Using Mapping to Inform Curricular Decisions

Curriculum mapping is one of those tasks that everyone in health sciences education loves. What better way is there to spend your time than digging back through old learning objectives, competencies, course goals, etc. and mapping what you taught in the past? I hope you’re picking up the sarcasm, because it’s being laid on as thick as my editor will allow.

Working in health sciences is difficult enough when all of our efforts are focused on influencing improved student performance. The time and focus required to succeed each semester without additional projects is more than enough for our full-time jobs. Adding in tasks such as curriculum mapping only makes our roles as educators that much more difficult. However, I’m here to tell you that if you look at curriculum mapping as a series of administrative tasks that is only for your program’s accreditation efforts, you’re doing it wrong. 

[Note to editor: I know, I know...don’t tell the reader they’re wrong. Does it make it better if I did this wrong for the first several years of my academic career too? It does? Great! Okay, moving on…]

Find your mapping purpose

Curriculum mapping becomes much more meaningful when it’s done with the intention of helping our current students. As a teacher, I was always more proactive about doing this because I knew it was going to allow me to best serve my students. It’s key that we keep our focus on what we can do as educators to promote improved student outcomes in our programs. Step one in achieving this goal is to ensure we don’t have any content gaps or unnecessary redundancies in our teaching. 

Of course, that’s easier said than done in the health sciences that is so dependent on team teaching. The biomedical sciences faculty, full-time clinical faculty, and adjunct clinical faculty don’t always teach the same cohorts at the same time, let alone within the same course. Communication between these two groups can be… difficult at best. However, to avoid gaps and redundancies, we need to know what the students are being taught before they walk into (or log into) our classrooms.

But wait, there’s more…

We must identify what students need to learn after we teach them since it is our responsibility to prepare them appropriately. And this just can’t be a blanket, “they have licensure exams” or “they’re going to work in the medical field.” It’s our job to prepare them for the next step in their academic career.

So, our goals and hurdles are defined now:

  1. We need to deliver content in our lessons that builds upon students’ prior knowledge without missing key content or re-teaching what they already know.
  2. We need to prepare students for the content they’ll learn in the future.
  3. Effective communication in team-taught health sciences curricula can be really difficult - or even non-existent.

Tangible difference-makers

Let’s jump over those hurdles and meet our goals. How? It all comes back to mapping your curriculum with a purpose. When faculty and staff proactively use DaVinci’s Leo to map the curriculum, everyone can clearly see what content is being taught - and when it’s being taught - throughout the entire program. So as we map our own content and learning objectives, we can see whether we’re filling all the necessary content gaps. This also enables all of our peers to use the information we’ve mapped to do the same. No more gaps. No more redundancies. No more risk of your students missing vital content or having their time wasted by learning the same content over again.

See what can be done here? We can turn a typically arduous task into something of real tangible value for our program and most importantly...for our students. This is all done by using Leo’s curriculum mapping platform to overcome the communication gaps that often exist in health sciences programs. No more emailing your co-teachers and waiting to hear they’re teaching. And...this is can wave goodbye to some of those endless course planning meetings simply by mapping, running a quick gap analysis report, then filling the gaps and avoiding the redundancies. Once your students know all the great work you (and your curriculum mapping platform) are doing behind the scenes for their education, I bet they'll thank you for it.