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Opportunities and Challenges of Curriculum Mapping Implementation in One School Setting: Considerations for School Leaders

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Abstract

This qualitative case study examined the perspectives and experiences of educators involved in the curriculum mapping initiative concerning the processes and activities that foster or impede curriculum mapping implementation. Twelve participants were recruited for the study. Data collection methods included semi-structured interviews, documents that involved standardized test reports and curriculum maps, and classroom observations. The results of the study indicated a strong congruence with the factors concerning initiating successful implementation identified in the literature, and they also highlighted some important aspects that are not widely discussed in the literature. The following strategies for successful curriculum mapping implementation were identified: consistency of leadership and support, sufficient and adequate training for mapping, provision of adequate resources and assistance, constant communication about the initiative, monitoring the implementation process, and providing incentives.
Journal of Curriculum and Instruction (JoCI) Copyright 2013
November 2013, Vol. 7, No. 2, Pp. 20-37 ISSN: 1937-3929
http://www.joci.ecu.edu doi:10.3776/joci.2013.v7n2p20-37
Shilling 20
Opportunities and Challenges of Curriculum Mapping Implementation in One
School Setting: Considerations for School Leaders
Tamara Shilling
Oklahoma State University
Abstract
This qualitative case study examined the perspectives and experiences of educators involved in
the curriculum mapping initiative concerning the processes and activities that foster or impede
curriculum mapping implementation. Twelve participants were recruited for the study. Data
collection methods included semi-structured interviews, documents that involved standardized
test reports and curriculum maps, and classroom observations. The results of the study indicated
a strong congruence with the factors concerning initiating successful implementation identified in
the literature, and they also highlighted some important aspects that are not widely discussed in
the literature. The following strategies for successful curriculum mapping implementation were
identified: consistency of leadership and support, sufficient and adequate training for mapping,
provision of adequate resources and assistance, constant communication about the initiative,
monitoring the implementation process, and providing incentives.
Curriculum is central to all the processes and experiences occurring in school
settings. Curriculum development, however, has traditionally been an essential
responsibility of outside experts, excluding teachers from active participation in the
curriculum development process (Carl, 2009; Craig & Ross, 2008). Research and
practice show that there is a significant difference between the official, written
curriculum developed by experts and the actual curriculum taught in the classroom
because teachers, working autonomously, make different choices regarding curriculum
and instruction based on their knowledge, experiences, and the realities of their
classrooms (Cuban, 1993). To ensure congruence between the written curriculum and
the taught curriculum, English (1980) introduced the process of curriculum mapping that
describes “what is actually being taught, how long it is being taught, and the match
between what is being taught and the district’s testing program” (p. 559).
Initially, curriculum mapping was used as a means of curriculum audit in the
school systems. In the current era of standards-based reform and accountability,
curriculum mapping is increasingly used by many schools and school districts as a
planning tool that allows educators to align their curricula with the required state
standards and assessment practices (Udelhofen, 2005). In spite of an ever-growing
use of curriculum mapping, the research on it is limited and when found is frequently in
the form of published dissertations (Lucas, 2005; Shanks, 2002). The extant research
has documented teachers’ positive perceptions of curriculum mapping as an effective
instructional planning and curriculum alignment tool that promotes school improvement
Journal of Curriculum and Instruction (JoCI) Copyright 2013
November 2013, Vol. 7, No. 2, Pp. 20-37 ISSN: 1937-3929
http://www.joci.ecu.edu doi:10.3776/joci.2013.v7n2p20-37
Shilling 21
(Huffman, 2002; Lucas, 2005). Some studies, described below, have found a
relationship between curriculum mapping implementation and improved student
achievement (Fairris, 2008; Shanks, 2002).
Rarely has research focused on the processes and activities transpiring during
the curriculum mapping implementation or explored the conditions and types of support
needed for successful curriculum mapping. Moreover, there is little discussion in the
literature about the challenges and problems that educators encounter during the
implementation process and how these challenges and problems are overcome.
Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore curriculum mapping implementation in
a single school setting to document the opportunities and challenges of the initiative
implementation and identify strategies for the curriculum mapping success.
Curriculum Mapping Process
The following review focuses on the curriculum mapping process and current
research on mapping. As the literature suggests, schools and school districts base their
curriculum mapping work on a seven-stage model of curriculum mapping defined by
Jacobs (1997). The model allows individual teachers, using the school calendar and
technology, to document their own curriculum, then examine each other’s curricula for
gaps and redundancies and create coherent, consistent curriculum within and across
schools that is aligned vertically and horizontally (Kallick & Colosimo, 2009; Udelhofen,
2005). According to Jacobs’ model, curriculum can be reviewed and modified on a
regular basis in order to respond to school districts curricular needs as they evolve and
to address those changing needs (Udelhofen, 2005).
