it’s been applied by various librarians. For the remainder of the post, I will walk you through the information gathering stages in the mapping process.

Curriculum mapping is most successful when you gather as much information as you can at the beginning. For the program or major you’ve chosen to map, I would recommend you gather the following information:

  • Information on the program and any concentrations within the program. This is often located on the department’s website for current and potential students.
  • Listing of the courses offered in that program and when they are usually offered during the year. This can usually be gathered from a combination of the course catalog and the class schedule.
  • Information on when students are required or encouraged to take certain courses. Many of the departments on our campus have an 8-semester plan they post on their departmental site.
  • If there is a research component to the class. This is often the most elusive piece of information if you haven’t worked with a class before and the information isn’t readily available in any of the sources you are using to gather information.

When I began the mapping process, I gathered all the information listed above and created separate tabs in Excel for all the 8-semester plans from my various programs.[3] I then created a sheet that listed all the courses in the course catalog and created columns corresponding to my programs (1 BA, 1 BS, and 3 BFA degrees.) I worked through the 8-semester plans I collected and marked classes that were specifically noted in the plans. I identified the required courses shared across all the programs and altered the notation for those classes.[4]

I took the course list and made another tab where I documented when classes have been taught over the past couple of years.[5] I documented this info for all the courses listed in the course catalog, but you could easily focus just on the classes that have been identified as required. If you want to use this information for more than just instruction mapping, I would recommend going through and noting when all the courses listed in the catalog have been taught over the past several years.

The last element needed in the information gathering stage is library instruction data for your program. The amount of work required to pull this information depends on how your library gathers instructional statistics. In my case, I could gather instructional stats for the last four years through DeskTracker (which we use for tracking all stats in our department.) I wanted to see the instruction my predecessor was providing to SOAD, so I needed to access archived stats (not in Desktracker) to give me a picture of instruction for the program before 2015. Like any other aspect of this activity, the amount of information you can (or want to) access is up to you. For the purposes of the curriculum mapping, instruction can mean face-to-face, online, asynchronous, or detailed research guides or other substantial resources you’ve created for classes. When we enter our collected data into the curriculum mapping spreadsheet, there will be space to make a distinction between regular instruction and alternative methods employed to provide instruction to classes.

In the next post, I’ll give you the sample spreadsheet my department has used to create our curriculum maps and talk about expectations and when filling out the form. Lastly, I’ll discuss sharing the completed maps with your faculty and how the maps can be useful for more than just instructional program assessment.

Cara Barker
Research & Instruction Librarian
Western Carolina University


[1] Heidi Buchanan et al., “Curriculum Mapping in Academic Libraries,” New Review of Academic Librarianship 21, no. 1 (January 2015): 94–111, https://doi.org/10.1080/13614533.2014.1001413.

[2] Buchanan et al.

[3] See attached Excel file, SOAD_Curriculum-Audit, to follow along.

[4] Curriculum-Audit: ‘Classes by Major’ tab

[5] Curriculum-Audit: ‘Classes by Semester’ tab

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1 Response

  1. May 30, 2019

    […] This post is a continuation of “Curriculum Maps: Building a Strong Foundation for Liaison Work.” […]

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