Root Because Analysis: Curriculum Mapping

In industry, when something goes wrong, Quality Management personnel do a root cause analysis.  What if we were to start making products with a root because analysis?  I’m not referring to only industry when I ask this question; I am referring to all spaces, including education.

Why do we use curriculum mapping software, for example?  Doing a root because analysis using the 5 Whys Protocol might provide some answers.  I submit that the ultimate reason is that we need to answer this ubiquitous question clearly:

Why do we need to use curriculum mapping software?

We use the software to create curriculum documents that are called maps, which are basically a collection of units related to a subject area, grade level, and / or course.  The software also stores this information in a central repository searchable by everyone in the community.  Finally, it generates reports based on the information from the maps and the student performance management software.  In one place, then, we have access to a lot more information than we have had in the past.

Why do we need access to this information?

The curriculum is a document of everything that will be taught to the students, and includes a timeline (when), instructional strategy (how), and the materials needed (what).  To ensure that the curriculum is coherent, vertically aligned year by year, and horizontally aligned class-by-class, we need to be able to visualize the curriculum.  

Why is it so important to visualize the curriculum and ensure alignment?

We visualize the curriculum and ensure alignment to educational standards so that the topics students are learning about flow logically from one concept / skill / practice to the next, more complex concept / skill / practice.

Why do standards help us develop curriculum?

When reviewing curriculum from kindergarten through twelfth grade and beyond, we should see a learning progression – a building of knowledge and a gradual release of responsibility that will ultimately lead to independent thinking and performance.  That learning progression is supported by well-developed educational standards, which we develop as we agree upon those things that are important for students to know and be able to do.  

Why is it important to agree upon those things that are important for students to know and be able to do?

For many years, once a teacher closed the figurative and literal classroom door, the classroom became an oasis unto itself.  What happened within that classroom could be the same as what happened in others, or what happened could be dramatically different.  The teacher decided where the instruction would lead. 

This led to a disparity of instructional quality from one classroom to the next, which ultimately hurt those students who did not have student-centered teachers.  

While a teacher’s classroom is still sacrosanct today, many educators are willing to collaborate to ensure that what they teach is comparable to what others in their content area teach, and that what they teach will support the students as they move on to the next grade.  When they are in agreement about how the curriculum will support students, they are more likely to have cogent answers to that age-old question, “Why do I have to learn this?”  As a result, students will know how what they are learning today will help them learn tomorrow and for years to come, and find the elusive relevance they all seek.

One last thought…

Many educators realize that once we have agreement, we also have a direction to guide our students toward the goal of any educational program: freedom.  Freedom of thought, movement, speech, and other freedoms are all possible in a well-informed and well-educated society.  A significant part of the curriculum, then, should be devoted to developing the skills of freedom: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication.  That will be the subject of another post, as this one is already too long. 

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