There are two types of maps that teachers develop during the curriculum
mapping process: diary maps and consensus maps. Diary maps are teachers’ personal
maps that reflect what happens in their classrooms daily (Udelhofen, 2005). Consensus
maps are collectively developed maps that target “those specific areas in each
discipline that are to be addressed with flexibility in a school or a district” (Jacobs, 2004,
p. 25). Relying on the expertise and active participation of all teachers, curriculum
mapping can serve as an effective tool to sharpen teachers’ curriculum planning skills
and facilitate collaboration across subject and grade levels (Mills, 2003).
The mapping process gives teachers an opportunity to exchange information
about instructional practices based on real classroom data. These data together with
the assessment data can serve as “the basis for informed decisions to improve student
learning” (Kallick & Colosimo, 2009, p. 5). Some studies have provided the evidence of
teachers’ views of curriculum mapping as beneficial for the instructional practices,
school improvement, and ensuring alignment between state standards and school
curriculum (Huffman, 2002; Lucas, 2005).
Several studies have attributed increases in student performance to teachers’
engagement in the curriculum mapping process. Shanks (2002) compared
standardized test scores of the second through sixth grade students in a rural
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elementary school in Tennessee before and after curriculum mapping implementation.
The results suggested that the students scored higher in each tested subject area
(reading, language, mathematics, social studies, and science) after curriculum mapping
implementation. Fairris (2008) assessed the effect of different degrees of curriculum
mapping implementation on mathematics and literacy standardized test scores of sixth
and eighth grade students during the second year of curriculum mapping
implementation in 40 Arkansas school districts. The findings suggested that curriculum
mapping led to higher student achievement in both subject areas.
The review of literature revealed a paucity of studies that examined the
perspectives and experiences of the participants of the curriculum mapping process.
The current study aims to document educators’ views on the activities and processes
inherent in the curriculum mapping process and to identify factors contributing to
successful curriculum mapping implementation and sustainability.
Theoretical Framework
The current research makes use of Fullan’s (2007) theory of educational change
as well as some selective educational change concepts and principles as a theoretical
framework. This theory suggests three phases in the change process: initiation,
implementation, and institutionalization or continuation and outlines what to expect at
each phase. Change theorists caution that change cannot be viewed as a
straightforward, linear process; in reality, phases of change “will merge imperceptibly
into each other” (Marsh, 2009, p. 117), and “all phases must be thought about from the
beginning and continually thereafter (Fullan, p. 103).
Hall and Hord (2010) noted that “successful change begins and ends with
understanding the importance of implementation constructs and dynamics” (p. xxiii).
The educational change literature suggests that implementation should culminate in the
actual use of innovation in practice. The five dimensions of implementation in practice
proposed by Fullan and Pomfret (1977) include “changes in materials, structure, and
role/behavior, knowledge and understanding, and value internalization” (p. 336). The
authors indicated that some dimensions of the implementation are easily observable,
whereas others can either be inferred or determined through interviews and documents.
Because of the complexity of the implementation process, the factors that can
positively impact change are numerous: professional development, resource support
(e.g., time, facilities, materials), feedback mechanisms that promote interaction and
problem identification, and implementers’ participation in decision-making (Fullan &
Pomfret, 1977). The process of change also requires leadership and teamwork,
individual learning and commitment from the school staff, and a shared vision and
strategic planning (Fullan, 1992; Hall & Hord, 2010).
The change literature emphasizes the decisive role of individuals in the change
process. According to Hall and Hord (2010), “organizations adopt change – individuals
implement change…successful change starts and ends at the individual level. An entire
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organization does not change until each member has changed (p. 9). Consequently, it
is important to analyze all the processes and activities of the change initiative from the
viewpoints of the initiative implementers.
Two research questions guided the study. What are the opportunities and
challenges of curriculum mapping implementation in a single school setting? What are
the strategies for curriculum mapping success?
Methodology
Participant Sampling and Context
The purposeful sampling strategy was used to select the research site and the
participants of the study. A school with a four-year history of curriculum mapping was
chosen for this research. Westlake High School (pseudonym) is located in a
Midwestern school district and had a reputation for academic excellence in the district
and across the state. At the time of research, the school had 988 students enrolled in
grades 10 through 12. Among the school’s 68 certified teachers, 52.8% had a
bachelor’s degree, 39.6% also had a master’s degree, and 7.5% had a doctoral degree.
The researcher-generated survey was used to select participants of the study
through SurveyMonkey®. With IRB permission, the survey responses were linked to
email addresses through a SurveyMonkey’s Email Invitation collector tool to track
participants and purposefully select them for the study based on their specific
responses. Twenty-seven completed surveys were returned for a response rate of 51%.
