The Pros and Cons of Curriculum Mapping for the Language Classroom (Infographic)
Pros of Curriculum Mapping
Ideally curriculum mapping can benefit schools in the following four ways:
Sets clear overarching priorities.
Confirms teachers, staff, and administration all be on the same page.
Ensures that state and national standards are met.
Helps teachers be organized and make continued progress.
Utilizing curriculum mapping can help identify and address the opposing priorities of stakeholders. It helps all recognize common objectives to (ideally) make sure no student (or teacher, for that matter) is left behind. Mapping can help teachers organize their lesson plans by providing clear progress signposts.
“Curriculum mapping is the process indexing or diagraming a curriculum to identify and address academic gaps, redundancies, and misalignments for purposes of improving the overall coherence of a course of study and, by extension, its effectiveness” (The Glossary of Educational Reform, n.d.).
As there is little in the way of curriculum mapping for American Sign Language instruction (that I have been able to find, at least), I utilize curriculum mapping to ensure that I (a) have clear end goals for my language courses and (b) have sufficiently organized the course content. (Case in point, because I am a visual person, I “map” this course’s content by creating visual infographics to make sense of the word-heavy readings we are assigned.)
Cons of Curriculum Mapping
Unfortunately, curriculum mapping can have the opposite effect in the following four ways:
Predetermined objectives can easily lead to inflexible objectives.
Standardized goals too often fail diverse student bodies.
The benefits are limited if not supported by all in the school system.
Difficult to monitor and enforce alignment without punitive punishment.
For curriculum mapping to be effective, educators (and all stakeholders) must start with “looking at the needs of their specific student population” not create a standardized curriculum and then try to make minor adaptations to fit the needs of their area (Jacobs, 2004., para. 2). This is the difference between generalized, standardized curriculum and a flexible, adaptable curriculum; rather than being “designed to get every student to arrive at the same correct answer to a question, which encourages a sea of sameness” (Busteed, 2018) it allows for students to relate to the content in a variety of contexts.
I have been the recipient of ineffective curriculum mapping. My Arabic teacher in college stuck to her antiquated language objectives (i.e. undue emphasis on writing) while ignoring the fact that her students were either in the military and being deployed to the Middle East in a few months or in desperate need to speak with their Arabic friends and family. By following her predetermined and entrenched course objectives, she disregarded her students’ needs. It would be interesting to see if, on paper, she had reached the Arabic curricular goals because, as students, we often discussed with each other about how little we had learned in class and our frustration at her disregard for our personalized (and critical) language needs.
I found the tool belt example in our readings this week to be helpful (Truesdale, Thompson & Lucas, 2004, Fig. 2.1). In fact, it sparked a brainstorm about what a language teaching toolbelt would look like, perhaps the nails being the grammar and conjugations and the belt buckle allowing for adjustable language communication goals for students (i.e. they learn what they need to be able to communicate in their spheres of influence). Language courses in particular should be particularly flexible as students may have a variety of language goals from learning sign language to communicate with their Deaf employer to studying linguistics to become an ASL interpreter. Standardized language courses can easily become stagnant and de-contextualized because the language is disconnected from the community and the goals of students differ greatly.
In my consideration of the pros and cons of curriculum mapping, I agree that when done correctly, mapping can provide a variety of benefits for a school system. On the other hand, mapping in less than ideal circumstances (of which many school systems find themselves) can further entrench inflexible standardization. However, if anything, I do believe that one benefit of mapping that works for both ideal and less-than-ideal situations is that problems can be identified and possible solutions discussed. A conclusion reached by curriculum researchers at Şahinkayası Middle East Technical University in Turkey, “The quality and the quantity of the issues improved through the use of the mind mapping process” (Paykoç, Mengi, Pinar, Pinar, Birikim, Pilli, & Yıldırım, 2004, p. 4). In this way, mapping can provide a stimulating exercise for stakeholders and provide a context where concerns, answers, interpretations, and justifications can be addressed regularly.
Busteed, B. (2018, March 6). It's Time to Try the Opposite of Standardized Testing. Gallup. https://www.gallup.com/education/237284/time-try-opposite-standardized-testing.aspx#:~:text=CliftonStrengths%20is%20quite%20literally%20the,encourages%20a%20sea%20of%20sameness.
Jacobs, H.H. (2004). Development of a Prologue: Setting the Stage for Curriculum Mapping. Getting Results with Curriculum Mapping. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104011/chapters/Development-of-a-Prologue@-Setting-the-Stage-for-Curriculum-Mapping.aspx
Paykoç, F., Mengi, B., Pinar, O. K., Pinar, Ö., Birikim, Ö., Pilli, O. and Yıldırım, H. (2004). What Are The Major Curriculum Issues?: The Use Of Mindmapping As A Brainstorming Exercise. http://cmc.ihmc.us/papers/cmc2004-069.pdf
The Glossary of Educational Reform. (n.d.) Curriculum Mapping. https://www.edglossary.org/curriculum-mapping/
Truesdale, V., Thompson, C., and Lucas, M. (2004). Use of Curriculum Mapping to Build a Learning Community. In Jacobs, H.H. (ed.) Getting Results with Curriculum Mapping. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104011/chapters/Use-of-Curriculum-Mapping-to-Build-a-Learning-Community.aspx