As part of the design and development process (sometimes referred to as the visioning process), you identified new learning outcomes related to key knowledge, skills, and values. You might also have discovered specific educational experiences that you want to incorporate into the program (e.g., co-operative education, field trips, service-learning, etc.). While the learning outcomes provide a sense of where you want students to be by the end of the program, the next step is to understand where students are when they start your program and how they will progress through it to achieve these outcomes. You might view your curriculum in three phases: foundation; instructional scaffolding; and capstone.
You need to decide where this new content belongs within the curriculum. The creation of a content progression map helps identify students' progression from the start of the program to the fulfillment of the program outcome.
Figure 1: Sample Progression Map
The progression map helps us understand how our students will advance through the program. The “stuff” we map focuses on the concepts, content, and educational experiences we want for our students. Sometimes students must learn certain content before moving to the next level, such as learning the fundamentals of introductory calculus before studying differential equations or signal processing. In other situations, students might complete similar tasks, such as conducting an analysis of a literary work, but the depth of that analysis might grow as they progress through the program. As shown in Figure 1, it is valuable to consider the spectrum of expectations related to that concept; for example, it is worth articulating the student’s level both at the high school level and at the graduate level for an undergraduate program to better understand where they are when they enter the program and where they are heading upon graduation.
As an example, consider two progression maps from the Mechatronics Engineering (MTE) undergraduate program at Waterloo. Both are preliminary maps, one of the system integration thread (PDF), which maps the path from novice to expert while the second is a map of the electrical thread (PDF) and moves from before first year to the Ph.D. level. Thank you to Dr. Sanjeev Bedi from MTE for sharing these examples.
MTE faculty members completed the maps at a curriculum retreat. Once the progression of concepts was identified, participants at the retreat were asked to identify the competency level for all graduates of the program, for students who specialized in that area, for masters students, and for students at the Ph.D. level. Each of the six key program threads was mapped at the retreat.