Sixteen participants, representing a range of demographic characteristics and a
variety of perspectives on curriculum mapping, were sent invitations to participate in the
interviews. Eleven teachers and one school administrator agreed to further engage in
the study. The teachers were the primary informants for the study. The school
administrator was included because his perspective contributed to a more complex
picture of curriculum mapping implementation in one school setting.
Five males and seven females constituted the study participants. The majority of
the informants were experienced classroom teachers. Two of the participants had less
than ten years of teaching experience, but the mean teaching experience of participants
was 18 years. Most of the participants identified themselves as being reasonably
proficient with curriculum mapping. One participant self-reported an expert level of
proficiency with curriculum mapping.
Data Collection and Data Analysis
The present study primarily focused on the implementation phase of Fullan’s
theory of educational change and used other phases of the change process to better
understand the factors impacting implementation and utilized an approach that has
proven useful for examining educational initiatives and innovations and informing
educational policy and practice (Merriam, 2009; Stake, 1995). Qualitative data allowed
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the researcher “to preserve chronological flow, see precisely which events lead to which
consequences, and derive fruitful explanations” (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 1). The
focus on a single case helped unveil the interaction of important factors specific to the
phenomenon of interest and analyze different processes and activities occurring in the
research setting (Merriam, 2009).
The primary method of data collection was interviews. Lincoln and Guba (1985)
recommended collecting data to the point at which saturation or redundancy is
achieved. Originally, two interviews were planned with each participant; however,
during the second round of interviews, it became apparent that additional interviews did
not provide any new or additional information pertinent to the research questions. Thus,
it was determined that data saturation had been reached. The initial interviews lasted
45-60 minutes and follow-up interviews lasted 30-45 minutes.
Additional data were obtained from classroom observations and documents. The
purpose of the classroom observations was to identify the extent to which the teachers
followed consensus maps and how much individuality and creativity the teachers added
to the curriculum maps that were developed collectively by the department. The
documents included diary and consensus curriculum maps for different grades and
disciplines and standardized test reports. The classroom observations and documents
were used to verify and corroborate findings gleaned from the interviews.
The data analysis process consisted of coding, categorization, and theme
generation from the collected data, using a constant comparative method (Glaser &
Strauss, 1967). The newly acquired data were constantly compared to previously
collected data; categories created earlier were compared with the emerging ones in
order to confirm or disconfirm them until the most plausible interpretation of data was
reached (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2007). A field journal kept during the study
contributed personal reflections and concerns that arose during data collection and
interpretation in order to disclose any possible biases, keep them under control, and
minimize their impact on the interpretation of data.
Findings
Following Plano Clark and Creswell’s (2010) suggestion, the study findings are
reported through “a description of the case, a presentation of the thematic results, and
an interpretation of the lessons learned from the case” (p. 243). The description of the
case tells the story of the development and progression of the curriculum mapping
initiative and establishes the foundations for data analysis and interpretation.
Description of the Case
Setting the Stage for the Initiative
Westlake High School became involved in the curriculum mapping initiative four
years prior to the current research. Curriculum mapping was initiated by the school
district curriculum coordinator no longer employed by the district and was supported by
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the newly hired Westlake High School principal. To plan and coordinate the curriculum
mapping process, a district curriculum mapping committee was formed in January 2007.
The committee consisted of representatives of all district schools and selected members
of the district administration. The participants indicated that the committee lasted two
and-a-half years. After laying the foundations for the initiative, it was dissolved, and the
curriculum mapping became building-directed and teacher-led.
The curriculum mapping committee directed the purchase of the curriculum
mapping software, determined curricula areas to map, sent teachers to national
conferences to learn about curriculum mapping, and established a leadership cadre at
each building. The high school administrator recalled during his interview that at least
ten teachers from Westlake High School attended three-day curriculum mapping
conferences during the initial phase of curriculum mapping. Five of the study
participants received formal training for curriculum mapping at national conferences.
The school principal and the district curriculum coordinator also attended one of the
conferences.
After a group of leaders were trained, they provided Westlake High School
faculty on-site training. One of the respondents described the training experience by
saying, “The training we received was more of ‘here’s how you fill out the chart.’ Not
necessarily, ‘here’s what the purpose of it is, here’s how it functions.’” His comments
suggested that the training was general, rather than subject specific in nature.
The Implementation Process
After the training, the school started implementing curriculum mapping by subject
areas and grade levels. Several professional development days were scheduled for
curriculum mapping, but faculty reported that more time was needed and mapping had
to be done on teachers’ time, as some respondents noted. According to the interviews,
the departments started with consensus maps, not with diary maps, as recommended in
the literature. As a result, coming to consensus was difficult.
