Curriculum Mapping for Concept-Centered Learning

Mapping the year is a necessary starting point to connect all planned units. Curriculum mapping provides a framework for educators to ensure the educational experiences of individual students result in a quality education related to performance standards for each student (Kallick, 2004). This process can be a powerful tool for teachers working within a professional learning community as they attempt to collectively address the following questions:

  • What is taught? What do we want each student to learn? What concepts and understandings are key for all students? Which units/skills are most powerful for lifelong learning? What information is necessary for students to access what the next grade or unit has to offer?
  • How is learning assessed? How will we know each student has learned it?
  • How is it taught? What learning contexts will be provided for all students? How will we respond when students experience difficulty in learning? How will we respond when students already know what we are about to teach?
  • When is it taught? What will determine the order in which I teach these units/skills? What can I combine?

Another question to consider is that of applying a concept to the entire year. For example, would it benefit students to look at each unit through an overall study of change and continuity? Using an overarching lens, teachers plan units and other concepts to layer into that larger idea.

Curriculum mapping that reflects implementation of the Framework for Quality Learning includes identifying at least concepts and understandings that will be addressed over the course of the year. Curriculum mapping that reflects implementation of our Professional Learning Community model includes identifying specific learning targets, assessments, and intervention strategies. Working to develop yearlong maps that include these components and using data collected and strategies employed within the context of a professional learning community to adjust the curriculum maps throughout the year is innovative practice as described within Albemarle County's Teacher Performance Appraisal system.

A "think aloud" mapping example from a Language Arts/English teacher:

If I plan this way, I might choose to study The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Devil's Arithmetic, and Star Girl for the overarching theme of coming of age and have students analyze the similarities and differences in the coming of age experiences of the main characters. So we would study the universal experience through these texts while also applying an overarching concept of change and continuity. How has coming of age changed since the 1800s? What rites of passage appear to withstand changes in time and culture?

In this way, the concepts, not the texts, become the central component of study. The texts become the vehicles to understanding the bigger ideas. Planning conceptually requires a paradigm shift from teaching discrete skills, texts, or units to a much larger picture of how concepts tie the discrete pieces together. Think of the concepts as folders in which kids store information - how many rich experiences will the teacher set up to (1) fill those folders, (2) arrange and rearrange that knowledge, and (3) challenge and apply that knowledge in novel ways?