Identifying Gaps with Curriculum Mapping (Criminal Justice & Criminology)

Curriculum mapping is an activity that visually aligns the program’s courses with its student learning outcomes, allowing faculty to identify strengths, gaps, redundancies, and places in the program to assess student learning. An important aspect of curriculum mapping is the faculty discussion which occurs in the process of creating and refining the map – a forum for dialog and the chance to deepen connections among assignments, learning activities, and departmental approaches to teaching.  A faculty-developed curriculum map can also help each instructor understand how his/her course is situated in the curriculum, and the essential contributions that course makes toward student learning outcomes for the degree. 

In spring of 2014, Criminal Justice and Criminology held a curriculum mapping workshop facilitated by the Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning. The majority of department faculty attended, either in person or via video conference. During that workshop, faculty members indicated concern about how unprepared undergraduate students were with writing. As faculty developed the curriculum map, they noticed that the curriculum did not consistently require writing assignments until very late in the program. They realized their students did not have opportunities to practice writing and receive feedback.

In response, the department decided to implement more opportunities for undergraduates to practice writing. Criminal Justice and Criminology reduced the class size in several courses, from over 100 students to 50-60 students, and asked the instructors or doctoral students teaching those classes to ensure they included written assignments.

As a means of increasing faculty/student contact, Criminal Justice and Criminology also asked faculty to teach at least one very large class per year of undergraduates (some are doing two per year). Faculty taking on the large sections increased faculty/student contact and made it possible to decrease the section sizes taught by doctoral students. Faculty were encouraged to include writing assignments in those classes as well (if they were not already doing so), with graduate student assistance to help with the workload.

As a result of these changes, undergraduate students will be doing more written work in their CrimJ classes each semester, thus getting more opportunities to practice and refine writing skills throughout the curriculum.

If you would like to learn more about curriculum maps or schedule a curriculum mapping workshop for your academic program, contact an assessment specialist in the Office of Assessment of Teaching and Learning.