The mapping process was driven by different forces in different departments,
mostly by State Standards and End of Instruction (EOI) tests. In the English and
Foreign Language departments, mapping was tied to textbook adoption, as respondents
from these departments indicated. The Board promised the teachers new textbooks if
they had maps for different grade levels in place. As one participant noted, “That’s not
a good way to introduce anything. You are not going to get a lot of fans of it that way.
That didn’t work very well. That turned a lot of people off.”
The interviews revealed considerable variation in the levels of response to the
curriculum mapping initiative, as evident in the following quote:
We are sort of split. Some really like it. There were others that did it because we
were told to do it. And there were some that didn’t mind. They just tolerated it and
they don’t really form a very strong opinion.
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Successes and Challenges of Mapping
As the data suggested, some positive achievements have been gained since
Westlake High School became involved in the curriculum mapping initiative.
Consensus maps have been created in all the core areas. The data also revealed that
increased collaboration and professional dialogue became the major successes of
curriculum mapping in Westlake High School. Some of the participants attributed
improved test scores to curriculum mapping; however, some participants stated that
they did not see any connection between the curriculum mapping implementation and
increased test scores because state test results had always been high in Westlake High
School.
According to most participants, the curriculum mapping initiative was neither fully
implemented nor used to its full potential. Furthermore, curriculum mapping was not
spread evenly throughout the school organization because different subject areas were
at different stages of the curriculum mapping process. It was also unclear if teachers
used their maps on a regular basis or if the departments constantly reviewed and
revised their maps. Initially, each participating teacher was given access to the
curriculum mapping software, but due to budget cuts, at the time of the study, fewer
teachers had access to the curriculum mapping softwarefour or five teachers only
from each department. Limited access to the curriculum software was identified by most
of the participants as an obstacle to the successful mapping process.
To sum up, in spite of some positive gains, the implementation phase of
curriculum mapping in Westlake High School was filled with uncertainties, concerns,
and challenges.
Thematic Results
Three overarching themes emerged as a result of the data analysis: benefits of
curriculum mapping, challenges to implementation, and perceived strategies for
success.
Benefits of Curriculum Mapping
The majority of interviewees reported positive perceptions of curriculum mapping
as an effective planning tool that can help set up short-term and long-term instructional
goals, eliminate gaps and unproductive repetitions in the curriculum, and provide better
alignment of curriculum with state standards. When curriculum maps are in place,
teachers can trace the previous knowledge and skills of their students and build on
them. One participant noted, “You know what they’ve seen, what they were supposed to
have seen, what they have supposedly mastered, and at what level they saw that.”
Curriculum mapping helps ensure that all students are getting the same education and
the same foundations.
Some participating teachers indicated that curriculum maps kept them focused
and on track. One of the respondents shared, “I love to get sidetracked. There are so
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many interesting and exciting conversations that seem to be valuable, but if you have
that map there, it really grounds you, keeps you focused and on target.” Most
participants suggested that curriculum maps can be a great communication tool with
parents, administrators, and other stakeholders. Additionally, curriculum mapping can
serve as a safety net that enables teachers to show the interested audience how they
reach their instructional goals. “This is what I’ve covered. My course is quite
comprehensive. This is the knowledge that my students have learned. I have done all
these things to the best of me,one interviewee noted.
Curriculum mapping was identified as a useful tool for both new and veteran
teachers. New teachers were supported in determining the sequence and pace
appropriate for covering the material and to meet the school and department
expectations and veteran teachers were provided opportunities to share their
knowledge and experience with their colleagues via the creation of well-designed maps.
One respondent remarked, “If you have a seasoned teacher who has been a highly
successful practitioner retire, the map captures some aspects of that teacher who’s left.
We don’t lose that for the person who comes in and takes that role over.”
Everyone involved in this study valued increase in collaboration among teachers
within and beyond departments. The existence of openness and collegiality among the
faculty with curriculum mapping was evident in the following quotes:
I think what curriculum mapping does--it opens the doors and just puts the ideas
out there, and just starts the curriculum discussions that you really need to have.
I think we passed the point where you can work alone in education anymore…
So it’s probably made us work more as a unit, and I don’t have to worry about
being on an island.
The discussions now are about how we can be better as departments, how we
can be better as a school. And it’s much more collegial… there’s much more
camaraderie and there’s much more of a team spirit.
Five of the twelve participants identified a positive relationship between curriculum
mapping implementation and increased test scores, arguing that students’ test results
have improved due to the more aligned curriculum and constant changes and
adjustments they make to the curriculum. One participant noted: Curriculum maps help
us identify where the skills need to be introduced, mastered, and reinforced before the
test.”
The teachers in this sample saw the value in curriculum mapping, but not all of
them believed that curriculum mapping was an implementable and sustainable initiative
because of the numerous challenges that the teachers encountered during the
implementation process.
