Learning Outcomes and Mapping

When designing an individual course, it is important to consider how its learning objectives align with the given curriculum for the concentration in which it resides. Focal Point can be a useful tool to guide instructors through the anticipated outcomes, requirements, and electives for a given concentration, and provides a mechanism for situating your course in its appropriate curricular context. Sheridan’s pages on course design provide guidance for the construction and development of more specific learning goals.

As your department and colleagues reflect on course content and curricular goals, you may wish to establish a process for regular and systematic review of these goals, which courses support the attainment of these goals, and how these goals are assessed. Curriculum mapping is the process of determining how the current requirements of your program support the achievement of your learning outcome goals.

The curriculum mapping process is simple, and involves three stages:

1.       Listing the current learning outcome goals for the program.

2.      Listing the program requirements (e.g. specific courses, a capstone/thesis, language requirements, internship requirements, etc.).

3.      Connecting the individual program requirements to the relevant learning outcomes.

Step three will require knowledge of the content of each individual course, so insight from other program faculty and/or access to their course syllabi will be helpful.

Courses may support multiple learning outcomes, and the resultant curriculum map is often complex. One scheme for organizing the map may involve a table where the outcomes constitute the labels for the rows, and the courses form the headings of the columns. You then mark off whether or not the requirement addresses that specific learning outcome, as demonstrated in the example below:

   Course 1  Course 2  Course 3  Course 4  Course 5  Thesis  Frequency Outcome is Addressed 
Outcome 1 Y         Y 2
Outcome 2 Y Y Y     Y 4
Outcome 3   Y Y     Y 3
Outcome 4     Y Y Y Y 4
Outcome 5       Y Y Y 3
Outcome 6         Y Y 2
Total Outcomes Addressed: 2 2 3 2 3 5  

As you move through this process, you may wish to add details, such as the level of mastery expected of each outcome by the completion of each requirement. One method, advised by Goff and colleagues (2015) is to use the following coding scheme:

I: Introduction of the outcome

R: Reinforcement of the outcome

M: Mastery of the outcome

A: Assessment of the learning outcome


This coding scheme allows you to track the extent to which your program’s curriculum promotes mastery of certain knowledge or skills and where assessments of learning outcome achievement are found:

   Course 1  Course 2  Course 3  Course 4  Course 5  Thesis  Frequency Outcome is Addressed 
Outcome 1 I, R M       A 1
Outcome 2 I R M, A     A 2
Outcome 3   I, R M, A     A 2
Outcome 4     I R, A M, A A 3
Outcome 5       I, R, A M, A A 3
Outcome 6         I, R A 1
Total Outcomes Addressed: 2 2 3 2 3 6  

Though such detailed maps require some time investment, they may be a helpful way to organize information as your program assesses its goals and content. Guidance on developing a plan for departmental assessment is available on our website, and we are happy to facilitate this process and curriculum mapping through individual consultation.


Goff, L., Potter, M. K., Pierre, E., Carey, T., Gullage, A., Lee, R., Lopes, B., Marshall, L., Martin, L., Raffoul, J., Siddiqui, A., & Van Gastel, G.  (2015). Learning outcomes assessment: A practitioner’s handbook. Toronto: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. Retrieved from: http://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/heqco.LOAhandbook_Eng_2015.pdf