Curriculum Mapping: A Synthesis

The article entitled “Curriculum Mapping: A How-To Guide” by John DeClark (2002) discusses the process through which a curriculum can be mapped to align topics and promote seamless instruction. In the article, DeClark (2002) describes the purpose of curriculum mapping, the step-by-step process used for successful curriculum mapping, and the benefits derived from a good curriculum mapping process. In this reflection, I will review DeClark’s instructions for curriculum mapping and discuss the lessons I learned from this article. 

The article reports on a district-wide curriculum mapping project in the state of Michigan. The purpose of the curriculum mapping project was to create seamless science curriculum maps for the suburban Michigan school district. It was found that the existing curriculum in the district had many unnecessary repetitions. Therefore, the purpose of the curriculum mapping project was to build a curriculum that meshed across grades and eliminated unnecessary repetitions of topics in the curriculum.

According to DeClark (2002) there are four steps for a successful curriculum mapping process. The first step is deciding the content to be taught. In this step, teachers are given a two column chart with one column listing the months of the school year and the other column listing what they need to teach in those months. This is an individual level process. The teachers are asked to be very honest when completing this chart. Teachers fill the chart with the topics they really teach each month of the year without looking to state standards or district benchmarks. The purpose of this step is to find out what is really being taught. The second step involves teachers in the revisions of the maps produced in the first step. This is a department level collaborative process. Any benchmarks that were not included in the taught curriculum will be added. Teachers will also remove topics that are taught in the curriculum but are not in the benchmarks and district standards. At the end of this step, each teacher who teaches the same subject should have the same map. The third step is the getting together stage. This step involves district-wide in-service professional development. In this step, teachers in the same discipline from the entire district are given the opportunity to compare their revised curriculum maps. Teachers from each level in the K-12 will meet to encourage accurate curriculum alignment. In this step teachers will eliminate all needless repetitions in the curriculum map across the grade levels. In the final step, called the analysis stage, teachers will incorporate their individual maps into daily lesson plans. This is an opportunity for teachers to share lesson plans and experiences. This is where teachers share what works and what does not work for each of the topics.

According to DeClark (2002), one of the benefits of using curriculum mapping is that it ensures all benchmarks are taught and the K-12 curriculum is seamless. Students learn best when they see the big picture.  In the old curriculum, however, it was found that the existing curriculum was exposing students to parts of concept at different grades and in different years. Since “the concepts are taught in isolation, students see them as completely different topics” (DeClark, 2002; p.30). Therefore, curriculum mapping was needed to create a curriculum that helped students see the big picture.   Curriculum mapping also helps eliminate unwanted repetition when students move from grade to grade. Most often students encounter the same topic taught the same way year in and year out. This could lead to students tune out the teacher. Repetition is required to learn, however, that repetition needs to be meaningful to the students.  Curriculum mapping also provides an opportunity for cross-curricular integration. Curriculum maps are based on monthly plans and therefore it is easier for teachers to combine lessons and projects that are interdisciplinary.

I enjoyed reading this article because it offered me very practical and useful insights into the curriculum mapping process. I have learned that the process for curriculum mapping needs to involve the professionals (teachers) and not the politicians.  I have also learned that the bottom-up approach seems to be more beneficial than the top down curriculum mapping process that we often see in schools. The success of the bottom-up approach was largely due to giving the teachers an opportunity to come up with curriculum maps that included elements of what was already being taught and shown to have success in schools. The process also helped teachers to eliminate the unhealthy repetitions that we often see in the top down curriculum maps. The other thing that I thought was very useful in the curriculum mapping process was the incorporation of the big picture for each of the concepts. It is important for student to be able see the big picture of what they are learning. Teaching topics in a disjointed fashion leaves students with a shallower understanding of the interconnectedness of topics in different disciplines. Thus, as a curriculum manager I plan to incorporate these useful, practical, beneficial insights, and steps in the curriculum mapping process for my district.


DeCark, T. (2002). Curriculum mapping: A how-to guide. Science Teacher, 69(4): 29-31.


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