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Perceived Challenges to Implementation
Challenges to the curriculum mapping implementation perceived by respondents
fall into four categories. The first category of challenge is concerns with the teacher
buy-in. Most participants argued that not all teachers bought into the need for
curriculum mapping because the relevance and benefits of curriculum mapping were
not explained well by school leaders, and teachers feared from the beginning that they
all would have to do the same thing and there would be no place for individuality and
creativity in curriculum and instruction.
The fact that the teaching staff was not involved in the decision-making
processes concerning curriculum mapping adoption and implementation might have
contributed to a low level of teacher buy-in. One of the participants argued, “We were
just told we were going to do it. There wasn’t any discussion whether it is applicable or
not. We were not given any discussion about whether or not to participate in the
curriculum mapping.” Comments like “why reinvent the wheel, they are always giving
us more to do, more to do, and we already have scope and sequence, demonstrate
that there were teachers who did not see the need for mapping, and the broad
consensus about the necessity of the initiative had not been achieved.
Another challenge to implementation was resistance to change. As one
respondent put it, “It’s not particularly mapping that some teachers don’t like, it’s more of
whether you want to change or whether you don’t want to change as a teacher.” The
seasoned teachers were identified as a group who did not show enthusiasm for the
proposed initiative, as summarized in the following quote:
A lot of seasoned teachers talk about pendulum and how it swings this way, and
now we all are going to do this sort of thing, and then it swings this way, and now
we are going to do this. You wait long enough and it’s going to swing back and
here we go again.
The third challenge concerned training for mapping. As the data revealed, training
for mapping was a one-shot session that focused on the technicalities of the mapping
process and did not take into consideration the specific characteristics of different
subject areas. One respondent argued: “It is so different for every subject; you almost
need someone in your subject area that has done it well to work with you.” The
participants suggested that training for mapping should be provided on an ongoing
basis to address the needs of the existing and the newly hired faculty.
The issue of inconsistent support and leadership was the fourth category of
challenge. Most participating teachers reported that at the onset of curriculum mapping
there was a lot of support from both the district and school administration, and
curriculum mapping was intense for two years, but then it seemed that there was not
much discussion of curriculum mapping in the school and the district. One participant
noted, “This year we had only one mention of it. Last year we had several mentions of
it. And then the year before when it started, that was when we had the most.”
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There was no evidence found that the administrators were checking on the
progress of the initiative. One interviewee admitted, “I haven’t entered anything in the
computer for over a year because no one is requiring it…I am not actively updating my
map, but no one is checking it either.” The interviewees indicated that the school
principal was still behind the initiative, but his hands were tied because of big budget
cuts. The majority of participants opined that if the current principal were gone, the
entire idea of curriculum mapping might change or the initiative might fade away.
Perceived Strategies for Success
The participants of the study argued that curriculum mapping can become a
successful and sustainable initiative if certain strategies are applied. One respondent
argued, “Good instruction from the beginning and continuous assistance through the
process will certainly lead to success.” The training for mapping should focus not only
the technicalities of the mapping process, but also on the theory and philosophy behind
mapping and the potential benefits of the mapping process to students and teachers.
There was a suggestion “to go over statistics of other schools that have gone with
curriculum mapping and how that’s helped them and first accounts of other teachers
and other schools that have implemented curriculum mapping.” Another suggestion
was to make the training more subject-specific and ongoing to train and coach newly
hired teachers and help existing teachers.
Leadership and consistency were mentioned in most interviews as significant
factors in the curriculum mapping success. One participant asserted, “There has to be
consistency, otherwise people forget about it. The leadership has to have a constant
voice, even if it’s a little nagging.” The respondents emphasized the importance of
administrative leadership in the change process. One interviewee argued, “That can’t
be departmental. Otherwise you pit colleagues against colleagues.”
Change cannot happen without sufficient resources to be provided for its
implementation because any initiative increases teachers’ workloads in terms of
additional non-teaching duties and paperwork. According to one of the participants,
“any decision that educators make should be made for students. If it truly benefits
students, there should be commitment at the district level. If there’s that commitment,
the time for the teachers to do these things should be provided.” The interviewees
suggested that a significant amount of time should be provided to teachers on a regular
basis, without any distraction, where they sit down and work on their maps, either
reviewing or modifying them.
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Interpretation of the Lessons Learned
Research suggests that teachers’ positive views of the educational initiative
serve as the primary indicator of an initiative’s successful implementation (Hall & Hord,
2010). Based on the teachers’ responses, this study’s findings indicate that curriculum
mapping, if fully implemented, can be a worthwhile process for the school and the
district. As Fullan (2007) put it, “Success is about one quarter having the right ideas and
three-quarters establishing effective processes” (p. 104). As with any other initiative, it
is important to create and maintain a high level of teacher buy-in for curriculum
mapping. This can be accomplished by involving the teaching staff in decision-making
processes concerning the initiative adoption and implementation. O’Donoghue (2007)
noted that “teachers who have no input into the innovation will have no sense of
ownership of it and, consequently, little commitment to it” (p. 74).
Change initiatives cannot entirely rely on the previous knowledge and skills of the
implementers; therefore professional learning should be considered as “the basis of and
corollary to change” (Hall & Hord, 2010, p. 150). If school administrators see curriculum
mapping as a long-term goal, training for mapping should be ongoing and address the
needs of the newly hired faculty and existing teachers. This finding confirms the
previous research results that continuous learning opportunities should be offered to
constantly train newly hired teachers in curriculum mapping processes and procedures
and to address the emerging challenges of implementation (Hale & Dunlap, 2010; Yuen
& Cheng, 2000).
Researchers studying change efforts argue that leaders of change should not
expect a smooth and non-problematic journey towards achieving desired outcomes;
they should constantly monitor the implementation process and provide assistance if
needed (Louis & Miles 1990; Spillane, Reiser, & Reimer, 2002). The formal methods for
monitoring the progress of the initiative may include surveys; informal methods include
interaction between change leaders and people implementing the initiative. The
resulting information should lead to consulting and assisting the initiative implementers.
Furthermore, the change leaders should maintain constant communication about
the initiative; otherwise, people who are directly involved in the implementation process
might think that the initiative has lost its value, and the progression of the initiative might
slow down. One of the means of signifying the importance of the initiative is to
acknowledge the efforts of the individuals who contributed to the implementation
process. Celebrating progress is an aspect that is most often overlooked while change
is implemented in the school setting (Kallick & Colosimo, 2009).
Previous research has demonstrated that many change efforts have
disappointing results partly because of the limited participation of the school district
administration in the implementation process (Honig & Hatch, 2004; Marsh, 2002).
Unfortunately, the findings of this study are similar to studies concerning the school
district administration’s role in the change process and underscore the importance of
substantial school district support in realizing change efforts. Hale and Dunlap (2010)
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argued, “For curriculum mapping to be systematically sustainable, district and school-
site administrators must work harmoniously” (p. 14).
Although some study participants indicated that they would continue doing
mapping even if it were not required any more, change scholars suggest that
educational initiatives can be sustained through the efforts of the people at the bottom
for several years, but without ongoing active support of those at the top, there is the
likelihood that the change efforts will founder (Hall & Hord, 2010). To become
sustainable, the change initiative cannot be individual and fragmented; it should have a
widespread use in the school setting.
The findings discussed above provide some insight into how to increase capacity
and promote sustainability of curriculum mapping in the school under study and other
school settings. An ongoing, systematic approach with clear guidelines and
expectations as well as the application of a number of effective strategies should be
used to make curriculum mapping a successful initiative.
Conclusions and Recommendations for School Leaders
The results of the present study echo previous research findings that document
benefits in numerous areas; however, several additional findings emerged that are not
frequently discussed in the curriculum mapping literature. Multilayered leadership at all
levels and in formal and informal positions, including district administrators, school
administrative personnel, department heads, teacher leaders, and combinations of
these, has been well-established in the literature. Teacher leadership is especially cited
as a significant factor in the success of curriculum mapping. The findings of this
research, however, argue for a more nuanced conclusion: Although teacher leadership
is very important, it is administrative leadership that has the utmost importance to the
successful implementation and sustainability of curriculum mapping.
Educational leaders may find valuable several recommendations relating to this
study on the implementation of curriculum mapping. First, before launching the
curriculum mapping initiative, educational leaders should develop a vision of the
curriculum mapping process and promote teachers’ understanding of the purpose and
benefits of curriculum mapping. Positive experiences of other schools with curriculum
mapping should be used to increase teacher buy-in.
Second, change will not happen unless the majority of the staff members
understand its necessity. Moreover, each staff member should have a voice in decision
making concerning curriculum mapping adoption and implementation. It is advisable to
develop implementation plans collaboratively with the staff members. The execution of
the initiative should not be left to the discretion of a small group of people; rather, the
involvement of the majority of the teaching staff is critical.
Third, curriculum mapping requires sufficient resources for implementation and
institutionalization. It is important to provide adequate training for teachers and then
sufficient time to develop and review maps and not to expect maps to be done on
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Shilling 32
teachers’ time. Assistance and support should be ongoing; otherwise teachers might
lose interest in the initiative in the face of different obstacles.
Lastly, curriculum mapping leaders need to make sure they have developed
monitoring mechanisms that are not punitive in nature and will enable them to stay
focused on the initiative, respond to implementers’ questions and concerns in a timely
manner, provide assistance if needed, and celebrate even modest successes to signify
the importance of the initiative and promote its success and sustainability.
Drawing on Fullan’s (2007) theory of educational change and qualitative data
collected in a Midwestern high school involved in the curriculum mapping process, this
study illuminated the benefits and barriers of curriculum mapping and suggested
strategies for implementation and sustainability. The findings from this research may
inform school leaders who are initiating curriculum mapping or whose schools are at
some stage in the process and help them pave the way for a successful enactment of
this educational change.
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Shilling 35
Appendix: Researcher-Generated Survey
Read each statement carefully and choose only one that best describes you:
Strongly
Agree
Agree
Neutral
Disagree
Strongly
Disagree
1. Curriculum mapping is a worthwhile
process for high school
O
O
O
O
O
2. Goals and objectives for curriculum
mapping are clear to me
O
O
O
O
O
3. Curriculum mapping helps eliminate
gaps, redundancies, and repetitions
within grades and subject areas
O
O
O
O
O
4. Curriculum mapping is a valuable tool
for curriculum alignment with state
standards
O
O
O
O
O
5. Teachers in my department have
favorable opinions of curriculum
mapping
O
O
O
O
O
6. I like to be involved in the curriculum
mapping process
O
O
O
O
O
7. I have had enough training for
curriculum mapping
O
O
O
O
O
8. We have a curriculum mapping
software program in place
O
O
O
O
O
9. I use curriculum mapping software
O
O
O
O
O
10. Curriculum mapping helps me reflect
on what I have taught and how I have
taught the material
O
O
O
O
O
11. Curriculum mapping is an
instructional tool
O
O
O
O
O
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Shilling 36
12. Curriculum mapping has no effect on
my teaching
O
O
O
O
O
13. Curriculum mapping is a measure of
administrative control
O
O
O
O
O
14. I collaborate with other teachers
about curriculum mapping
O
O
O
O
O
15. If curriculum mapping were optional
in our school, I would choose not to
participate
O
O
O
O
O
16. I believe that curriculum mapping will
improve instructional practices
O
O
O
O
O
17. Curriculum mapping will eventually
improve student achievement
O
O
O
O
O
18. I believe the curriculum mapping
process will continue
O
O
O
O
O
19. I believe the curriculum mapping
process will fade away
O
O
O
O
O
Demographics:
Gender :_____( male) ______ (female)
Age group ______ (20-30) _______ (31-40) _______ (41-50) _______ (over 50)
Years of teaching experience:
__0-5___6-10 ____11-15 ____16-20 ____21-25 ____over 25
How long have you been teaching in this school? _________
Your assigned teaching area _______________ Grade level ______________
What is your level of proficiency with curriculum mapping?
__None ___Very little ____Somewhat proficient
______ Reasonably proficient ____Expert
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Shilling 37
About the Author
Tamara Shilling earned her Ph.D. in Curriculum Studies and Social
Foundations of Education. She is currently an adjunct faculty at Oklahoma
State University. Her research interests focus on curriculum design, curriculum
planning, and alternative models of curriculum development. Additional
research interests include educational change and curriculum reform. Email:
romant@okstate.edu
... Despite the technological advancements and their uses for curriculum development purposes, and in specific the use of special platforms for curriculum mapping, the research around curriculum mapping tools is still limited and the number of research papers that studied it, if found, are mainly published dissertations (Lucas, 2005). Papers that exist about teachers' perceptions of curriculum mapping as an effective tool for instructional planning and curriculum alignment, generally revealed positive feedback and a great impact on enhancing and promoting school improvement (Shilling, 2013). Researches have also found that student attainment and progress have improved after the implementation of curriculum mapping (Fairris Jr., 2008). ...
... Similarly, Wilansky (2006) examined teachers' attitudes towards curriculum mapping concerning assessment, standards alignment, and professional collaboration. More recently, Shilling (2013) investigated the perceptions educators about the factors that impact the curriculum mapping implementation, including setting short-term and long-term instructional goals, reducing gaps and redundancies in the curriculum, ensuring alignment of curriculum with standards, and enhancing collaboration and more professional dialogue among academic teams. The challenges, perceived by the participants included: lack of ownership of taught material, professional development, resistance to change, and inconsistent support and leadership. ...
... While these scores are significantly high, except for long-term planning, the results are somehow consistent with Lucas's (2005) study where teachers perceived curriculum mapping as a useful tool for curriculum alignment and long-term planning, and to a lesser degree, supportive of short-range planning. Moreover, the studies by Shilling (2013) and Shoja (2016) found that teachers had higher positive attitudes towards curriculum mapping tools when it comes to long-term planning. This is also consistent with English's (1980) definition of curriculum mapping and how it is considered a solution to creating curriculum guides that reflect the actual curriculum and provide stakeholders with an outline of the content taught across the instructional calendar. ...
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... The research instruments were specifically constructed to document the implementation practices in each of the seven stages. Because CQA is implemented not only by the curriculum specialist but by the entire college, it is just inherent to explore the processes from the viewpoints of the implementers with consideration to the idea that the implementation phase is complex due to numerous possible factors which can impact educational innovations (Shilling, 2013). ...
... Challenges, which refer to the situations that impede the implementation of CQA were also explored. Shilling (2013) contended that due to the complexity of curriculum mapping, factors that can positively or negatively impact the change could also be numerous. Change theorists cautioned that change could not be viewed as a straightforward, linear process due to the factors and challenges that need to be addressed. ...
... The conduct of a one or two-shot event was seen to be insufficient in assuring the development of capacities. This result is similar to the idea promoted by Shilling (2013) that continuous learning opportunities should be offered to continuously train newly hired teachers in curriculum mapping processes and procedures and to address the emerging challenges of implementation (Hale & Dunlap, 2010;Yuen & Cheng, 2000). ...
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... This failure may lead to unsuccessful implementation of curriculum reforms by the teachers, which is then attributed to their poor conceptual understanding of reforms in their specific subjects. 1,11,12,13 Whilst teachers do undergo training to keep abreast of new developments in education, the extent to which training prepares them is questionable. This is particularly the case in Accounting where teachers were expected to change to a conceptual approach in teaching of content knowledge. ...
... Research has shown that effective implementation of a curriculum in schools hinges on school-based condition. 10,11,12,13,16 Almost all the authors mentioned previously emphasise that most hindrances in the effective implementation of the new curriculum are found within the schools. Makunja 10 and Okoth 11 highlight the fact that insufficient teaching and learning materials to support the implementation is a major challenge to curriculum implementation. ...
... However, numerous studies have found that teachers were not provided with enough textbooks. 10,11,12 Shilling 12 points out that teachers' lack of adequate content knowledge is one of the main hindrances to the effective delivery of a curriculum. This calls for necessary teacher development because successful implementation of any curriculum is reliant on the teachers' potential to translate the written curriculum into classroom learning experiences. ...
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... The results were similar to those of a study that reported the positive attitude of the faculty toward curriculum mapping. 21 While most of the faculty members agreed that the eight parameters were relevant to better alignment, a few disagreed for a variety of reasons, including a poor understanding of parameter concepts that were new to them, the lack of active participation in the process, and, most importantly, no specific training in the eight parameters. There may be other concerns that this study did not identify, which would be of interest for future studies. ...
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... Curriculum mapping is particularly effective for collaborative curriculum planning and standards alignment. Shilling (2013) recognized that teachers think positively and specified numerous benefits of curriculum mapping. In secondary school context, Dogan (2012) demonstrated that teachers having five or more years of teaching experiences and taking one or more professional development trainings (teacher mentoring program) have positive views of curriculum mapping and they consider curriculum mapping as having positive effects on collaboration and standards alignment. ...
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... One of the innovations made by the government of the Republic Indonesia through the Ministry of Education and Culture (Kemendikbud) is the evaluation of Curriculum 2013 implementation. Curriculum is the core to all processes occurring in the school [1]. Curriculum 2013 is the development of Competency based Curriculum which is started from 2004. ...
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... These include some of the documents in place for providing guidance to teaching and learning at the institution such as the ODL policy, the framework for a team approach in curriculum and learning development, and the CESM order list (Unisa 2011 The nurse educators were subject experts who were in charge of the relevant based programmes and courses in their specific university department. Shilling (2013) indicates that curriculum planners need support and leadership, sufficient training, adequate resources, and constant communication and monitoring. In relation to the lack of curriculum experts in the department, one of the recommendations in a report from the European Commission is that all staff teaching in higher education institutions in 2020 should have received certified pedagogic training. ...
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... The curriculum is central to all the processes and experiences occurring in school settings [1]. The curriculum is a guide in organizing the plans, objectives, lesson materials, and methods used in education. ...
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This is a key text for any student embarking on a qualitative research project, it provides worked examples and valuable models which can be used as guides for plans and proposals, answering key questions and providing a comprehensive guide to a student's project. It shows that when planning a qualitative research proposal, researchers should adopt an approach where they ask themselves the following four questions: • What research paradigm informs my approach to my research area? • What theoretical perspective do I choose within the paradigm? • What methodology do I choose? • What methods are most appropriate? Including examples of the write-up of two central types of research projects: studies on participants' 'perspectives' on phenomena and studies on how participants manage or 'cope with' phenomena, the book outlines five research proposals to illustrate ways in which these two central 'types' can be varied and applied when engaging in five other types of studies, namely, policy studies, life history studies, retrospective interactionist longitudinal studies and interactionist historical studies, and 'problem-focused' studies.